One of my favorite cities in Italy is the vibrant and ancient city of Verona. Located 100 miles west of Venice, Verona has so much to offer to Italians and tourists alike. The city has some of the best-preserved Roman Ruins in Italy and it is said there are more ruins here than any other city in the world except Rome. Additionally, it is one of the few cities in the world with a functioning Roman Colosseum which is THE place to see an outdoor opera or concert. And then there is the tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, which is one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable stories and perhaps one of the greatest literary works of all-time. While Juliet’s balcony and the Roman architecture capture the majority of attention, the surrounding region is also famous but for a different reason: the area is home to the well-known Valpolicella wine.
Just north of Verona, in the foothills of the Alps, the region of Valpolicella (meaning “valley of many cellars”) overlooks the ancient city of Verona. Valpolicella wines are typically made with multiple grapes, with the corvina grape providing the backbone to any Valpolicella wine. To make things even more complex, there are three primary types of Valpolicella wines:
- Valpolicella Classico: Only “fresh” grapes are used. Meant to be consumed young.
- Valpolicella Ripasso: “Fresh” grapes are super-charged by mixing with wine from dried grapes. Sometimes referred to as “mini-Amarone”
- Amarone della Valpolicella: Only dried grapes are used. Stunning wines which typically improve with age.
What I like about Valpolicella wines is each type offers a distinct style. The classic Valpolicella is great with pasta or a lighter meal while an Amarone requires a more robust, hearty meal. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the Valpolicella Ripasso as it tends to be more versatile and offers many of the characteristics of an Amarone at 1/3 the cost.
One particular producer I really like is Tenuta Sant’Antonio. I recently tried their 2010 Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ‘Monti Garbi’. This particular Valpolicella Ripasso appears a medium-colored violet in the glass, a bit darker than I expected. There is an abundance of spice and clove in the bouquet which gives way to robust fruit with a hint of smoke on the palate. I would recommend pairing the Monti Garbi with risotto, pork, or hearty pasta.
By the way, does anyone remember how the Capulet-Montague feud started? Perhaps Romeo and Juliet would have lived happily ever after if there was more Valpolicella wine to go around 500 years ago!
Josh Thielen is a Wine Shop guest blogger, who learned a few things about wine while living in Milan, Italy.