Valpolicella Explained - Ultimate Guide (Grapes, Wines, Pairings & More)

Valpolicella Explained

This post was updated on: October 1, 2020

Valpolicella Explained

Here we will learn about the Valpolicella grapes and the diverse Valpolicella wines, including how they are made and what you should be pairing them with.

Valpolicella wines

Valpolicella is the home of Amarone grapes and the birthplace of that sweet bitter Amarone wine. 

However, many people are not aware that the region is home to many more types of grape which contribute to a set of diverse, but equally popular, wines. 

Read on to learn about these exceptional wines. Find out how they are made and discover what you should be pairing them with. We even have some top recommendations for you at the end.

Where and What is Valpolicella?

Valpolicella is a famous region in Italy known for its vineyards and production of renowned wines.

The etymology of the word “Valpolicella” is believed to have Greek and Latin roots.

The translation of it today is something to the tune of “the valley of many cellars”, which you will come to realize is quite fitting.

Valpolicella vineyard

We say this because the region is the starting point for many different types of Valpolicella red wines.

The diversity comes from the different types of grapes that are found in the region. To be specific, the wines that are made thanks to the Valpolicella grapes are dry Amarone, sweet Recioto, spicy Ripasso and Valpolicella wine itself.

The Valpolicella region can be visited by heading north of the Veneto area to the foothills of the Alps. The Alps make up part of its northern border along with the Lessini Mountains’ valleys.

It spans a considerable 240-square-kilometers of rolling hills. Some of these hills are even taller than the Empire State Building (when compared to sea level) and are comprised of different clay soils and limestone, as well as the region’s flagship alluvial soil.

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Why Choose These Wines?

Wines born and made in this region are popular for their versatility. On one hand, the four different wines offer exceptionally diverse flavors, meaning they can cater to the preferences of even the most disagreeing wine connoisseurs.

Due to their diversity, it also means that they can be paired with a variety of main dishes, as well as appetizers and desserts.

Rocca Sveva

How Do Winemakers Make Valpolicella Wines?

The wines that are made thanks to the Valpolicella grapes are exceptionally distinct, but what makes this even more remarkable is that these wines are not made in a set area within Valpolicella.

They are made from a small set of grapes, namely, Rondinella, Molinara, Corvinone and Corvina, but they are also dispersed throughout the renowned region.

1. Making Valpolicella

Valpolicella wine is usually made using up to three of the region’s native grapes.

Around 45% to as much as 95% of the wine is made using the Corvina grape. However, 50% of this measurement can be substituted with the Corvinone grape which brings on cherry flavors.

Molinara is rarely incorporated into the blend but the Rondinella grape is will be present to make up the remaining 5% or more.

The result is a wine which boasts cherry flavors and a fine balance without compromising on liveliness.

2. Making Recioto and Making Amarone

Making Recioto wine is all about the process. Vineyard workers will take the grapes from the vines and allow them to dry out.

This is achieved by placing them on mats or hanging them up. They then vinify the grapes and halting the fermentation process before all the sugars are converted into alcohol.

Valpolicella amarone and recioto

We combined the process of making Recioto and Amarone because it involves a similar journey for the grapes.

The same grapes that are left to dry but are then fully fermented when making Amarone wine. The end product is a wine that is pleasantly bitter, hence the translation of the wine’s name to “great bitter”.

Drinkers of this wine tend to also notice a hint of dark berries and even some notes of cocoa.

3. Making Ripasso

The grape skins of the previous two wines do not go to waste. To make Ripasso wine, experts will follow the process of making Valpolicella wine but add the skins of the grapes that were left over from making Recioto and Amarone wines.

This is practical considering, because as already mentioned, the different grapes grow throughout the region.

The name Ripasso means to double press, which is exactly what happens, leaving a soft medium-bodied wine that combines tantalizing aspects of the three previous wines.

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When Should Valpolicella Wines Be Drank?

We can split the four wines of the region down the middle. Two of these wines are ready in their youth while two of them have exceptional aging powers.

Although we could not blame anyone for wanting to try all four from an early stage. Amarone and Recioto can be left for up to ten years and will improve with age, whereas most Valpolicella wine and Ripasso wine is best consumed within the first five years.

Amarone

What Does Valpolicella Wine Pair With?

These renowned red wines can be paired with a variety of different meat dishes and desserts. Top recommendations include pairing a medium-rare steak or braised beef with a glass of Amarone.

If seafood, salads or even pizza is on the men, then consider a younger Valpolicella wine to pair it with.

For the other courses, a Recioto is a match made in heaven with a cheese board and especially blue cheese. 

For afters, choose a Recioto wine if your dessert is rich such and includes smooth chocolate.

Some Recommendations to Finish

It would be criminal not to explain the Valpolicella region, its grapes and the process of making its distinctly different wines if we did not finish with a few recommendations – on the house.

For those wanting to experience these popular types of wines themselves, they should look to try one of the following:

  • Santi
  • Rocca Sveva
  • Santori di Verona
  • Cantina Valpolicella Negrar
  • Massimago

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Hello from the team! We're the heartbeat of WineTurtle.com :) Working with Tim, we make sure you (the readers) get excellent wine-based content on a regular basis. Leave us a message down in the comments section and one of us (or Tim) will get back to you promptly!

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