Verona is home to many things, like an authentic ancient Roman arena that’s still hosting events after two thousand years and a not-so-authentic Juliet’s balcony, modeled after Shakespeare’s tragic heroine. The city is also surrounded by some of Italy’s best known wine-producing areas. The Veneto wine region is Italy’s largest, with many highly regarded sub-zones.
The Verona area contains two famous wine producing regions which deserve renewed interest. The wines of Soave and Valpolicella have been in our minds and on our shelves for a long time. Admittedly, there have been examples of lower quality wines from these regions that have left a less than favorable impression on the wine selling trade, as well as the wine buying public. A reexamination of what is currently available to offer to your customers is desperately in order.
The soil in both regions is mostly volcanic, and very fertile. This can lead to overproduction in the vineyard, which usually translates into thin and tasteless wines. This might be the case in some instances, but there are plenty of producers offering high-quality wines. Wines your customers will be happy to drink, and appreciate.
Pleasing the Palate
Any customer coming in for Pinot Grigio on a regular basis will enjoy the bright, clean and refreshing flavors of a good Soave. Garganega is the predominant grape variety used to produce Soave. Look for wines from the Soave Classico region, which should provide higher quality since the grapes are grown in the hills. This allows for lower yields and a higher percentage of Garganega, providing more concentrated wine.
Some outstanding examples can be sourced from Pieropan, Rocca Sveva, Suavia, la colombaia, Tedeschi, and Bolla. Each exhibits excellent flavors, balance and acidity, with excellent fruit and weight. These are the types of whites that work well at the holiday table. There are also single-vineyard examples for more discerning and adventurous customers. Pieropan’s La Rocca and Bertani’s Sereole are first-rate examples. Bolla’s Tufaie Soave Superiore adds depth and complexity to their line of offerings.
The Valley of Cellars
Valpolicella has a long history of wine production; the region’s name translates as “Valley of Cellars.” Just as Garganega rules the roost in Soave, Corvina is the grape variety which drives production in Valpolicella. Corvina has good fruit and acid and contributes the signature bitter almond edge, which makes the wines from this region so distinctive and delicious.
Paralleling Soave, your best bet for higher quality wines are those produced within the Valpolicella Classico zone. Lower yields and more concentration provide a depth of flavor, above and beyond those wines labeled without the Classico designation. You can find excellent examples of Valpolicella Classico from Cesari, Masi, and Tedeschi with lots of food-friendly weight and acidity. Aged in wood, the Superiore category wines possess a bit more structure. Wines such as Rafaèl from Tommassi, Maternigo from Tedeschi, Squarano Fumanelli and the Superiore from Zenato all provide those added aspects and are excellent values.
All about Amarone
Combining the pressed juice for Valpolicella with the grape skins and seeds left behind from the production of Amarone, many wineries are producing a Valpolicella Ripasso. Not really a “Baby Amarone,” this method does add some of the aspects of Amarone, making it an excellent introduction for those customers who have no experience with the weightier Veronese red wines. Originated by the Masi winery, their Campofiorin is the original Ripasso, and is an outstanding bottle of wine.
Amarone is the pinnacle of red wine production in the region. The grapes for Amarone are the last to be picked and slightly dried on the vine, but picked before any rot can occur. The grapes are then laid out on mats made of straw or bamboo. There, they spend another four months drying. This concentrates sugars, acids and other components. These shriveled grapes are then pressed and fermented to produce a wine rich in color, flavor and structure, with a bit more alcohol. Amarone has a power few other wines possess and is highly regarded for these qualities.
As you prepare for the holiday season, you’ll find a large number of high-quality wines from the Verona region. Things may not have ended so well for Romeo and Juliet, but there won’t be a tragic ending for your customers — they can take home and enjoy these marvelous wines. BD
Michael A. Schaefer, CSW, CWE is the Senior Wine Educator for Approach Guides Wine, contributing content to their online, e-book, and application products. Michael, a graduate of the University of Oregon, holds both the Certified Specialist of Wine and the Certified Wine Educator designations from the Society of Wine Educators, an international organization dedicated to the promotion of wine knowledge.