Valpolicella, Corks and Fruit

By / Magazine / March 24th, 2009 / 2

What are the differences between a regular Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico and a Recioto della Valpolicella? Is it in the process, geography, grapes or a mixture of factors?

Good old Valpolicella — a wine style so nice they named it thrice (actually six times if you include those that ID themselves as Amarone, Ripasso and Superiore). The first thing to wrap your palate around is a little geography: Valpolicella is a well-known Italian DOC sub-region in the picturesque province of Verona. Its typical output (the regular version you mention) is red, quaffable and based on a blend headlined by the local Corvina grape.

For a winery to claim the Classico designation the liquid inside the bottle has to be squeezed from fruit grown in what is considered the oldest (or classic) part of the region. This upgraded juice shows a bit more oomph without losing the fresh, relaxed flavour of the plain Jane Val. Recioto makers take things to a whole different level by drying the same mix of grapes to produce robust (but still very drinkable) expressions of either sweet (as in Recioto della Valpolicella) or dry (as in Amarone della Valpolicella) flavours.

These kinds of wines aren’t cheap so a less expensive (and much softer) version was created by re-fermenting Valpolicella juice over what’s left in the vats (e.g. the mushy skins and other guck) after the prized Amarone liquid has been drawn off. If you see Superiore sharing label space with Valpolicella it means that what you’re about to pour has a slight booze level advantage over those without its mention. They’re usually more expensive and show off a bit more guts in the glass.

I prefer my wines under natural cork, but keep finding their residue floating in my glass. Do you have a trick to ridding my liquids of those solids?

Forget the tricks; ditch that pile driver of a corkscrew you’re using and try investing in something decent that doesn’t grind through a stopper like it’s Jules Verne looking for the centre of the Earth. Now that I have that off my chest, the best tool to foil those floaties is a simple soda straw. (If you’re a frozen Margarita maven like me you’re bound to have a few kicking around the kitchen). Take said straw between your thumb and middle finger and focus your aim at a piece of bobbing bark. As you lower it onto the unwanted shrapnel, place your index finger over the upper end of the straw and hold as you raise it out of the glass. The subtle suction created when your digit makes its move will draw out even the chunkiest of chunks and only a touch of vino.

I thought wine was made with grapes, but I went to my first tasting recently and all the “expert” kept talking about was blackberries and lots of other fruits. Is it stupid to ask what wine is really made from? 

There are no stupid questions; just snarky answers. And while your query may seem like a really, really dumb one I actually hear it all the time. The odd thing about wine is that to understand it to its fullest, you sort of have to call it something else. By that I mean a grape is a grape a grape to most people, so we in the know like to focus in on its similarities to more familiar fruit as a way of expressing its characteristics. It all makes grasping the concept of aroma and taste a lot easier for newbies and a lot more fun for the those who really dig a great beverage experience. While there may be the essence of blackberry in your Cabernet it’s all just pressed grape juice in your mouth.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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