Grapes & Wines of Italy

Jan 27th 2019

Italy is a country with 20 different wine regions. Each region has a number of different indigenous grapes that make some familiar wine. For example in the north east part of Italy is the Veneto wine region. The two main cities in this region are Venice and Verona. For over 100 years between the 7th and 18th century, the people of the Republic of Venice were the major players of trade in Europe and pretty much controlling all trade within the Mediterranean sea. They were no doubt instrumental in the spread of many grape varieties through out Europe. However, it is the wines from the area around Verona which are most popular and known today. Valpolicella is both a the name of the region, and the name of one of four different wines from that region.

The four wines are; Valpolicella, Rippasso, Amarone and Recioto. Each are made from the same three grape varieties, but in different ways.The wines with only the word Valpolicella on the label are usually simple, easy drinking wines. These are dominated by the corvina grape variety, and sometimes include both Rondinella and Molinara. These wines are not meant for aging, without much time spent in barrel. The Amarone wines are made used dried or semi-dried grapes. After the best grapes from the best vineyards are harvested in the fall, they are laid out on straw matts and left for a few months to dry. This process helps the water in the grapes to evaporate and contributes to the concentration of the resulting wines which are often high in alcohol, flavour and body. Once any juice from the dried berries has been pressed off, the skins are then used to soak in the Valpolicella wines to create the Rippasso wines. The fourth and least know wine is called Recioto, which is a dessert style wine. Again all three grape varieties can be used to make this style of wine. It is usually sold in smaller bottles and is coveted by serious dessert wine drinkers.

The three main grapes used to make these wines are indigenous to the area and are as follows. Corvina, Rondinella, & Molinara

It's full name, Corvina Veronese, is often the main component bringing flavours of bright sour cherry, fresh acidity and the occasional note of bitter almonds. It is the most highly regarded grape in the area. As a primary component to any blend in the region, it is hard to find the grape used in a monovariatal wine. However, one does exist; it is from the producer Allegrini and is called La Poja, name after the vineyard it is grown in.

Rondinella brings fruity, cherry-flavoured but lacks any real character. It’s main advantage is its resistance to fungal diseases, making it an important grape for the Amarone and Recioto wines.

Molinara, which is high in acid, pale in colour and prone to oxidation, is not considered in as high regard as Corvina Veronese and therefore a usually a small part in any blend. However, Masi has some pre-phylloxera vines at their Serego Alighieri Estate which can produce better quality grapes.

Whichever wine you do choose, you can be sure that Capulets and Montagues were drinking it in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.