From Verona, With Love
Feb 1, 2017
Kevin Marshaus

Northeast Italy is home to one of the world’s most romantic cities, Venice. Some sixty miles to the west of Venice lies the home of one of the most romantic stories of all time, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This is the city of Verona. 

The Veronese region is home to some of the most famous and highly regarded red wines in Italy. The primary red wine growing areas lie north of Verona in somewhat of a fan shape, with the city as its fulcrum and Lake Garda to the west. Basic Bardolino, Valpolicella (vahl-poh-lee-cheh-luh) and Valpolicella Classico are easy drinking, food friendly wines that beg investigation, and are considerable bargains. The most prized wines of the region fall within a style called Recioto (reh-choh-toh).These wines are made from three grape varieties rarely grown elsewhere. The most important, Corvina, is blended with smaller quantities of Corvinone and some Rondinella. Until the last decade Molinara was used heavily, but it’s highly acidic and less stable character caused it’s disqualification from the authorized varietals required for Valpolicella production, and has all but disappeared from use in these particular wines.

Recioto, Recioto, Wherefore (and what on earth?) Art Thou, Recioto?

Recioto is a production method which is employed to make some of The Veneto’s most amazing wines— in both dry and dessert styles. Here’s how it works. The grapes (mostly Corvina) are late-harvested and carefully laid out to dry on open racking and wicker mats (often for six months or more) until they have lost about 50% of their water content and the grapes become more like raisins. Once the grapes are “raisin-ated” to perfection, they are crushed and fermented. The winemakers must make a choice between two distinctively different recioto wines. The first choice is whether they should arrest the fermentation to make the intensely sweet, voluptuous (and quite expensive) dessert wine called Recioto Della Valpolicella. The second choice is whether to “Deny my father and refuse my name” fermenting the juice completely to dryness, thus making the greatly beloved and powerful wine of the region, Amarone (ah-mah-roh-neh) Della Valpolicella. Either way, these wines are age-worthy, collectible classics. The Amarone wines often require a minimum of five years of ageing in the barrel before they are bottled and typically have a whopping natural alcohol content of 15-16%! 

The most approachable yet complex wines are made in still another style, ripasso (ree-pah-soh). The original ripasso, Campofiorin, was developed by Masi winery in 1964. The fully fermented fresh Valpolicella wine was combined with the leftover pulp from the spring Amarone production for extended contact, elevating the level of tannins,  increasing the wine’s ageing ability. The contemporary ripasso usually combines the fresh Valpolicella with freshly dried and pressed Corvina grapes for a second fermentation, elevating structure and layers of flavor while retaining softness and elegance to make an extremely versatile, food-friendly wine which will pair beautifully all year long with everything from pasta and seafood to smoky barbecue.

Two of my long-time favorites (available locally for $15-$25) are:

The 2011 Masi Campofiorin shows aromas of dark berries, raisin and cedar with a hint of green olive. Flavors of silky black cherry are highlighted with tart cherry notes and a whisper of black olive on the long, creamy finish. 

The 2011 Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre exhibits tart cherry, red raspberry and smoky cedar aromas with red and black cherry flavors with hints of red raspberry and blackberry with a creamy, lingering finish. 

Whether or not you find them romantic, these wines are all a true “labor of love” for everyone to enjoy! Salute! 

Lake City Bank - Face to Face

Related Stories