In January, it is in fair Verona where we lay our scene. This stunning northern Italian city is an epicenter of the wine trade, playing host as it does every spring to Vinitaly, the world’s largest annual wine tasting. Not far from the convention center where the fair is held, as well as Verona’s perfectly preserved Roman arena and postcard-like medieval town center, lies the Valpolicella – one of the most dynamic wine regions anywhere.
The term Valpolicella is commonly translated as “the valley of many cellars.” In fact, the appellation comprises an ever-widening geographic area that contains several neighboring valleys of varying size. Although the wines produced in this region are closely related to one another, you’ll see in this collection that there is nowhere else in the world where such depth of diversity can come from the same grape varieties planted in similar climatic conditions.
The traditional red wines from this region run the gamut, ranging from dry to sweet, light to heavy, 11% to 16% alcohol. And though years ago I was taught that the trio of Valpolicella grapes consists of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, I’ve since learned that the reality is far more complex. These three are accompanied by numerous other indigenous varieties, many of which are close relatives or even clones. On the other hand, there are also white grapes growing nearby.
Elaine Chukan Brown’s illustration for this edition outlines the unique, traditional winemaking process that turns Valpolicella into Amarone and also results in Ripasso, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. To emphasize the unparalleled depth of these wines from one of Italy’s most celebrated culinary regions I’ve asked for the help of Tina Morey, Le Metro’s Operations Manager and resident chef. In Tina’s words, the scene is set: “An afternoon winds its way toward evening; small courses are savored.”
Aaron Epstein, Curator