This winegrowing area to the north of the city of Verona has enjoyed great success over the years, largely thanks to its iconic wine, Amarone. This heavyweight red has made its way past the national borders to make Valpolicella an international name. While its wines are available around the world, the valley itself is well worth visiting, to see the home of grape farmers who have made the history of Italian winemaking.
Valpolicella: soil and climate
The composition of the soils in this area is very varied: on the hills we find mostly calcareous formations such as red sedimentary rock and white marlstone, clay mixed with limestone, or basalt formations, while the soils on the valley floor are made up of alluvium.
The climate is mild, breezy and with rainfall mostly concentrated in the winter months, thanks to the cool currents blowing down from the Lessinia mountains and through the valleys counterposed with the warmer breezes arriving from nearby Lake Garda.
Valpolicella: the landscape
The unique beauty of the vineyards – some of which are crus in their own right, such as the Grola hill, Monte Masua or Monte Sant’Urbano, is set off by olive groves, cypresses, cherry trees and woods. Added to this natural beauty we then have a number of sumptuous noblemen’s residences, Romanesque churches, period farmhouses, courtyards, dovecotes and more. Valpolicella is a fascinating mosaic of nature, culture, history and winemaking traditions.
Valpolicella: grape varieties
The native black-grape varieties which give birth to the famous wines of Valpolicella have been grown for generations around the broad range of hills extending from the north of the city of Verona to the feet of the Lessinia Mountains. Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone are the main varieties, backed up by a number of complementary native varieties such as Molinara, Oseleta and Croatina, and a small percentage of other varieties allowed by the regulations.
The historic roots of Recioto – the dessert wine considered by many to be the father of Amarone – can be traced to the 4th century AD thanks to a letter written by Cassiodorus, a minister to Theodoric the Great, in which he mentions Acinaticum, a ‘regal wine’ made using a special grape-drying technique. Today there are four different wines produced in Valpolicella: Amarone, Recioto (both with guaranteed denomination of origin status), Valpolicella DOC and Valpolicella Ripasso DOC (both of which in standard and Superiore versions).
Valpolicella: dry-stone walls
Dry-stone walls – known locally as marogne – not only add to the beauty of the valley, but are also a sign of the integrity of the landscape. Whether built using local stone (known as Prun stone after the village of the same name) in the Valpolicella Classica zone or with mixed stone (often including volcanic basalt) in the eastern Valpolicella zone, these walls hold up the terraces where the vines are planted. As well as providing support, they also give shelter to animal and plant species.