It is the ideal wine with game and has no rivals as an accompaniment to hard cheeses. But its most characteristic role is as an after-dinner wine, for sipping in moments of intimacy, or for fuelling lively post-prandial conversation. It is the classic wine of friendship.
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Originally trained as a stone mason, Tommaso took over his uncle’s Valpolicella estate—with its prized old vineyards in the heart of the Classico zone—in the mid-1980s. While vineyard work came naturally to him, he experimented relentlessly, and absorbed information and ideas from every source available. With each passing vintage, his wines came to show more polish, finesse, intensity, and personality.
By the late nineties, his style had matured, and his wines had become world-famous for their incredible intensity of fruit. Like other top Veneto winemakers, he uses new barrels, but any hint of new wood is hidden by cascades of lush, opulent fruit.
The key is not only the age of his vines but the fact that they are nearly all naturally low-yielding ancient clones: Corvinone (40%), Corvina Grossa (25%) and Rondinella (20%). Corvinone, in particular, is quite rare today because of its low yields and finicky growing habits. Yet, Tommaso claims it is the Corvinone that gives his wines their depth. He calls it the "Super Corvina," saying that it produces stronger, denser, richer, more perfumed wines. Small percentages of old vine Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dindarella and Pindara round out the cépage, along with new experiments like Teroldego and Merlot.
Producing every style of wine and with great success, the Veneto is one of the most multi-faceted wine regions of Italy.
Veneto's appellation called Valpolicella (meaning “valley of cellars” in Italian) is a series of north to south valleys and is the source of the region’s best red wine with the same name. Valpolicella—the wine—is juicy, spicy, tart and packed full of red cherry flavors. Corvina makes up the backbone of the blend with Rondinella, Molinara, Croatina and others playing supporting roles. Amarone, a dry red, and Recioto, a sweet wine, follow the same blending patterns but are made from grapes left to dry for a few months before pressing. The drying process results in intense, full-bodied, heady and often, quite cerebral wines.
Soave, based on the indigenous Garganega grape, is the famous white here—made ultra popular in the 1970s at a time when quantity was more important than quality. Today one can find great values on whites from Soave, making it a perfect choice as an everyday sipper! But the more recent local, increased focus on low yields and high quality winemaking in the original Soave zone, now called Soave Classico, gives the real gems of the area. A fine Soave Classico will exhibit a round palate full of flavors such as ripe pear, yellow peach, melon or orange zest and have smoky and floral aromas and a sapid, fresh, mineral-driven finish.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended red wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged resulting in a wide variety of red wine styles. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a red wine blend variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.
How to Serve Red Wine
A common piece of advice is to serve red wine at “room temperature,” but this suggestion is imprecise. After all, room temperature in January is likely to be quite different than in August, even considering the possible effect of central heating and air conditioning systems. The proper temperature to aim for is 55° F to 60° F for lighter-bodied reds and 60° F to 65° F for fuller-bodied wines.
How Long Does Red Wine Last?
Once opened and re-corked, a bottle stored in a cool, dark environment (like your fridge) will stay fresh and nicely drinkable for a day or two. There are products available that can extend that period by a couple of days. As for unopened bottles, optimal storage means keeping them on their sides in a moderately humid environment at about 57° F. Red wines stored in this manner will stay good – and possibly improve – for anywhere from one year to multiple decades. Assessing how long to hold on to a bottle is a complicated science. If you are planning long-term storage of your reds, seek the advice of a wine professional.