Great wines anyone can afford (or most anyone…) from Valpolicella
By TIMOTHY TEICHGRAEBER
If Amarone is not within your financial reach, other wines from Valpolicella are, and they’re worth every penny. Valpolicella Classico is dry red wine made from the traditional local grapes like Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Corvinone within the designated Valpolicella territory. It is one of the most beautiful gateway drug wines ever developed. My parents drank Bolla Valpolicella all the time in the 1980’s, often sharing a bit of the ruby-colored, medium-weight wine with me as a teenager. It’s one of the easiest dry red wines to fall in love with, and it will only run you around $12-14 if you can find it. The unfortunate reality of the expense of making wine in Valpolicella means that the Valpolicella Classico category is slowly disappearing. More grapes are being channeled into Amarone and Ripasso.
Valpolicella Ripasso is made by adding the dried grape skins from making Amarone into the vats of Valpolicella Classico wine. Those grape skins add a bit of oomph and concentration to the finished wine. Only two bottles of Valpolicella Ripasso can be made for every bottle of Amarone made by any producer. I adore Valpolicella Ripasso and it will only set you back around $25 a bottle. That’s a good deal for a wine with a clear sense of place. And it is delicious.
Bardolino is another traditional wine from the region, made from local grapes grown in the cool zone near Lake Garda. It is made from the traditional local grapes, but often with less Corvina and more Rondinella. It is a simple, pleasant, light-bodied red.
Verona IGT is a relatively new category that allows some international varieties like Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah to be added to traditional local varieties from Valpolicella to make a straightforward medium-weight red blend with a nod to globalism. Bertani has made a branded dry red called Secco Bertani for over 150 years. It was sold in New York as early as the 1880’s and continues to this day with a distinctly retro 1950’s packaging that is classic and timeless. The wine is pretty darned good, too, and it sells for about $35 to $40.
Soave is the traditional white wine of the region, not so much grown in the hills, but in the plains and made from indigenous Garganega grapes. Frankly, there is a lot of mediocre Soave made, but the best examples are thrilling. Bertani and Inama are two exmples of wineries that showcase the true potential of this grape in the Verona area.