Posted by: tomciocco | February 13, 2013

A VALPOLICELLA FROM VALPOLICELLA (FUMANE ACTUALLY)

I’ve lamented before, and likely will again that too much Valpolicella wine is not the supremely complex but still warm and easy wine that it should be. A terrain that permits broad mechanization, great poverty in the region post WWII,  a few bad marketing decisions, and unfortunately, Valpolicella’s competition with, and decisive loss to its bigger brother Amarone, in the end left what should be a great wine  like Valpo all too often with the short end of the stick. Boring and even downright defective wines made in lake-sized quantities ensued…

Well this is a Valpolicella from “someplace”. This wine is labeled as a Valpolicella Classico whose norms restrict production to five fairly small towns northwest of Verona, one of which is called Fumane, and it’s the “someplace” that this wine is from. Due to the influence of high pre-alpine hills to the north of Fumane and the proximity of the large Lake Garda to the west, Fumane is quite damp year-round, with ample rain, which for most vines is not ideal, but the local varieties (this particular blend is made from Corvina, Corvinone, Rondeinella, Molinara, and a bit of Sangiovese as well) are well adapted to it. Even more critical to the character of this wine is the fact that all of Valpolicella in general, but Fumane in particular, is peppered with with cool, dry mountain air pretty much year-round. The soil is a well-drained mix of clay and mineral-rich rough rock which further mitigates the precipitation, and lends the local wines a slightly austere but warm and even tone. The fruit used to produce this cuvee` is harvested from vineyards situated at over 700 feet above sea level…no soggy, flat, too warm valley floor vineyards thin on character, no mechanical harvesters, from just somewhere in Veneto…

For me, one of the best traits of good Valpolicella is its great complexity, and another is an uncanny ability to maintain a very friendly, fresh, and easy to match nature despite that complexity.  It’s great with pizza for example, so tonight, pizza it was –  one with potatoes and onions.

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Le Salette Valpolicella Classico 2011

Medium-deep blackish magenta color. Stately, layered nose of cherry and red currant fruit, chalky, damp earth, woody spices, pine needles, dried flowers, and toasted walnuts. In the mouth the wine is medium in body with sweet but taut tannins, a spunky acidity, and a velvety, lightly pulpy texture all of which deftly frames balanced and complex flavors of watermelon, blueberry, plum butter, almond, bittersweet chocolate, and a deep, smooth minerality. Warm, soft, and broad roasted chestnut finish.

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