This past winter I had the privilege to visit the Valpolicella wine region with some esteemed colleagues and dear friends. I’m looking at you, Leeann Froese, Tim Pawsey, Robert Stelmachuk, Bill Stanford, and Ben deChamplain! We tasted and visited 13 wineries as set up in thanks to the Consorzio di Valpolicella. It was an amazing experience I am so happy to have been a part of, because it took going to Verona and visiting these places to remember what a loved region this truly is. In Vancouver, British Columbia, particularly so. Can it be what we have been searching for is right under our nose?
…Isn’t that usually the case?
Vancouver actually loves their Valpo, and just hasn’t realized it yet.
Valpo(licella) is a historic growing region around Verona, known for its native grape varietals and one of a kind viticulture practice; they actually dry the grapes after harvest before being pressed into wine. This process is known as apissimento. In this way, the flavours, intensity and sugars of the grapes are preserved and most importantly, concentrated. Generally 40-60% of the grapes water mass evaporates, becoming a quasi-wine-raison.
The wines from producer to producer were each unique – from curvy, to linear, to spicy, bright and even a little funky. The unifying theme being this bright, juicy and mouth watering wine with a cherry base. Sound like something you hear your table asking for everyday here in Vancouver? I thought so.
It’s hard to go bored of Valpo because there is just so much to discover!
Valpo is incredibly food friendly – perfect with salty cheese, white fish, artichoke salad – the possibilities are truly endless as the wines are unique to themselves. But you don’t need food for Valpo. On its own the wines are fresh, juicy and ready to drink now!
Pergola vs Guyot
Every producer had a difference of opinions on vine training systems – truth be told a majority of them use both. It truly depends on the micro-region whether there is ample shading that does not demand a Pergola, or if the vines are strong enough to be managed easily with Guyot.
To use or not to use Molinara
Molinara is one of the more thicker skinned grapes permitted in Valpo, offering more tannin and colour extraction than the usual Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Osselata et all. Six in one and half a dozen in the other who actively chose to use this grape. One producer mentioned that without this varietal, Valpo would not be included in any North American recognized competitions, because the wine would be perceived as less than since its lighter. (They know who Robert Parker is in Valpo)
Traditional Methods and collaboration with Technology
It’s the passion of the people, however, that unites this region. Each producer differentiating themselves from their neighbours in a number of ways, and as such, creating vastly different wines. Innovation is always talked about in wine culture, and Valpo is no different. In many ways, looking both forward and backward from a moment in time can create evolution in the bottle.
Rubinelli Vajol describes in the video below his approach in the vineyards:
At Accordini Stefano in Valpolicella Classica, 3rd generation WineMaker proudly shows us his state of the art touch control winemaking computer: