Valpolicella Update

June 1, 2008

It’s still my favorite Italian wine name to pronounce… Vahl..pole..le..CHELL..ah. I can actually remember practicing to pronounce the name of this wine before a date to ensure that I sounded like I knew what I was doing when ordering the wine…all in the name of love!

In those days Valpolicella was usually purchased in a 3-pack containing its other two siblings from the Veneto region: Soave and Bardolino. The major producer that we would have seen here in the States at that time was probably Bolla. Most people thought that this light, red fruity wine did not have the refinement, finesse, or intensity to be considered a serious wine.

Boy…have things changed!

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio makes a Valpolicella that definitely stands out amongst its Verona peers. The Castagnedi brothers (Armando, Tiziano, Massimo, and Paolo) produce a red wine that is intense, yet smooth and velvety. The Corvina and Rondinella grapes they use produce a wine with a bright cherry aroma. The Castagnedi family states that their goal in the production of this wine “… is to bring out the fresh and fruity aromas, the mild tannins, a harmonic and balanced body so that it can be drunk even during its first year.” I would suggest that this food-friendly wine, at about $15, definitely achieves that goal.

Another favorite of mine is quite different from the San’t Antonio Valpolicella. This wine, made by the Scamperle family, is also located in the province of Verona. The Scamperle’s winery is called Le Salette, named after a small church that was built in 1860 as a votive offering to the Madonna for ridding their vineyards of phylloxera, an insect that has been an extreme pest for commercial grape growers around the world. Most recently this problem had to be addressed in Napa Valley, California.

Le Salette specializes in making wines in this region that run the gamut from the everyday Valpolicella to the ripasso-styled Valpolicella to Valpolicella’s Amarone, and finally to Recioto della Valpolicella, a wine best served after dinner with pastries or buttery cheeses.

The wine I had tasted recently was Le Salette’s Ca’ Carnocchio. It is actually a Valpolicella Superiore, however, because of the addition of a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, it has to be labeled as an IGT Veronese. This wine was spectacular! It possessed the luscious fresh fruit of an outstanding Valpolicella, while at the same time showing some restraint that you know would allow the wine to improve with some aging. This wine was priced at approximately twice that of the Tenuta Sant’ Antonio.

Next time you’re out to dinner, look for a Valpolicella. Be sure to order it…but make sure you rehearse its pronunciation beforehand!!

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