Discover Valpolicella: A Guide for Wine Lovers

If you are a wine enthusiast, I hope you’ve already heard of Valpolicella, but if not, you are in for a treat. Let’s take a journey to discover this renowned wine region in northeastern Italy that has captivated oenophiles for centuries. What makes the area so enticing? It’s rich history, distinctive winemaking techniques, and the unique varietals have made Valpolicella a beloved destination for wine lovers worldwide.

From the rolling hills dotted with vineyards to the ancient winemaking traditions passed down through generations, Valpolicella offers an experience unlike any other. Whether you’re a seasoned sommelier or just beginning to explore the world of wine, there’s something here for everyone to learn.

The History of Valpolicella

Valpolicella, a region nestled in the Veneto region of Northeast Italy, has a history steeped in winemaking traditions dating back to antiquity. The area’s favorable climate, with its mild winters and warm summers, has contributed to the cultivation of vineyards and the production of world-renowned wines.

Fun Fact: The name Valpolicella comes from “Vallis-polis-cellae” meaning the valley of many cellars.

Ancient Origins and Roman Influence

Centuries ago, Veneto, and Valpolicella were said to have been settled by the Veneti – a people coming from Anatolia after the supposed Fall of Troy. While that story is debated, we do know that the Veneti were a real tribe and settled into the region sometime before the 9th century BC. With a little help from their neighbors the Rhaeti and Etruscans, they were soon making their own wine.

It was these early tribes that first recognized the potential of Valpolicella’s terroir for grape cultivation and winemaking.

However, it was during the Roman era that viticulture in this region was elevated and expanded. The Veneti made an alliance with Rome and were eventually offered full Roman citizenship in 49 BC. The Romans loved the wines of this region, with the ancient Retico and Acinato wines becoming favorites throughout the empire.

Wonder what they taste like? Similar to todays Recioto wines!

Renaissance and Modern Era- A Rollercoaster of Wine Making

While winemaking went into decline during the Middle Ages due to war and difficult times, it bounced back thanks to the power of Venice. The Renaissance period brought about a renewed appreciation for the wines of Valpolicella, with an emphasis on refinement and innovation.

Venice’s power as a major maritime trade center helped these wines gain traction far and wide. Winemkaing here flourished between the 13th and 14th centuries.

But as Venice faded from international spotlight, so did the regions winemaking, with the freeze fo 1709 being particularly detrimental to the industry.

Again winemaking saw a rise in the mid 1800’s, only to be snuffed out again with terrible fighting of WWI. Finally in the 1960s, Valpolicella wines were back, and winemakers were thrilled to experiment and create renowned wines. Growth came quickly, and has remained until today.

Today in Valpolicella

Veneto as a whole is one of the most productive and wealthy regions of Italy. Valpolicella as well sees great prosperity, yet does so through small wineries rather than mass production. Truly a region where quality stands out way more than quantity in all areas.

Today Veneto is one of Europe’s largest wine-producing regions.

The Terroir of Valpolicella

When exploring the world of wine, understanding the concept of terroir is crucial. In Valpolicella, the terroir plays a significant role in shaping the unique characteristics of the wines produced in this region.

Valpolicella is flanked by the Lessini foothills to the North and Lake Garda to the west. This blend of alpine, and lake climate creates a diverse landscape that influences the microclimates within Valpolicella.

Valpolicella has warm summers and mild winters (though like every wine region, this is rapidly changing with climate change). The proximity to Lake Garda plays a crucial role in regulating the temperatures, creating a balanced environment for grape cultivation. The diurnal temperature variation in this region allows the grapes to ripen gradually, preserving acidity and developing nuanced flavors in the wines.


Valpolicella’s terroir is characterized by a mix of soils including limestone, basalt, and clay. The diverse soil composition across the region contributes to the unique flavor profiles of the wines. You’ll notice difference between wineries depending where they are.

Wines coming from the hills of Valpolicella will have been cultivated in marly limestone, offering a bit more minerality and clarity in the wines.

On the other hand, you can even find certain wineries cultivating on volcanic soil which offer a totally different character. These are found near the area of Marano. If you want to nerd out on Valpolicella soils, this is an excellent resource. If it all seems a little too much, just grab bottles from different wineries and have a taste – you’ll see what we mean soon.

The Grape Varieties of Valpolicella

When it comes to Valpolicella wines, the grape varieties are at the heart of the region’s winemaking tradition. Understanding the unique characteristics of each grape used in the production of Valpolicella wines allows you to appreciate the diverse flavors and aromas that they bring to the glass.


This grape is the star of the Valpolicella blend, and a native to the area of Verona. It’s known for its rich, sour cherry-like flavors and a subtle hint of bitter almond. It brings a structured and elegant profile to the wines, as well as bright acidity. Its thick skin makes it well-suited for the appassimento process.


Rondinella plays a supporting role in Valpolicella blends, and is also considered native. It contributes a gentle and fruity aroma with hints of cherry, as well as lightens the wines. Its high productivity and resistance to diseases make it a valuable component in the vineyards of the region.


Although less common in modern blends, Molinara is a native grape that historically played a significant role in the traditional Valpolicella wines. Fun fact: it got its name from the Italian mulino, or mill, as it grows with a dusty white powder resembling flour.

This grape adds a touch of bright acidity and a delicate floral bouquet. Some winemakers still love to use it to soften out their wines.


Another native to the area, Corvinone can be a supporter in blends. This grape adds strong tannins, structure and body to the wines.

Wines & Winemaking Techniques

When it comes to Valpolicella wines, the winemaking techniques used are key to crafting the rich and distinctive flavors that wine lovers adore. Two renowned techniques in Valpolicella winemaking are Appassimento and the Ripasso Method.

Valpolicella DOC

Valpolicella is a classic representation of the region’s winemaking. It is crafted from a blend of native grape varieties, primarily Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone or Molinara (or a mix of four). This style is known for its bright cherry flavors, lively acidity, and a hint of almond on the finish. It should be a light and and approachable wine.

You may find it in Classica, if made in the historic subzone of Valpolicella along the Adige river and Valpantena Valley. Other subzones are Valpantena, located in the heart of the Valley, and Valpolicella Orientale found in the eastern area of the region.

You can also find a Superiore version which are made with more selective grapes to offer more structure and higher alcohol. Superiore Valpolicella may also blend in some semi-dried grapes, and they must be aged for one year before release.

Recioto DOCG and Appassimento

Recioto della Valpolicella is the sweet wine of Valpolicella, and is the closest we have to the ancient wine of the region. The wine is made using dried grapes and a process called appassimento, leading to a concentrated juice with alluring notes of ripe red berries, baking spices, and a honeyed richness. The wine is deep ruby with high alcohol, but the sweetness is well balanced with a sharp acidity.

Appassimento is a traditional winemaking technique that involves drying the grapes before fermentation. This method concentrates the sugars and flavors in the grapes.The grapes are carefully selected, harvested, and then laid out on wooden racks in well-ventilated drying lofts for several months. Modern technology also allows winemakers to control the ventilation and humidity of the rooms, allowing perfectly controlled drying.

During this time, the grapes lose a significant amount of water, which leads to a higher concentration of sugars and flavors in the remaining fruit. This process is crucial in the production of Amarone and Recioto wines, both of which are highly regarded for their full-bodied and velvety characteristics.

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

Amarone della Valpolicella is the masterpiece of the region. Crafted using the appassimento technique, this style yields a wine of immense depth and complexity. You can think of it as the dry version of Recioto wines.

To produce this wine, grapes are dried for a shorter time so that there are not too many sugars, then fermentation allows to consume all the residual sugar. The wine must be aged two years, unless it is labeled Riserva which requires four years. Ageing is done in oak.

Amarone is velvety in texture, and has layers of dried fruit, tobacco, chocolate, coffee, and spices. Its bold character and full-bodied nature make it a luxurious choice for indulgent moments.

This wine does great with further ageing so buy a few bottles to try through the years.

Valpolicella Ripasso DOCG & the Ripasso Method

Ripasso is a combination of Valpolicella’s best wine through the ripasso method.

The Ripasso Method, also known as “double fermentation,” is a unique technique that involves refermenting Valpolicella wine on the pomace of dried grapes used to make Amarone. This process infuses the wine with additional richness, depth, and complexity. The pomace contains a wealth of flavor compounds and tannins, which are imparted to the Ripasso wine during the second fermentation. This method results in a more robust and full-bodied wine with enhanced aromas and a lingering finish.

Top Wineries to Visit in Valpolicella

If you’re a wine enthusiast visiting Valpolicella, you’re in for a treat. The region is renowned for its wineries, each offering a unique and delightful experience. From traditional family-owned estates to modern, innovative vineyards, there’s a winery for every palate. Here are some top wineries you shouldn’t miss during your visit:

Masi – Masi helped make Amarone famous globally. Amarone Costasera and Campofiorin bottles are Valpolicella icons. But Masi is also known for perfecting the art of the Ripasso method and bringing these local wines to the spotlight. You’ll definitely want to plan a visit, and swing b their partner estate Serego Alighieri.

Allegrini– This family has been producing great wines of Valpolicella since the 16th century, right in the heart of the Classica region. While the modern company began in the 1960s. You can visit them for a tasting or even an experience a wine maker.

Romano Dal Forno – Romano Dal Forno is a top Valpolicella producer known for their prestigious Amarone wines. The new cellar is designed like an ancient Venetian villa, with a modern loft for drying grapes and an underground cellar with thousands of barriques. Visits are possible based on availability, and tastings aren’t always offered.

Tommasi – Tommasi is known for its global reach and high-quality wines like Amarone. Visitors can explore displays on grapes, soil, and more, making it a mini museum of Valpolicella and Tommasi winery.

Quintarelli – a landmark winery known for top-notch quality. They take are never to risk quality, even if that means lower production some years and higher production costs. One thing that makes their bottles stand out is the hand-written labels. The winery recently expanded in Valpolicella Classica, offering tours and tastings of their current vintages.

A personal favorite:

Villa Spinosa – I came across Villa Spinosa’s wine by chance one day in Signorvino, and I loved it. The wine is great, and the estate is peaceful and beautiful, well worth a visit!

Your Valpolicella Adventure Awaits

If youd like to explore this wonderful wine region and check out recommendations tailored to your travel style – get in touch! I would love to help you experience an unforgettable trip to Italy.

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