Want to know all about Valpolicella wine and the best ones to buy in 2020?
Located in the Veneto region of Italy, the Valpolicella region is one of the most popular wine regions of the country, second only to the Chianti region.
From a dry Amarone to younger wines like Ripasso (made from Amarone pomace), you have an exciting range of Valpolicella Red Wines to choose from!
But, which are the best Valpolicella wines? How do you buy the finest Valpolicella wine?
In this article, discover everything about Valpolicella wines - from the history of the wine region, and the various Valpolicella wine styles, to the best Valpolicella wine to buy in 2020.
This Article Contains
(Click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- All About Valpolicella Wine
- Valpolicella Wine Styles
- Valpolicella Grape Varieties
- Food Pairings with Valpolicella
- Best Valpolicella Wines (to Buy) 2020 (Including Tasting Notes)
- 2011 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Selezione DOCG
- 1965 Bertani Recioto Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto
- 1995 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG
- 2004 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto di Monte Lodoletta, Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG
- 2013 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto Monte Lodoletta, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
- 2011 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
- 2012 Allegrini Fierimonte, Amarone Recioto della Valpolicella Classico
- 2012 Allegrini Fierimonte, Amarone Recioto della Valpolicella Classico
- 2013 Monte dei Ragni Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore
- 2007 Bertani Villa Arvedi, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG
All About Valpolicella Wine
Valpolicella is much more than the birthplace of the popular Amarone wine. It has a rich viticultural history dating back to the Greeks and boasts distinct winemaking methods that have evolved over the centuries.
Here’s everything you need to know about Valpolicella wine:
The Valpolicella Wine Region
The Valpolicella region is often called the ‘valley of many cellars’ thanks to the number of ancient wine cellars in the area.
The Valpolicella wine region extends from Soave in the east to Bardolino in the west of the Veneto region. Lake Garda in the west and the Adriatic Sea on the Southeast bank influence the region’s cool climate.
The extensive viticulture of the Valpolicella region is governed by this cool continental climate and vine-friendly soil. Also, the calcareous, limestone-rich clayey soil in the foothills of the Alps provides the perfect terroir for the grapevines.
It is further divided into Negrar, Marano, and Fumane and divided by the tributaries of the Adige river. In fact, the Adige river governs the climate of the Venetian region.
On its western border lies Lake Garda, while the northern and eastern borders are protected by the Lessini mountains. One of the most famous wine producers of the region is Masi that owns the best vineyard of the region - Vaio dei Masi.
Some of the most beautiful vineyard plots of the Valpolicella area are Valpolicella Classica, sant’ambrogio di Valpolicella, and Soave - all known for their flavorful wines.
Characteristics of Valpolicella wine
The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Valpolicella’ may be Amarone, but there is a whole range of red wines that come from this region - full and light-bodied red wine, sweet dessert wine, and even sparkling spumante.
What are some of its characteristics?
A normal Valpolicella wine has sour cherry flavors with fresh acidity. Even the most basic Valpolicella wine has some of the most fragrant aromas.
While full-bodied Amarone and Recioto wines have an alcohol level of 15-16%, the lighter Classico Valpolicella wines have moderate alcohol levels of around 11%.
Now let’s take a look into the rich history of Valpolicella wine.
History of Valpolicella Wine
Viticulture in the Valpolicella wine region has evolved over the centuries, but the traditional winemaking process of using partially dried grapes still exists.
This method of using dried grapes was introduced by the ancient Greeks. That’s why this winemaking style is called ‘Greco’ or ‘Greek Style’.
In the 8th century, the Republic of Venice became an important port in the Mediterranean and Valpolicella local wines were exported to different parts of the world.
The blockade of the Mediterranean ports by Ottoman Turks in the 15th and 16th centuries, and the series of calamities in the 19th century were a setback to the wine region. But the winemakers maintained the wine production.
It was not until the 1950s that the Amarone wine style was rediscovered in the region, and it finally gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, winemaking in Valpolicella is divided into seven communes - Pescantina, San Pietro in Cariano, Negrar, Marano di Valpolicella, Fumane, Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella and Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo.
Valpolicella Grape Varieties
Think Valpolicella wines, and Corvina and Corvinone grapes are probably what’ll come to your mind! But the region has several other grape varieties that give flavor to a standard Valpolicella wine.
Let’s take a look at all of them.
Corvina is a red wine grape that produces light wines. The thick grape skins give the wine low tannin levels. Although the grape lacks color, the wine is usually bright-red. It is also commonly known as Corvina Veronese and Cruina.
Corvina grape is known for its sour cherry flavors - the reason it's a key ingredient in Valpolicella wines. It is often blended with other grape varieties like Rondinella because of its high acidity, giving the wine a unique freshness.
Often used as a substitute to the Corvina grape variety, Corvinone is considered a clone of the former grape. It is widely grown in the Veneto region of northeast Italy and hardly ever appears in Veronese wine blends without its parent grape.
The grape skins are thick - perfect for drying - and that’s why it is used in sweeter wines like Recioto and fine dry wines like Amarone.
Another red wine grape grown on the outskirts of the Veneto region, Rondinella is considered the poorer-quality cousin of Corvina. This indigenous grape adds herbal flavors to the wine.
It is hardly ever used to produce varietal wines.
Another blending grape from the region, Molinara is used to add acidity in Valpolicella wines, Bardolino and IGT Veneto wines.
Molinara grapes are prone to rapid oxidation, which results in a lack of flavor. It is only known for its fresh acidity and not used as a varietal wine grape.
5. Other grape varieties
There are several other grapes that are used in small quantities to give Valpolicella wines unique flavors, including Rossignola, Dindarella, Negrara, Trentina, Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc.
Valpolicella Wine Styles
Valpolicella wine comes in five major styles, thanks to the rich viticultural history and continuous improvements in the winemaking process. Here are the wine styles from the Valpolicella DOC.
1. Valpolicella Classico
Valpolicella Classico is a DOC wine classified as ‘table wine’. It is the most popular wine style in the region. A Valpolicella DOC wine is much more affordable than other Italian wines and cost less than $20 for a bottle.
These novello style wines (wines made to be drunk young) have a classic Beaujolais Nouveau texture - light, fresh and fruity.
Pair them with simple dishes - vegan or meat, especially on a warm summer evening.
2. Valpolicella Superiore
Valpolicella Superiore wine is known for its rich flavors and darker colors. With a minimum of 12% ABV, Valpolicella Superiore wines are great to be consumed with a dish like seafood stew or rare steak.
These wines are aged in wood for at least a year to develop their rich flavors.
3. Amarone della Valpolicella
The Amarone Della Valpolicella wine is a DOCG wine. The winemakers use traditional methods to craft this fine Italian wine.
A unique dry wine with an illusion of sweetness, these wines are made from indigenous grape varieties that have been dried for 4-5 months. These dried grapes have concentrated sugar. During fermentation, most of the sugar is converted to alcohol, and the wine becomes dry without losing the sweet aroma.
4. Recioto della Valpolicella
Made using the same winemaking process, Recioto wine is the sweeter twin of the Amarone wine. These dessert wines are made from the same grape varieties as Amarone - Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella, and Croatina.
The only difference is that the winemaker stops the fermentation before all the sugar ferments. Therefore the wine is left with residual sugar, and the resulting wine is sweet.
5. Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso
Given the DOC status in 2009, the Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is younger than the other Valpolicella wine styles.
Ripasso is not a regular Valpolicella DOC wine. Here’s why.
It was developed to give the Classico wines a richness of Amarone wine. To make the Classico wine richer and more complex, the winemaker macerates it with Amarone pomace (grape skins and solids.)
Food Pairings with Valpolicella Wines
Often compared to Beaujolais, Valpolicella packs red fruit flavors and fresh acidity. Here are some food suggestions to go with these Italian wines.
Pair the regular Valpolicella Classico wine with common dinner dishes like pasta, pizza, light meat dishes and sauteed vegetables.
While sweet wines like Recioto are best paired with dark chocolate desserts, dry Amarone wines go best with braised meat, rare steak, and aged cheese.
Ripasso wine goes with a wide range of dishes - from Risotto and pasta to barbequed meat dishes like steak and sausages.
Best Valpolicella Wines to Buy in 2020 (Including Tasting Notes)
Here are some of our best Valpolicella wine suggestions.
1. 2011 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Selezione DOCG
Giuseppe Quintarelli uses indigenous grape varieties of Corvina Veronese to produce soft tannin wines with red fruit flavors. Wine production in the vineyard is a slow process, and the grapes macerate for 20 days before they ferment.
The 2011 Giuseppe Quintarelli red vintage has a distinct Nebbiolo spectrum with orange highlights. A rich and intense red wine, it is made from the classic Valpolicella blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, and Sangiovese.
The nose is dominated by an intense aroma of black cherry, spices, and oak. The palate is rich, full-bodied, and has perfectly balanced tannin levels.
Average price of 2011 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Selezione DOCG: $1,433
2. 1965 Bertani Recioto Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto
The most sought-after Italian winery, Bertani has its vineyards spread across Verona - from Lake Garda to Soave.
The 1965 sweet wine is a carefully crafted masterpiece. Wine tasting reveals a fully developed bold wine with a lasting finish. This Italian wine gives a strong aroma of dried fruits like cherries and plums with tobacco, and leather.
The fruit flavor of dark plum dominates the palate, but you can notice a hint of vanilla in the end.
Average price of 1965 Bertani Recioto Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy: $770
3. 1995 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG
Another red wine from Giuseppe Quintarelli, this Amarone opens with dominant fruit flavors of black cherry and bitter almonds. The oak barrel aging leaves hints of tobacco, licorice, cocoa, oak, and spices, and a refined finish.
Average price of 1995 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva DOCG: $1,055
4. 2004 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto di Monte Lodoletta, Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG
A small vineyard in Verona, Dal Forno grows Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Oseleta grape varieties. They produce wine in three styles - dry Amarone, Valpolicella Superiore and a Recioto dessert wine.
The 2004 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto di Monte Lodoletta is a rich and warm dessert wine from Recioto Della Valpolicella appellation. It has subtle notes of tar, raspberry, and dark chocolate. A full-bodied wine with perfectly balanced tannins, this red wine is a perfect pair for chocolate desserts on a special occasion.
Average price of 2004 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto di Monte Lodoletta, Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG: $552
5. 2013 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto Monte Lodoletta, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
A sweet red wine with thick tannins, this Dal Forno Romano vintage is made from the traditional winemaking method of using dried grapes and leaving residual sugar in the wine.
It has dominant dried fruit flavors of cherry, black olives, and licorice. The bright acidity gives it the freshness of a Beaujolais wine.
Average price of 2013 Dal Forno Romano Vigneto Monte Lodoletta, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG: $335
6. 2011 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
A blend of 35% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, and 5% Oseleta, this red wine is immensely fruity on the palate. It has a deep bouquet of black cherries and cocoa. The perfectly balanced tannins give it a smooth finish.
Average price of 2011 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG: $214
7. 2003 Tommaso Bussola TB, Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG
This Valpolicella region Italian wine packs deep dried fruit flavors of cherries, mocha, and aromatic herbs. The acidity of the wine gives it a tangy vibrancy.
Pair this Recioto Della Valpolicella wine with sweet desserts to enhance its flavor.
Average price of 2003 Tommaso Bussola TB, Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOCG: $188
8. 2012 Allegrini Fierimonte, Amarone Recioto della Valpolicella Classico
Amarone enthusiasts will love this red wine with a strong dark fruit flavor, oaky notes, Christmas spices, cloves, and vanilla. The tannins are thick, which gives density to the wine.
Pair it with beef or lamb dishes to get the most of its flavors.
Average price of 2012 Allegrini Fierimonte, Amarone Recioto della Valpolicella Classico: $308
9. 2013 Monte dei Ragni Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore
A bold red wine, the Monte dei Ragni Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella.
It is made in the classic Ripasso Della Valpolicella wine style where the Amarone pomace is allowed to ferment with a Classico wine. It has a lower amount of residual sugar than a Recioto wine.
This Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore wine has dominant notes of leather, tar, and pepper with slight notes of vanilla and plum. It is best paired with beef, veal and gamey meats.
Average price of 2013 Monte dei Ragni Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore: $71
Other Ripasso style wines to try are Monte dei Ragni and L’Arco Valpolicella.
10. 2007 Bertani Villa Arvedi, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG
The 2007 Bertani Villa Arvedi is a rich and intense Veronese wine made from the basic Valpolicella blend. A dark red wine with purple hues, it has a rich aroma of cherry, spice, and mint. On the palate, it has well-balanced tannins and a fruity flavor of black currant and ripe cherry.
Average price of 2007 Bertani Villa Arvedi, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG: $130
Some other Veronese wines you could try are Fratelli Vogadori, Tommasi and Marano.
Does Valpolicella Wine Age Well?
When it comes to Valpolicella, aging depends on the wine type.
Valpolicella wines made from partially-dried grapes - Amarone and Recioto - have good aging potential. They are aged for two years in barrels before being released. You can age them for at least 10 more years in the bottle.
An Amarone or Recioto from a prestigious Valpolicella zone winery like Bertani can age up to 20 years.
As for table wines like Classico and Ripasso Della Valpolicella, it is best to drink them young.
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