Valpolicella, Veneto, North East Italy October 2019
Being a fan of full bodied, fruit driven and bold wines, I have always wanted to visit the Valpolicella region of Italy, to witness the appassimento process. This involves drying of the grapes on wooden racks (fruttaio) for the production of Amarone. This area is easily accessible. Only 15 minutes drive from Verona airport. It is also only a short distance East of Lake Garda. Bardolino and Soave are nearby leading to a cornucopia of wine styles in this area. A range of wines are produced in Valpolicella, from the light, fresh, easy drinking red fruity Valpolicella through to the monolithic rich Amarone. Somewhere in between are the wines of Valpolicella Classico and Ripasso wines which are refermented on the lees of grapes used in Amarone production. Reccioto is the sweet version of Amarone.More recently Valpolicella Superiore has emerged. This is made from grapes harvested later(sovramaturazione) or partially dried to produce a wine of greater colour body and alcohol. Valpolicella contains two sun-zones : Classico and Valpantena.
We chose to stay in the heart of the hilly vineyards in Sant Ambrogio di Valpolicella. Corte Formigar in Graganago is an 18th century house, tastefully restored and run by the incredible Jessica who could not be more helpful. I highly recommend basing yourself here in the heart of the region. Access to their selection of bikes including electric allow you to gain altitude via the many roads through the vineyards and appreciate the magnificent views and explore the area.
The first night we walked to the local Trattoria dai Fasolini to sample some typical cuisine of the area. Horse is typical of the Veneto region but perhaps not appreciated by British palates. However the home made tagliatelle with black truffle and parmesan hit the spot. This matched well with Recchia Le Muraie Valpolicella Classico 2015 made using the ripasso process with Recciotto lees.
Cantina di Negrar, October 12th
Cantina di Negrar is a well known cooperative winery on the outskirts of Negrar. They have 230 members providing grapes from the Valpolicella region and produce 8 million bottles.This is the birthplace of Amarone. In 1936, by accident a reccioto wine was left to ferment to dryness. The president at the time Gaetano dall’ora quite enjoyed it, called it the bitter one and named it Amarone (Amaro – bitter in Italian)It was interesting to witness the arrival of a tractor full of grapes being tested for sugar levels and quality by a rather crude machine. A large cylinder of metal with an internal drill was inserted into the grapes, it macerates a sample of them and analyses the content for sugar levels. If not of sufficient levels the grapes will be rejected.
We had our wine tasting with Sara Albertini who is hugely knowledgeable, having just spent a year in Bordeaux and mid her masters in wine business
Domini Veneti la Casseta Ripasso Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2016 30 th Anniversary
14 months oak casks Recciotto skins, from grapes grown on Clay soil, Unfortunately this was somewhat reduced sulphurous smoky
Domini Veneti 2016 Valpolicella Superiore Verjago 15.5% 40 days of appassimento
Rich blueberry and violet Soft but silky tannins coffee chocolate cocoa dark cherry bit of raisin smells sweet ripe meaty savoury spicy
Domini Veneti Amarone 2015
15.5%, Best vintage for many years Described by our host… as like dark chocolate cherry 🍒 liquors. garnet intense nose legs ++ coffee cocoa dust powder raisins spice black pepper
Domini Veneti Recioto 2016
Sweet cherry not complex recioto
We had dinner in St Giorgio di Valpolicella high up in the hills overlooking lake Garda at Trattoria Dalla Rosa Alda.
This is a cosy family run restaurant with the mother, father, uncle and 2 sons all working together. The wine choice was from Zyme, the owner is married to the daughter of the famous Giuseppe Quintarelli.
Corte Fornaledo Winery Azienda Agricola Borghetti di Giacomo e Francesco – Sunday October 13th
The land here is documented in books dating back to 908 AD. The current family have been in residence from 1800 and own 5 hectares in Marano di Valpolicella 450m above sea level, making only 15,000 bottles most of which is sold to private buyers.
Wines tasted with c0-owner Giacomo Borghetti –
Corte Fornaledo Valpolicella Classico superiore 2014
Fresh red cherry 40% corvina 40%corvinone molinara 5% rondinella 15%
Corte Fornaledo Valpolicella ripasso Classico superiore 2015 DOC
14.5% fresh red cherry richer good acidity length all aged in 500l tonneaux
Corte Fornaledo , Vitae IGT Rosso Verona 2013
2 months aged grapes, aged in Chilean oak barrels IGT all Volcanic soils
mineral savoury spicy oxidation
Corte Fornaledo , Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2015
3 months drying 3. 5 yrs barrels and then 1 year bottles
Raisins fig full sweet chocolate alcohol!
Corte Fornaledo Amarone Della Valpolicella Riserva 2009
8 years in barrels one in bottle oak vanilla chocolate coffee 1000 L Slavonian oak
Corte Fornaledo, Recioto della Valpolicella 2015
made first by Romans 2000 years ago
Sweet cherry chew 10 g/l
Val Polis Cellae wine and food and art festival – Sunday Oct 13th
Azienda Agricola Novaia Cantina Biologica This organic estate high up in the Marano valley was our first stop on the Val Polis Cellae tour. This day long, art, wine and gastronomy festival enables entry to 15 wineries in the area.
Then on to Le Marognole ( names after local stone walls) 6 hectares boutique winery
The harvest had just ended and we were greeted to the smell of fermenting must making the roses Their Amarone 2015 was one of my favourites of the tour tasting of cedar, prunes dates and dried fruits with a power and finesse
Dinner in the evening lived up to previous Trips to Italy –
Osteria Numero Uno is a beautiful authentic Osteria in the village of Fumane
insalata di gallina in saor
Insalata di rape Rossi, mêle, Ruccola gorgonzola anacardi
Fettuccine al ragu d’anatra
Tortellini radicchio rosso, burro al miele e scamorza affumigata
Guancia di Manzo All Amarone con polenta
Scottata di tonno du cavalo nero
Torta die mêle e fichi secci
All washed down with recioto from the local winery and a harsh cleanse of Grappa. This delicious feast was a fitting end to our trip to the Valpolicella area. Italy cannot be beaten for wine and gastronomy.Before even departing Verona, my brother and father already booked our trip to Sicily next year!
Our wine style of choice was the Ripasso’s. The basic Valpolicella was too light and simple for our taste, Amarone at the other end of the spectrum is often too big powerful and alcoholic. The Ripasso is a welcome half way house adding a much-needed richness but not to the level of Amarone. The pricing of Ripasso wines also adds to their attraction.