Giuseppe Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 1996
Among the ranks of Italy’s quintessential red wines, Valpolicella literally translates to the “valley of cellars” and is composed of a series of valleys (named Fumane, Marano and Negrare) that start in the pre-alpine Lissini Mountains and end in the southern plains of the Veneto. Here vineyards adorn the valley hillsides, rising up to just over 1,300 feet.
The classification of its red wines makes this appellation unique. Whereas most Italian regions claim the wines from one or two grapes as superior, or specific vineyards or communes most admirable, Valpolicella ranks the caliber of its red wines based on delimited production methods, and every tier uses the same basic blending grapes.
Corvina holds the most esteem among varieties here and provides the backbone of the best reds of Valpolicella. Also typical in the blends, in lesser quantities, are Rondinella, Molinara, Oseleta, Croatina, Corvinone and a few other minor red varieties.
Valpolicella Classico, the simplest category, is where the region’s top values are found and resembles in style light and fruity Beaujolais. The next tier of reds, called Valpolicella Superiore, represents a darker and more serious and concentrated expression of Valpolicella, capable of pairing with red meat, roast poultry and hard cheeses.
Most prestigious in Valpolicella are the dry red, Amarone della Valpolicella, and its sweet counterpart, Recioto della Valpolicella. Both are created from harvested grapes left to dry for three to five months before going to press, resulting in intensely rich, lush, cerebral and cellar-worthy wines.
Falling in between Valpolicella Superiore and Amarone is a style called Valpolicella Ripasso, which has become immensely popular only since the turn of the century. Ripasso literally means “repassed” and is made by macerating fresh Valpolicella on the pressed grape skins of Amarone. As a result, a Ripasso will have more depth and complexity compared to a regular Superiore but is more approachable than an Amarone.
The chief variety in Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella of the Veneto region of Italy, Corvina contributes intense ripe red cherry and blackberry fruit, a touch of tart acidity and valuable tannins to the blend. It is especially well suited to the drying process required to make Amarone. Key Valpolicella producers may occasionally bottle a single varietal Corvina. For example, Allegrini’s La Poja shows the grape’s solo potential, as a concentrated and well-balanced wine with an impressive aging potential.
Corvina is also the main grape variety in Bardolino, a light and charming, though not particularly age-worthy, red wine from the southeastern side of Lake Garda, also in Veneto.
Because of the dark and almost black coloring of its grape berries, Corvina takes its name from the Italian word, “corvo,” a local, jet-black raven.