Veneto located in northeastern Italy, is the cradle of Valpolicella. The plains, north of the beautiful city of Verona, which is also the home of the annual wine exposition called Vinitaly, that stretch to the Alpine foothills, have been designated for growing the grapes for Valpolicella.
Traditional Valpolicella is a light, lively, fresh, fruity, acid-driven red wine to enjoy young, and with food.
Corvina, rondinella and molinara are the three grapes sanctioned for the blend. The region consists of two parts – the core as was established in antiquity and now called classico, and the rest of the delimited region produces simply Valpolicella.
Corvina contributes aromas, tannins and body; rondinella, structure and colour; molinara astringency and acidity. Winemakers decide the proportions, each of which exudes different aromas and flavours to create their wines.
Romans, who have been known to appreciate alcoholic wines, invented the technique of drying grapes to make a high alcohol wine – Recioto della Valpolicella. This sweet high-alcohol wine possessed, and even the modern versions do, concentrated flavours and a long aftertaste. Today, selected bunches are harvested three to four days before fully ripening and dried on specially designed trays for several months in well-ventilated rafters. This technique is known as appasimento.
Recioto wines are always worth cellaring due to their high alcohol and extract levels.
Amarone is a relatively speaking young wine invented in the 1950’s, representing the fully fermented version of the recioto containing a minimum of 15 percent alcohol and often more. Amarone wines are full-bodied, dark red, highly extracted and deeply flavoured to complement beef, game and Parmiggiano Regiano; they can also be enjoyed on their won.
More recently, the ripasso technique has become popular, this advocates running regular Valpolicella on to the lees of Amarone and aging it for a few months. During this period, lees provide softness and extra body much appreciated by connoisseurs.
Agricola Masi, a venerable winery in Verona, has been promoting this technique. Campofiorin, Masi’s ripasso technique wine, distributed worldwide, never fails to receive acclaim from professionals and consumers.
The company attempted to patent the technique but has been rejected since authorities know that winemakers of antiquity were already employing it!
Appasimento, fundamental to the production of Recioto and Amarone, is now being employed to make Valpolicella Superiore, which must contain one degree more alcohol than the regular wine of that vintage.
Throughout the world, weather conditions during the last week before the harvest are of crucial importance. High humidity, torrential rains. And misty weather can literally ruin a year’s labour. Harvesting a few days before full ripening and drying bunches in a dry, well-ventilated room increases the chances of success, resulting in a more concentrated, high alcohol, aromatic wines. It must be recalled that in northern Italy grapes never ripen to yield naturally more than 12 percent alcohol. Since chaptalizations is against the law, this technique represents an important tool to increase quality, flavour and alcohol levels.
In drying rooms, humidity is kept at 70 percent and temperature between
5 – 8 C.
Tuscan winemakers use the governo technique, which consists of drying grapes for a few weeks, and after crushing same, add them to fermenting Chianti wines in an attempt to increase alcohol levels, flavours and colour.
Maybe Valpolicalla winemakers could coin a term (rigoverno) to circumvent the ripasso dilemma.