Valpolicella is one of the most famous red Italian wines on the export market. The primary difference between Valpolicellas are those of the plain, which normally go into commercial blends, and those of the hills, in the central and best part of the region (Classico) surrounding the town of Negrar, where many of the best small estates are located. Hilly terraces, which check erosion and hold vital moisture during dry summers, produce the best wines. Depending on soil type, exposure and altitude, the Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grape varieties are planted in modified double pergolas, and collectively give the soft, fruity wine called Valpolicella.
Like its neighbor Bardolino, planted close to Lake Garda to the west, Valpolicella is typically a light red wine; but there are two ways of boosting its strength and flavor. Air drying selected grapes for several months in special airy lofts, after the harvest, concentrates the must and increases the sugar content. Performed since Roman times, this is called the Recioto method, and it is practiced in Soave as well. Importantly, if the Recioto is fermented dry, it is called Amarone della Valpolicella, and this robust red wine easily ranks as one of the best in Italy.
Because of the volume lost during the drying process, Amarone della Valpolicella is always more expensive than the regular wine, and its alcohol content is considerably higher: usually 15% or more, and rather powerful. There is an intermediate type of Valpolicella, quite popular in recent years, in which the regular wine is left on the yeast remainders of the Amarone – the so-called Ripasso. The process adds body and strength to the wine, without boosting too much extract and alcohol. For many lovers of Valpolicella, Ripasso is the perfect wine.
The brothers Pier Paolo and Stefano Antolini manage a small but efficient estate in the Classico zone, in the township of Marano. Until recently, they sold their grapes to other wineries, but now they bottle at the estate. They are currently renovating the cellar to increase production of Amarone, their top wine, and are justifiably proud of their hard work in the terraces, which involved extensive manual labor. Although their production is small, their quality standards are very high, and they produce the full range of estate Valpolicella that is perfectly suited to today’s market.