Say the name ‘Valpolicella’ to many wine lovers and you’re likely to hear a fairly negative reaction. I take a different view: Yes, there’s a glut of pretty ordinary examples among the bargain basement offerings on supermarket shelves and these have caused Valpolicella’s reputation to suffer in recent years. But, leave those alone (and pay a few £s more) and you’ll find some delightful, fresh and deliciously fruity reds that are ideal for drinking on their own or with, for example, a seared tuna steak.
My suggested food match is a key to what you should expect from this red wine from the Veneto region of northern Italy: it’s a delicate red, not heavy or chunky but light-bodied, refreshing and easy drinking. You can even chill it for a summer picnic. One of the best producers is Allegrini whose wines bring out all the lovely bitter black cherry flavours that are so typical of a good Valpolicella (available from Bristol’s Grape & Grind, £12.50 or the Wine Society, £10.95). This wine is now available under screw cap after Allegrini fought a long battle with the regional authorities who were insisting on cork closures.
Just as you need to take care to avoid poor examples of Valpolicella, there are a number of very different wines with similar names: Amarone della Valpolicella is made in the same region, but using partially dried grapes to give a much fuller, richer and robust wine, while if you see the word ‘Ripasso’ on the label alongside Valpolicella, this is a kind of halfway house between the two – but still much bigger in style than a simple example. And finally, Recioto della Valpolicella is a sweet wine. All these can be delicious, but check the label carefully to see you’re buying the style you want – and, above all, avoid the ultra-cheapies that have so damaged the reputation of these attractive, but misunderstood wines.