Valpolicella: What do you need to know?

Valpolicella could be your next favorite wine. And, best of all: there are expressions for every wine lover. There’s a Valpolicella to suit everyone, whether you prefer lighter-bodied reds like Gamay or pinot gris or full-bodied, powerful wines (hello, New World cabernet fans). Here’s what you need to know about this versatile Italian red wine. 

What is Valpolicella?

Valpolicella, a red wine blend from the Veneto region in Italy, is called Valpolicella. The Corvina grape variety dominates the blend, with the local varieties Rondinella, molinara and barbera playing back roles. Rosignola and sangiovese are also allowed. The flavors and styles available in Valpolicella wines are wide, with wines ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied. The wines with the “superiore” label must be aged for at least one year in oak. They also need to contain a minimum of 12 percent alcohol. Most Valpolicella producers will age their entry-level bottles in some form or another wood.

Where Does Valpolicella Come From?

Valpolicella wines are from Verona province, east of Lake Garda. It is located in the region of Veneto in northern Italy.

What is Valpolicella Ripasso?

One of the most sought-after styles of Valpolicella ripasso wine is Valpolicella Superiore. These delicious bottles are made from Valpolicella superior wine. They are then left in contact with partially dried skins leftover from Scioto or Amarone production. Skin contact enhances these fruit-driven, silky wines.

Are Valpolicella & Amarone the same thing?

It’s possible, but not necessarily. Amarone, also known as Amarone Valpolicella, can be made from dried, late-harvested red wine grapes. Half of the grapes must be Corvina Corvinone. The other half must contain Rondinella or other local varieties. Grape drying causes the berries to shrivel and dehydrate, making the sugars more concentrated. The final wines will have a higher alcohol content if they are vinified dry. This is usually around 15% to 16% ABV. Amarone grapes are allowed to dry for up to four months. After fermentation, the wines spend a few years in oak before being released. These wines are full-bodied and concentrated and pack a big punch.

Recipoto wines, on the other hand, are made from dried grapes. However, they are generally not vinified dry. Therefore, these wines are higher in sugar and lower in alcohol (around 12%).

What does Valpolicella taste like?

Each expression of Valpolicella will be unique because there are many different styles and designations. The classic expressions of Valpolicella will generally have sour cherries and red berries flavors, and cinnamon. Ripasso wines will have a velvety texture and a fuller body. Due to the oak time, there may also be vanilla, baking spice, and chocolate notes. Regardless of their style or designation, these wines are best enjoyed slightly chilled.

What are good food pairings with Valpolicella wine?

Lighter-bodied Valpolicella expressions (not ripasso) can be paired with poultry, charcuterie or other appetizers. Ripasso with a fuller body will pair well with burgers, roasted meats and hearty vegetarian stews. You can also enjoy Amarone with aged Parmigiano cheese or a simple cigar.

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