Guide to Valpolicella

Valpolicella countryside, Italy.

Valpolicella [Vol-pole-ee-CHEL-la] is a very important red wine DOC zone located in northeastern Italy’s Veneto region. It is situated between Bardolino and Soave just north of Verona. Valpolicella ranks just after the Chianti DOCG for Italy’s total DOC red-wine production. The wine is made primarily from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Valpolicella’s standard DOC wines are rather light and very fragrant and fruity. Those labeled “Superiore” have a one percent higher minimum alcohol content and are aged for a minimum of one year. The best wines are generally those labeled “classico”, which indicates that they come from the inner classico zone with its steeply terraced vineyards.

The Veneto is also home to another famous wine, Valpolicella. Plain Valpolicella should have a distinctive cherry color and sweet aroma with a hint of bitterness on the finish. Like Soave, the mass-produced version can be disappointing, but there are many small producers creating wines of distinctive character and charm. The most intense form of Valpolicella is known as Amarone. The name derives from the Italian word for bitter, amaro.

A lesser known, but higher quality, style of Valpolicella called ripasso [ree-PAH-soh] is created by pouring regular Valpolicella over the pressed skins left from Amarone production. This process starts a second fermentation, enriching the Valpolicella and providing more alcohol. This ripasso style, sometimes referred to as “baby Amarone”, is a great value alternative to the more expensive Amarone.

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