Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: A visit to the Valley of Many Cellars

By JIM BEAUREGARD February 14. 2017 6:28PM

It’s been known for about three decades now, from research done in the late 1980s into the early ’90s, that red wine has both cardio- and neuro-protective features. When the info about this started to reach the general public, most notably through a “60 Minutes” broadcast in the early ’90s, red wine sales increased in comparison to whites and rosés.

Many know that reservetrol is one of the components in red wine thought to have health benefits, but the reality is that a glass of red wine can have more than 400 different components, so the jury is still out on the whole health picture.

In any case, there’s a reason French and Italian peasants live so long.

Valpolicella is a wine name, not a grape name, and it is one worth knowing. It means “the valley of many cellars,” an indication that they’ve been making wine there for a very, very long time.

I’m talking specifically about northeast of Italy, around the city of Verona, in the region known as the Veneto (read Venice, Venetian). It’s tucked way up in the corner of the Italian map, and parts of the region border Austria. The region has been an Italian DOC since the late 1960s, which means there are European Union rules governing what can and can’t go into the bottle.

The Veneto is a hilly region extending to the valley of the Po River, which runs across northern Italy. These days it’s also one of Italy’s biggest producers of wine, in the hundreds of millions of gallons a year. Pinot Grigio is another well-known white wine of the region, ideal for pairing with an appetizer salad because of its light flavor profile.

There are three grapes that can participate in a Valpolicella, and they are the three grapes that also make up the components of Amarone: Covrina, Rondinella and Molinara. In the case of the higher-end Amarone, the grapes are dried before fermentation, to concentrate the flavors (and the price, of course — a good Amarone often starts around $60 or $70, and then shoots up from there). This isn’t necessarily the case with Valpolicella, even though the grapes are the same. This is also reflected in the price, which is much lower (the mid-teens in the case of the wine we’ll see in a minute).

As with a Bordeaux blend, each grape contributes something special to the blend. The Corvina can provide dark and herbal notes as well as plum flavors, and this makes up the largest portion of the blend. The Rondinella will contribute some fruit, and is also a supporting member of the cast. Molinara is a lighter grape, typically making up the smallest part of the blend, and can give some bitter flavors.

Allegrini Valpolicella 2015, Italy; 13% alcohol by volume ($18.99 at the state liquor stores). Purple with some ruby hints, it has a clean nose, which is of medium intensity. It’s developing, and is ready to drink now. There are both fruit and oak aromas on the nose, and the palate is dry with medium acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavor intensity. There are dark fruit flavors of berry, blackberry to be specific, plum, in addition there is a bit of its classic sour cherry flavor, as well as some light oak flavors, a certain smokiness. It has a long finish. Well worth the price. You can consider pairings with red meats, pizza with meat toppings and the like.

Contact Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com


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