Explore the rich, flavourful red blends of the Valpolicella region—from home or abroad
Italy is a country ruled by adjectives: jovial, welcoming and, most certainly, delicious. Its food and wine culture has long provided culinary aficionados with everything from risottos and ravioli to prosciutto and Parmesan: a dining experience there is rewarding and celebratory, encouraging guests to truly savour an experience as much as a meal.
Valpolicella—reasonably north in Italy in the province of Verona (famed, of course, for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet)—is a renowned, award-winning wine region, boasting grapes that are, quite literally, ripe with possibility. If a sojourn to the land of foodie culture is not in the budget for the year ahead, recreate the experience in the comfort of your own home with a bottle from this group of recommended blends, hand-picked with an eye on recent vintages that typify the impressive wineries that are members of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella.
1. Novaia Valpolicella Classico DOC (2016 vintage)
Though vintners and their recipes may differ, generally Valpolicella wines are birthed from a blend of Corvina Veronese, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes. The region’s Novaia winery is home to a 15th-century manor house that was once the central locale of their wine business. Hundreds of years later, the business has now expanded though a proud focus on the history of the operation is still obvious. Their Valpolicella Classico is younger with greater fruit focus than other options. With a shorter tenure of just 10 months in steel and six months in the bottle, it is medium-bodied and fragrant.
Suggested retail price: approximately $25, coming soon to private retailers
2. Zonin Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore (2015 vintage)
Zonin’s Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore is equally fruit-forward and rich, with notes of cherries and chocolate. Like many blends from the area, it’s a mixture of red grapes but pairs nicely with pasta and lighter meats. Aged in barrels for one year and then another six months in the bottle, it’s produced using dried grape skins, which results in a slighter higher alcohol content and a greater concentration of important sugars and flavours.
Suggested retail price: $20.49, available at BC Liquor Stores
3. Bottega Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore (2012 vintage)
Bottega is a large family-owned distributor of Italy’s fine wines, running numerous vineyards throughout the country, including one in the Valpolicella region. Among the impressive offerings is Bottega Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore, a deep, rich red that’s surprisingly robust and showcases significant notes of cherry while folding in just a slight hint of vanilla and even licorice. It is smooth, opens with air to accentuate its smokier notes, and can be paired nicely with firm, savoury cheeses and heavier red meat dishes.
Suggested retail price: $27, available at various private retailers
4. Santi Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG Santico (2013 vintage)
Like Novaia, Santi has seen a huge increase in its scope and production since it was first founded in 1843, but it remains true to its motto, “Excellence is ageless.” Producing over 1,000,000 bottles a year, Santi had winemakers handpick their finest grapes at harvest and rest them for up to three months prior to production on this Amarone. The result? A robust, substantial feel with plum, cranberry and even cocoa folded in. In addition to a lengthy drying of grapes, each vintage is aged for up to three years to ensure soil minerals and spices add both tint and taste, with cinnamon and clove being most prominent here.
5. Sartori di Verona Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (2012 vintage)
An Amarone is full-bodied and more acidic and intense, though it still boasts the fruit flavours of other regional offerings. A longer aging process is typical of Amarones, releasing flavours that are less typical of, say, California reds or lighter French options. This pour from Sartori winery adds a small percentage of Cabernet, which likely contributes to its smooth, more velvety feel and it is best served with rich plates.
Suggested retail price: $59.99, available in private retailers
6. Valentina Cubi Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico Morar (2007 vintage)
Manufacturing a select batch of just 40,000 bottles per year, Valentina Cubi was recently certified organic, a long-held ambition for the dedicated vintners. Grown in rockier terrain, the grapes for its 2007 Morar vintage were dried for three months prior to the beginning of production. The wine showcases familiar notes of cherry and vanilla but–uniquely–also includes violet for a lighter, more fragrant product.
Suggested retail price: $62.99 at BC Liquor Stores