Valpolicella

Val-po-lee-chell-a

Parents & Origin: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Molinara, and/or Corvinone (Northern Italy)
Grape: Small, spherical, dark purple skin
Flavors: Sour cherry, cinnamon, chocolate, pepper, almond
Notable Regions: Italy
Sweetness: Dry
Body: Medium
Tannins: Low
Acidity: High
ABV: 11.5-13.5%

The History of Valpolicella

Valpolicella is one of Italy’s most famous wine regions, located in the province of Verona in Northern Italy. Wine has been made here since the time of the ancient Greeks, though the term Valpolicella did not originate until the 12th century. In addition to its status as a viticultural area, a wine also known as Valpolicella is produced using the indigenous grapes of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Molinara, and/or Corvinone.

For most of winemaking history in Valpolicella, sweet wines were the most prominent style of wine. This was due to the partial drying process that is present in the two other types of wine made in the region: Recioto (a sweet wine made from raisined grapes) and Amarone (similar to Recioto, but with full fermentation). However, especially post-World War II, winemakers have been producing standard Valpolicella wine made from undried grapes.

This type of standard Valpolicella wine gained DOC recognition in 1968, though it originally fell out of favor as the more traditional styles of Recioto and Amarone were preferred. True Valpolicella wine was made in increasing quantities, but it suffered from imperfect DOC regulations that mandated certain blending practices that were seen as negatively affecting the wine’s quality. In 2003, however, DOC regulations were adjusted to account for this, and in 2009, Amarone and Recioto were given the higher DOCG designation. Valpolicella is still a DOC wine, but with the blend perfected, it has seen renewed appreciation as a delicious and accessible red wine.

Interesting Fact: The winemaking history of Valpolicella is so prominent that even the area’s name comes from the craft. Valpolicella’s name is thought to be a mixture of ancient Latin and Greek, meaning “land of many cellars.”

Valpolicella Food Pairings

Due to its high acidity and medium body, Valpolicella pairs well with a wider variety of foods than most reds.

The Best Valpolicella Food Pairings

Valpolicella’s simple flavors go well classic Italian dishes such as pizza and pasta, as well as poultry and some beef dishes. It is also one of the few reds that can complement seafood or salads, due to the wine’s relatively light body and tannins.

Food Pairings to Avoid with Valpolicella

Like any red, Valpolicella is still not ideal for your lightest dishes and desserts. For heavy meat dishes such as steak, a heavier wine such as Amarone might be more suitable.

Valpolicella Tasting Notes

Varietal Valpolicella offers primary flavors of sour cherry, cinnamon, chocolate, pepper, and almond. On the nose, it offers aromas of cherries and herbs. Valpolicella wines usually have low tannins and high acidity, balanced out by moderate alcohol content and moderate body. Some Valpolicella wines exhibit aging potential, but aging is generally reserved for the older varieties of Amarone and Recioto. Standard Valpolicella is typically drunk within five years of harvest. Many compare the taste of Valpolicella to Beaujolais wine.

The Valpolicella DOC

Thanks to its status as a DOC wine under the Italian appellation system, Valpolicella wine has many stipulations that are required by law. Each wine must be made from 45 to 95% Corvina, which is the standard grape of the region, but up to 50% of this quota can be substituted with the related Corvinone. This is the source of the wine’s prominent cherry flavors. Additionally, Rondinella grapes must make up 5 to 30% of the blend, offering bright floral notes, with any additional grape such as Molinara being used sparingly. The resulting wine is bright, lively, and balanced, with accessible fruity flavors.

Valpolicella vs. Valpolicella Superiore

In addition to fulfilling DOC requirements, some wines can be designated as Superiore by following additional rules. Valpolicella Superiore must be aged for one year in oak, whereas there is no aging requirement for normal Valpolicella. In addition, the alcohol content of Superiore must reach 12%.

Valpolicella in a Nutshell

Since its ancient origins in Northern Italy, Valpolicella has become one of Italy’s most celebrated wine regions, especially with Valpolicella DOC wine. This blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and other varietals offers flavors of sour cherries, cinnamon, chocolate, pepper, and almond, with a moderate body, low tannins, and high acidity. Pair a bottle of Valpolicella with Italian classics and lighter meat dishes.