Ever heard of a red wine blend from Italy called Valpolicella? No? Well, this is a wine we think you really should know about, especially if you are someone who a) loves red wine blends, b) loves lighter bodied red wines, c) wants to learn more about chilled red wines, or d) is curious about - or loves - Italian wines. Or, even better yet, all of the above. While not terribly common, Valpolicella is a reasonably easy to find wine that is reasonably priced and comes from one of the most famous and most beautiful parts of Italy - the area around Verona and Lake Garda. Made from a blend of grapes you have probably never heard of - like Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone - this is a wine that will really help you to expand your wine knowledge and horizons! Join us and drink up! Salute! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2019 Vigneti del Sole Valpolicella, 2020 Allegrini Valpolicella, and 2018 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore.
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Episode 46: Italian Wine Adventure #3: Valpolicella 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and are, or should be, easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines you may want to try, and expand your wine horizons while taking some of the stuffy and the boring out of wine. And, as of the October issue, we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who describe our Podcast as fun, irreverent, and chatty. I think the chatty comes from you, Carmela!
Alright, so Carmela, for this episode we are back to another Italian wine adventure, and this time we are staying in the Veneto region of northern Italy, and we are also staying in the Verona area, the same place we were for our last Italian adventure where we tasted Soave. However, Soave is a white wine, but this time we are tasting and reviewing a red wine blend from the area called Valpolicella. And Valpolicella comes from an area that is really close to Lake Garda in Italy. Remember Lake Garda? Sirmione?
A lot of the things we talked about regarding Soave hold true for Valpolicella. First, Valpolicella, like Soave, is a wine named after a region rather than after the grapes in the wine, a fact which can be confusing for people - and I know it is sometimes very confusing for me. As we have said before, this is a very common thing in European wines from Italy and France and Spain - where you have wines like Burgundy or Chianti or Rioja that are wine growing areas, not grapes.
Second, we think that Valpolicella is an underrated and underappreciated wine much like it’s white wine regional sister Soave because the main grape that makes up the wine - called Corvina for the grape in Valpolicella - is not really grown in the United States or other areas outside of Italy, and so people are just not familiar with it. I talk about this a lot, this idea that supply affects demand because people tend to buy wines or foods that are easily available to them, and there is a much higher likelihood that people will buy wines or other beverages like beer that are made closer to them or that are made in the country they are in.
Finally, Valpolicella, like Soave, is just not a super easy wine to find and is even less talked about - you can definitely find it, but there is almost never going to be a Valpolicella area of most wine sections in stores or on menus in restaurants unless they are fancy Italian restaurants. If you do go to an Italian restaurant, or to an Italian foods store, or a big wine shop like Total wine, you should keep your eye out for Valpolicella wines. And, if you look carefully, you can find these wines in your local stores - you just have to look around.
So we think this is a great wine to know and to taste, a great one to seek out, and we’ll tell you what we think of the three Valpolicellas we are going to taste today . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? If you like what you are enjoying our show, we would so appreciate you subscribing to our podcast, and leaving us a nice a rating and review so that people who may stumble upon us will tune in to our podcast.
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast, and this week we think you should tell anyone who likes red wine blends. You know who those people are!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What is Valpolicella, and why should you care? 08:33
Alright, back to Valpolicella. Even though it may not be a wine you have heard of before, it is a very well known and very highly regarded wine in Italy. A few weeks ago, too, Carmela, we were talking about how we have focused much more on single varietal wines - meaning a wine made from a specific grape - and not so much on blends. Well, Valpolicella is a wine named for the region it comes from and it is a red wine blend that can vary quite a bit depending on the winemaker, the year, and a bunch of other stuff.
Why do you think some people do or do not like red blends? I have heard people say that.
Back to Valpolicella - there are actually several different styles of wine that are made in the Valpolicella area. One of the wines those of you out there in listening land may have heard of is Amarone which is a more expensive and very specific style of wine. Ultimately, all of the wines in this area are made from a combination of a few grapes, and again, none of these grapes are really grapes you would find grown outside of Italy, and so, again, I think this is one of those reasons why people may not know about the wines made from them.
As we mentioned earlier, the main grape in wines made in this area is Corvina, but there are several other grapes that are used, and it is totally up to the winemaker to decide on the blend, which is kind of fun, and I think also what can make understanding wines from this area confusing. The other two main wine grapes are Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, and those two grapes along with Corvina are the main grapes in any Valpolicella blend. In addition, winemakers can have 25% of their blends made of other grapes in addition to those three, including Molinara and Oseleta. So, at least 75% of the wine has to be from Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes.
But let’s talk a little about the styles of wine from the area. Several of the styles of wine that I am going to talk about briefly are made with grapes that are allowed to sit or dry before they are pressed and made into wine. Why do you think they do that?
I am not going to go into too much detail here, because we could and maybe will do a separate episode on each of them, but there are basically four styles of wine:
Valpolicella, which can have a few different classifications including Classico and Superiore
Recioto della Valpolicella which is a sweet version of the red wine and is made from grapes that are harvested and then allowed to dry or “raisin” for 3-5 months where they lose a lot of liquid before they are squeezed and made into wine
Ripasso della Valpolicella in which Valpolicella is added to the leftover skins from the Recioto wine and then fermented again
Amarone which is a derivation of Recioto but is a dry rather than sweet version of the wine. It is basically Recioto that is allowed to ferment a second time until it is dry.
But, for our tasting and review today, we are only talking about the most common version, the basic Valpolicella version which is wine made in what we could call the standard way. Grapes are picked from the vines, crushed, fermented, oaked, and bottled. Again, someday we’ll do some of these other wines if we can find ones that are cheap enough.
And, we have mentioned this before, but when you are looking at Valpolicella wines, you will often see the classifications Classico and also Superiore. What do those mean you ask?
Just to clarify - Classico refers to the region. A Classico wine is made from grapes that come from the most historic grape growing area of the region.
What do you think Superiore means?
Superiore refers to how the wine is made. A Superiore wine means that the wine has been aged for at least a year before it is bottled. One other difference between wines that are called Superiore is that they can often be aged in oak - although the winemaker can also use concrete or stainless steel.
Standard Valpolicella does not need to be aged, and often is not oaked, so it can sometimes be considered a fresher style of the wine.
This week, we have one of each kind: a plain old Valpolicella, a Valpolicella Classico, and a Valpolicella Superiore, so this will be a great way to see how different each of these are.
Overall, this wine - the standard Valpolicella - is seen as a low tannin, light bodied, and low alcohol wine, and is sometimes compared to Grenache or even Gamay, and is a wine that can be, and probably should be, drunk young.
Valpolicella Wines We Chose for This Episode 19:44
Before we get to tasting, let’s take a moment to talk a little about these wines that we selected. And, by the way, all of these wines should be relatively easy to find either in a local wine shop or Total wine, or definitely online at like at wine.com.
The first one is just a plain old Valpolicella called Vigneti del Sole, and it is a DOC wine, which again means that it has a label on it granted by the Italian government that verifies that it is from the Valpolicella region and made in the correct way. This one has a really cool label that looks like an ancient map of Verona. The Vigneti del Sole is fermented in stainless steel, and doesn’t look to have spent any time in oak, and so I expect it to be a pretty vibrant and fruity wine.
The winemakers are originally from Southern Italy in Puglia, but moved to Verona, and they make wines that are - as they say - packed with fruit, liveliness and the superb characteristics of their region while remaining uncomplicated wines that are easy to drink and easy on the wallet.” So that feels perfect for our podcast.
The second wine is also a plain old Valpolicella that comes from a well known winery called Allegrini. Their Valpolicella is pretty well known or at least pretty easy to find, and Allegrini is a large winemaker who exports a lot of wines to the US - you may have seen their Amarone, and they also have a wine called Palazzo della Torre which is a Valpolicella blend that feels like you can find most anywhere.
The wine.com site says this about the wine, which I found really interesting: “Valpolicella Classico, the simplest category, is where the region’s top values are found and resembles in style light and fruity Beaujolais.” While they are talking about the Classico, what I found interesting is that it was compared to a gamay or Beaujolais which is a red wine that can be chilled. We did not chill this wine, but we’ll see what we think when we taste it if it could be chilled. This is also a wine that is fermented in stainless steel.
The last wine we have is a Valpolicella Superiore from a producer called Zenato, which is another producer that ships a lot of its wine to the US. This vintner’s estate is right by Lake Garda! We love Lake Garda. Lake Garda underrated, Lake Como overrated? JK
And they also say something that fits well with our podcast. They say “Zenato is committed to producing affordable wine of exceptional quality.”
Again, the Superiore means that it is aged for at least a year, and their website says that they age the wine for 12 months in oak casks. So I would expect this wine to be a little bigger bodied, more tannic, and a little less “fresh” than the first two. Because of the oaking, definitely not a wine that I would recommend chilling.
So, while we did not get a Classico in this bunch, I think it will be good to see what the difference is between the standard Valpolicella and the Superiore.
Ok, enough with this jibber jabber - I think it’s time to drink some wine!
Valpolicella wine pairing tasting and review 24:01
Wine: Vigneti del Sole Valpolicella (Click here to buy this wine - affiliate link)
Region: Italy, Verona
Producer: Vigneti del Sole
Grapes: Corvina Veronese 70% Rondinella 20% Corvinone 10%
What we tasted and smelled in this Valpolicella: Tart cherry, Rainier cherry, raspberry, spice, black pepper, mild, very tart. Would be good chilled. Summer wine. Easy to drink. Not super interesting. Not for bold red wine lovers.
Food to pair with this Valpolicella: Not for red meat. More for white meat, fried, or spicy foods.
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and in-between we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
Wine: Allegrini Valpolicella (Click here to buy this wine - affiliate link)
Region: Italy, Veneto
Price: $16.19 (on sale)
Grapes: 65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, 5% Molinara
Professional Rating: JS 91, WE 89
What we tasted and smelled in this Valpolicella: Smoky, wood, sweet tobacco, red fruit, sour cherry, meat, pepper, some bitterness, tart red plum, a Hope Chest, incense. Cloves, cinnamon, cardamom. More interesting than the other wine. Again, not a rich red wine. A Tuesday night wine.
Food to pair with this Valpolicella: Pork roast, Carnitas, Mexican food
Wine: Zenato Valpolicella Superiore (Click here to buy this wine - Note: this links to a different vintage. Affiliate link)
Region: Italy, Veneto
Price: $17.09 (on sale)
Grapes: 85% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese
Professional Rating: JS 92
What we tasted and smelled in this Valpolicella: Vanilla, cherry, licorice, cherry pie, rose, tobacco, tart cherry, more complex. Richer than the other two.
Food to pair with this Valpolicella: Burger, grilled foods, wood-fired pizza,
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
Taste profiles expected from Valpolicella: 45:06
- Valpolicella taste profile
- Tart or sour cherry, cinnamon, chocolate, pepper, and almond. Red berries.
- A well-made Valpolicella wine bursts with aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries and red cherries, underpinned by notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper
- About the Allegrini from Wine Enthusiast
- Aromas of red-skinned berries, spice and underbrush shape the nose. The easygoing palate shows ripe red cherry and white pepper alongside smooth tannins
- From Zenato
- Ruby red in color, this Valpolicella Superiore offers fleshy aromas of wild berries, black currants, black cherries, and spices, with hints of chocolate. On the palate, the wine is dry and robust with velvety texture.
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 48:04
As always, thank you so very much for listening to us, The Wine Pair, and you know, while you’re thinking about it, we think you should subscribe and give us a nice rating!
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Thanks for listening to the Wine Pair podcast, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine