Following on from our very well received Bordeaux '101' we thought that we would recap the Valpolicella region and highlight a couple of our producers - the award winning Farina and the up and coming superstar Paolo Fornaser and his Monte Faustino winery.
To the east of Verona and nestled into 5 small valleys near Lake Garda is the highly awarded, small and very beautiful Italian wine DOC of Valpolicella (Valley of many cellars ) Classico. Producing blended red wines based around the main grape - Corvina - these wines rank alongside other Italian heavyweights Chianti, Barolo and Brunello as international superstars.
The grapes are grown on a mix of rolling vineyards and terraced rows on the steep hillsides, resulting in amazing micro-terroirs which provide many different flavours depending on where they are located. The area is also home to many historic Cypress trees, the oldest of which (more than 600 years old) was located on a vineyard owned by one of Red Bridge's suppliers - Le Salette - until a storm blew it down in early 2019.
Standard Valpolicella Classico has a classic fragrant cherry aroma, and is towards the lighter end of the taste spectrum (think more a heavy Pinot Noir than a rich Syrah fruit bomb). Other prominent aromas in the higher level and more complex wines from the region are saddle leather and wood (from the cypress) along with dried red fruits.
The signature wine of the region is Amarone della Valpolicella, an amazingly concentrated, rich wine made from grapes that have been naturally drying for 3-5 months before pressing. This process was first used by the Romans and results in the juice being super-concentrated with very high sugar content. Typically, it takes 5 kilos of grapes to make just one litre of Amarone.
Valpolicella Ripasso (sometimes described as 'baby Amarone') is made by re-fermeting the wine by adding the skins of the pressed Amarone grapes providing more depth and concentration than normal Valpolicella wine.
Corvina grapes - the main grape in the Valpolicella blend - are either grown in normal vineyard rows or using a T shaped trellising system which allows good airflow in and around the hanging bunches.
The family company Azienda Agricola Farina produces around one million bottles of wine a year from its own 10 hectares and 35 hectares of trusted partners in and around the village of San Pietro in Cariano.
The company owns two historic hillside 'cru' vineyards - the Montefante which grows the Corvina grapes for the Trophy winning signature reserve Montefante Amarone wine, and Montecorna from which is produced the best selling gold medal Valpolicella Ripasso Montecorna.
Brother and sister Claudio and Elena Farina are the fourth generation of the family to work in the company, which was awarded the title 'Italian Wine Producer of the Year' at the prestigious IWSC Awards in London in 2015.
In addition to their award winning Valpolicella wines, they produce Prosecco, Rose, Soave DOCG and the fantastic IGT wines Nodo d'Amore (Love knot) white and red blends.
One of the classical features of Valpolicella are the rows of stone walls, called 'marogne' used throughout the region to provide terracing on the steep hillsides.
Historically wooden racks were used for the drying of the grapes for making 'Amarone', a process which dates back to the Romans. Most wineries now use plastic racks however Monte Faustino is one of the very few to still use traditional methods.
Paolo Fornaser owns boutique Classico producer Monte Faustino and in his own words " he is a little bit famous..."
A rising superstar in the world of Italian wine, Paolo produces wines from 3 of his own vineyards, one of which, the vineyard of Traversagna (after which his Ripasso is named) is in the village of S'Ant Ambroglio. This original family vineyard is in the heart of the very best land in Valpolicella and has been in his family for three generations. The other two are more recent additions high in the hills above the village from where you can just see Lake Garda.
Paolo's father was the local teacher (El Maestro) - considered one of the 'three wise men' of the village along with the priest and the mayor! Although his full time profession was education, his main passion was grape-growing and wine making and he passed everything he knew onto his son , who is now making outstanding wines himself. In 2011, which was a 'once in a lifetime' vintage he finally felt the he was good enough and had the grape quality sufficient enough to produce a tribute wine to his father - the Reserve Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG called Amarone del Maestro Fornaser.
Valpolicella Classico wine facts:
Classico DOC in a glance :
- Up to 90% Corvina grapes, 10% Rodinella and a little Corvinone. Historically the Molinara grape was also a part of the Valpolicella blend but not today except in a few traditional Amarone wines.
- Lies to the northwest of Verona (of Romeo & Juliet fame), was the original Valpolicella DOC and makes up less than a third of the entire Valpolicella region
- 3,000 Hectares approximately between 200 and 700 m above sea level producing on average around 40% of the total wine from Valpolicella