VALPOLICELLA - Wines and Territory
Located in northeastern Italy, to the eastern side of Lake Garda , the Valpolicella scenic vineyards start in the fertile plains and progressively climb up the hills, north of Verona, offering a magnificent view over the town. This is an area full of history, culture and it's home to some of the best Italian wines.
Grapes and wine have been well soaked in the history of Valpolicella (valley of many cellars) dating from the prehistoric era, through Roman to Medieval times, beginning with “Vino Retico” nowadays known as Recioto wine; the quality of which was already known by Emperor Augustus and from which is derived today Amarone, a dry, severe, fragrant wine, universally regarded as the finest wine made in this area and ones of Italy’s most important reds.
Valpolicella has an extension of 25 km from West to East and 12 km from North to South. The city of Verona in nestled in the Southern heart of a complex system of valleys that flows from North (Monti Lessini) to South. The Adige river borders the Valpolicella area on its western and southern sides.
The Valpolicella wines surprise with their array of aromas and nuances, punchy flashes of spiciness, from tart to sweet flavours. A wide range of indigenous red grape varieties are planted in the meager soils left by ancient volcanic activity: a mix of volcanic tufa, calcareous clays and, in the east, alluvial material. The variety of terroir has given Valpolicella the possibility to nurture countless varieties. Majority varieties include the tannic, thick-skinned Corvina and the aromatic Rondinella, two high-personality grapes that make up the bulk of the production and are the base of most wines. Molinara is the third grape in the Valpolicella trio.
Basic classifications for red wines, in order of prestige:
Valpolicella Classico D.O.C: Largest quantity produced.Spring/Summer – Try serving slightly chilled, pairs well with pizza, pasta, light meats, and veggies.
Valpolicella Superiore D.O.C: Minimum 12% Alc/Vol and 1 year in wooden barrels. More concentration and darker color than Valpolicella Classico. Pairs well with burgers, meats, roasted chicken, fresh cheese, charcuterie. (Get it here)
Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore D.O.C: Also called Ripasso della Valpolicella which, as of 2009, officially has its own D.O.C. Made by macerating Amarone pomace (grape skins & solids) with fresh Valpolicella Wine. Medium to full body. Rich, soft, complex yet accessible, pairs well with steak, mushrooms, and dark umami flavours.
Amarone della Valpolicella D.O.C.G: Made with Valpolicella grapes that are dried for 4-5 months to lose water and concentrate sugars. Sugars have all fermented to dryness, but the “illusion of sweetness” remains. Minimum 2 years aging prior to release. Many producers wait as long as 5 years before release. Can cellar 10+ years, some more than 20 years. Minimum ABV 14%. Usually 15-16%. Full bodied, dried fruit, firm tannins, high acidity. It pairs well with braised meats, aged cheese. (Get it here)
Recioto della Valpolicella D.O.C.G: Dessert wine. Same grapes as Amarone, same process. But fermentation is halted before completion to leave residual sugar in the wine. Extremely concentrated, spectacularly complex. Rich dried fruit, lots of tannin and bright acidity. 12% ABV. Can cellar for 20-30 years under proper conditions. Classic pairing for dark chocolate.
Follow this link to discover more about Italian Appellations.
History of the Valpolicella Region
The first human settlement, dating back to the Paleolithic Era, increased in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, due to the easy availability of flint (stone material that could be worked on) of which there was so much that it was exported towards central Europe.
With the arrival of the Romans, at the end of the 2nd century B.C., prehistory was to end. The first large population to settle in Valpolicella in this area was the Arusnates. The Romans guaranteed their administration which allowed them to become a central part of the next two thousand years of tradition in Valpolicella.
An important historical fact was the settlement of the area Via Claudia Augusta Padana (Modena-Brennero); wine production in this region was very well under way.
After the Ostrogoths, the Lombard dominion would leave their mark on the territory.
In 800 B.C., Charles the Great conquered the area and divided it in two distinct administrative districts, while the Emperor Berengario issued two decrees in the year 905, one from Castelrotto and one from the rural parish church (pieve) of San Floriano. At the beginning of year 1000 the first comunes, or municipalities, came into being, a symbol of which is represented by with the dual use of the bell towers for religious and civic reasons.
The name Valpolicella came to be in the following century (to replace the names Veriago and Pruviniano) which was made official in 1117 by Federico Barbarossa. In 1311 the region was lost to Federico della Scala in a feud and he took on the title of Count; in 1387, with the end of Scaliger rule, Valpolicella, like Verona, was handed over to Venice. The Vicariate was located in San Pietro in Cariano but from 1550 the area of Sant’Anna D’Alfaedo constituted an autonomous Vicariate.
The plague hit the population in the period from 1517 until the fall of the "Serenissima" Republic of Venice, which was followed by the arrival of Napoleon and his troops who brought destruction by looting and plundering the area several times. With the beginning of the 20th century life became to change particularly from 1955 onwards, when farmers and marble craftsmen became the entrepreneurs of today.