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Another Choice for a Summer Red: Valpolicella
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed July 7, 2004. For more information go to

Monday's sermon on Zinfandel with summery fare from the charcoal grill drew a lot of e-mail responses, including notes from a few of you who live in even hotter climes than I do, commenting that it can be tough to enjoy a big, highly alcoholic red wine when the fahrenheit and the humidity both reach into the 90s at the same time.

This is true. There are times when an ice-cold sparkling wine, a light and fruity white or even a crisp, herbal rose hit the spot. But sometimes you're in the mood for a red, even when the thermometer suggests white or pink.

Quite a few lighter-style reds fill this bill with fresh, fruity, snappy but non-tannic flavor profiles that can even take a light chill. We'll sample several of them over the next couple of months; today, let's turn to a Northeastern Italian red-wine favorite, Valpolicella.

Valpolicella, a pretty region in the hills between Verona and Lake Garda, lost some of its luster within the past generation because, for a time, much of the exported product was inexpensive, uninteresting mass-market vino. But times and tastes have changed, and much of the Valpolicella sold around the world nowadays has returned to the regional style that made it famous in the first place: juicy and fresh, light-bodied and easy to quaff, with a characteristic scent of dried cherries that makes it relatively easy to recognize and just as easy to enjoy.

Valpolicella also makes bigger wines: the majestic and powerful Amarone and the hearty Valpolicella Ripasso, made by returning young Valpolicella to casks just vacated by the previous season's Amarone. But for pleasurable summer sipping, I recommend sticking with the simpler stuff, whether it's the basic bottling or Valpolicella Classico (made from grapes grown in the region's central and purportedly more desirable vineyards) or Valpolicella Classico Superiore (made under somewhat more stringent production rules).


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