Posted by: tomciocco | June 28, 2011


Few appellations in Italy permit as many grape varieties into its blend than Valpolicella does. To be clear, this fact is not the product of some committee in Rome looking to push a few fingers into the market, or the eye of a rival region. Valpolicella is heir to a long and accomplished winemaking tradition, and the greater Valpolicella-Soave region is thick with autochthonous varieties both red and white – a couple score if I had to guess…

Among all of the red grape varieties in this corner of Veneto, the prom king is unquestionably Corvina, which along with Rondinella and Molinara, make up the most common blend of grape varieties for not only Valpolicella, but Amarone and Bardolino as well. The official numbers on this Valpo by Ca’ Rugate are as follows: 40% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, and 30% Corvinone. As the name might suggest, Corvinone (which basically means “big Corvina”; the name “Corvina”  itself roughly translates as “raven black”, clearly referring to the color of its berries) is a Corvina relative, whose precise relation to Corvina proper is still unclear. And as it turns out, recent DNA testing on Rondinella confirms that it has as one of its parents none other than… Corvina! So what we’ve got in this wine is a sort of oenological family band, with each member adding a personal coloration to the “house” sound which is most often described as velvety, complex, typically with big black cherry fruit. 

Tonight’s dinner stared with a Veneto classic, Riso e fagioli alla Veneta, a risotto-like dish with aromatic vegetables, pancetta, and borlotti beans, and then thin fresh ham cutlets stuffed and rolled with Piave cheese, breadcrumbs, and scallions, browned and then braised with cabbage and wine (both red).

Ca’ Rugate Valpolicella “Rio Albo” 2009   

Slightly foggy, just barely opaque blackish-purple-garnet color. Cleanly layered and detailed nose of plum nectar, brown spices, minerals, dried flowers, cola, and black pepper. The medium-weight body is velvety smooth, fairly rich, but with a savory underpinning and a robust and spunky acid/tannin structure with big cherry fruit and notes of fresh blood, melted chocolate, and Graham Crackers. Big, warm, long finish.


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