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Valpolicella Part 1

Our various trips over recent years to Lago di Garda, Verona, Valpolicella and Soave resulted in the article on Veneto Wines. It turned out to be long enough without the addition of any tasting notes so this article and Part 2 on Amarone, as well as another one covering Soave, are best viewed as addendums to the Veneto Wines article.

The wines tasted below are a somewhat random selection of mostly Valpolicella Classica wines that are a mix of regular DOC and Superiore DOC designations as well as Valpolicella Ripasso wines and a Corvina in purezza. Part 2 will cover Amarone. Our tasting notes are almost always from wines we have purchased and consume at home, normally over the course of a couple of evenings, where we can better judge the wines before food, with food and after food.

They are never quickly scribbled tasting notes at a wine event, instead they are about replicating how wine is actually consumed with dinner and in this respect we differ from most people who write about wine, whether professional tasters or amateur bloggers, who typically go to organized tasting events and get through 10 or more wines in one sitting and make hasty notes as they go. Each to his own, but wine is intended to be drunk with food and so that is how we taste wine, a simple concept perhaps but how else does one guage the appropriate level of tannin and acidity in a wine, especially given the naturally high acidity and/or tannin levels of many Italian red grape varieties.

The result of concentrating on one particular area for successive weeks and drinking the entire bottles is that we re-familiarize ourselves very quickly with how the wine should taste and the difference between various producers stylistically. Our approach may limit us to a maximum of about 350 different Italian wines each year but consuming each bottle over two nights before, during and after food is a more thorough approach that we prefer.

bottles of valpolicella

Valpolicella DOC wines

Tedeschi - Lucchine 2019 - Valpolicella Classico DOC

(fermentation in stainless steel, 2 months aging in bottle, 12.5% alcohol)

25% Corvina, 25% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 10% Molinara and 10% others.

From 25 year old vines. Powerful nose of cherries, violets and red fruits. This is a lovely, juicy entry level red wine from one of the top Valpolicella producers that is a pleasure to drink and at 8 euros is also fantastic value.

Speri - Valpolicella Classico 2019 - DOC

(fermentation and aging in stainless steel and concrete, 12.5% alcohol)

60% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, 10% Molinara.

This was a disappointing wine because the Superiore by Speri (below) was so good that we were expecting much more from this wine notwithstanding the cheaper price of 9 euros. It’s a pleasant enough wine but lacking in vibrancy, freshness and fruit. Overall a little subdued and faded. Give this a miss, especially given the much better Tedeschi Lucchine.

Corte Adami - Valpolicella 2020 - DOC

(fermentation and aging for 4-5 months in stainless steel, 13% alcohol)

Bright ruby red in the glass it has a very intense nose of red fruits and cherries which had not faded at all by the second evening. This is why I'm a big fan of well made traditional Valpolicella because you get all the vitality and perfume of a fresh young wine without any of the harsh tannins that many young red wines have.

This has enough acidity to be refreshing and versatile in terms of food parings, but soft enough to enjoy before and after eating. This is what a classic entry level Valpolicella should taste like and at 11.30 euros it's priced very reasonably.

Brigaldara - Valpolicella 2019 - DOC

(fermentation and aging for 6 months in stainless steel, 13% alcohol)

55% Corvina, 25% Corvinone and 20% Rondinella. (no pre-drying of grapes)

Some red fruits on the nose and some candied fruit nuances too but on the palate this is a little disppointing. It lacks real freshness and vitality which is the whole point of a young Valpolicella. There are some berry flavors and just about enough acidity but it lacks zip and overall seems a little tired. This wine is never going to start a conversation and nobody will remember drinking it and as there are so many interesting wines to try in Italy I would give this a miss. At 9.50 euros it’s not expensive but even so it's not good value. The Tedeschi Valpolicella Classico is cheaper and significantly better and the Corte Adami is worth the extra two euros.

bottles of valpolicella

Valpolicella Superiore DOC wines:

Speri - Sant’Urbano 2019 - Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC

(fermentation in stainless steel and aging for 24 months in 500 liter French oak barrels, 13.5% alcohol). 75% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara.

The grapes are left to dry for 25 days prior to crushing. Speri farms 150 acres all within the higher quality Classico zone.

Deep ruby red. Sour cherries and stewed fruits on the nose and then great purity and elegance in the mouth. The Monte Sant’Urbano vineyard is made up of old vines in volcanic soils at an elevation of over 1,000 feet six miles north-west of Verona in Fumane and shares the land with olive and cherry groves. This is a well-made wine with everything in balance. Low acidity, soft tannins and a long lingering finish make it a very seductive wine but obviously many of the flavors here are from the pre-drying of the grapes. Two days later with plenty of air in the bottle we drank the rest and there was very little change, still vibrant and lots of flavor. At 16.50 euros it’s the most expensive of this flight but we think the price is justified.

Brigaldara - Case Vecie 2018 - Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC

Decent fruit on the nose but a little flat on the palate. This improved on the second evening but was still somewhat disappointing lacking refreshing acidity and depth of flavor. In a word, uninteresting, and it wasn't just me that thought so because this wine was also served to a guest who politely declined a second glass in favor of the Tommasi Ripasso (described below) which is available at a lower price. The Case Vecie is very poor value at 15 euros.

Tedeschi - Capitel Nicalò 2017 - Valpolicella Superiore DOC

(Aged in Slavonian oak barrels for up to 18 months)

35% Corvina, 35% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 10% Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella. The grapes are left to dry for 30 days prior to crushing (which results in a loss of about 10% of their weight, increasing the concentrations of sugar and dry extract).

This wine has a fabulous nose of fully mature sour cherries together with only a slight reductive element. On the palate there's some much needed acidity providing balance. The overall effect is one of sweetness not in the sense of actually being sweet but more along the lines of being ripe and fully mature aided no doubt by the drying of the grapes and the maturation in large oak barrels. A very enjoyable wine and a steal at just over 10 euros. This is a wine that is clearly made to be a crowd pleaser and it is in fact, so job well done. Tedeschi is showing consistently well in this tasting.

Corte Adami - Valpolicella Superiore 2018 - DOC

(a 30 day period of drying the grapes is followed by fermentation in stainless steel and then 1 year aging partly in French oak barrels and partly in steel)

Now approaching three years old this wine is in the perfect spot. The color in the glass is starting to turn a little garnet but there's still lots of vibrant cherries and black fruits on the nose and sufficient acidity. I think the drying of grapes can be overdone in Valpolicella generally for my taste, but the 30 day period for this wine seems to work perfectly without turning it into a baby Ripasso. Excellent value for 12.30 euros.

bottles of valpolicella

Valpolicella Ripasso DOC wines:

Zenato - Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017 - DOC

(85% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone)

When the fermentation is complete and the wine is separated from the grapeskins it is held in stainless steel containers and then in January “passed over” the sugar rich lees (known as ‘pomace’) of the Amarone wine after the Amarone wine itself has been racked and removed. This ‘ripasso’ contact lasts 7 or 8 days at a temperature of about 25 degrees celsius and results in a second fermentation giving the resulting wine some of the characteristics of an Amarone with greater structure and body with lower acidity. This Zenato ripasso ages in oak for 18 months before bottling.

Deep ruby red with notes of black cherry and those stewed fruit flavors or reduction typical of a dried grape wine. This is a soft, round wine with none of the zippy acidic freshness of the regular Valpolicella. Very much a half-way house between Amarone and Valpolicella and probably fairly priced at 14.50 euros.

Tommasi - Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017 - DOC

(70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone, 13.5% alcohol)

This wine re-ferments for 12 days on the Amarone pomace followed by 18 months aging in large oak botti and 6 months in bottle.

This is a much more restrained and elegant Ripasso. On the nose there's plenty of red fruit, berries, sweet spices and tobacco but there's nothing 'stewed' or overdone here. It's quite intense and concentrated in the mouth but also fresh and lively with good acidity but very soft tannins. Balanced and harmonious, this is a style of Ripasso that can convert me and at 13 euros this is very good value for the quality it delivers. Pared very well with baby back pork ribs.

Corte Adami - Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2018 - DOC (14.5% alcohol)

In January the Valpolicella Superiore wine is mixed with the rich Amarone pomace and left together for 2 weeks at which point a second fermentation takes place. The wine is then aged for a year partly in French oak barrels and partly in steel.

Medium garnet color with a surprisingly pale rim for such a young wine. An absolutely exquisite nose of tobacco and wet leather with a slightly sweet undertone of orange peel and liqueur. This wine just about manages to thread the needle between maintaining freshness while extracting more body and structure from the second fermentation. It’s clearly a Ripasso wine but it's not heavy or stewed and there's a refreshing quality that comes from the fruit and the pleasant and very necessary acidity. It’s quite full and concentrated but stays in balance.

Brigaldara - Il Vegro 2018 - Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore DOC

(55% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella, 25% Corvinone 14.5% alcohol, aged in botti for 18 months)

Dark red with noticeable whitening at the edges this comes across as an older wine than it actually is. This wine has a lot of admirers and is almost universally viewed as an exciting high quality wine, but we just don't see that at all. The nose is a little medicinal with a whiff of iodine to it and it's fairly ordinary on the palate with a very short finish. Not unpleasant by any means but I expected more from a 15 euro wine. Disappointing, but it continues a trend of very unexciting wines from Brigaldara which is why we declined to write an in depth profile of the winery after our tasting visit.

Single Grape Wine:

Le Fraghe Chelidon and

Tantini - Greta 2012 (100% Corvina)

I'm sure that Giovanna Tantini would chide me for drinking this well past its peak but I like older wines. At 9 years old it looks like a tawny port and even has a similar aroma combined with weather beaten leather. In the glass there's still good fruit and acidity but in a lean, understated and slightly faded way which here is actually very appealing and very different. This is a wine that you can sip and enjoy with just a bite of mature pecorino. Very enjoyable.


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