Three lush and rich reds from the Veneto
Buglioni Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy 2016 (£14.95, Slurp) As the second-biggest wine-producing region in the world’s largest wine-producing country, the Veneto, in North East Italy, makes a huge amount of wine. It’s home, along with the Treviso province, to the biggest selling vinous hit of the past decade, prosecco, as well as a star of yesteryear: the often maligned but, in the hands of producers such as Pieropan, Gini, Coffele and Inama, beautifully soft, gentle, fresh and engaging dry white wines of Soave. But at this time of year it’s the wines from the region’s most famous red zone, Valpolicella in Verona province, that are the biggest attraction for me. Made predominantly from the local corvina grape – which, like so many Italian specialities is not often encountered elsewhere – it can make for some wonderfully uninhibited, briskly drinkable wines with a moreish sour-cherry tanginess, which, as in Buglioni’s vivacious example, makes for a natural partner with all things tomato-based
Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy 2013 (from £38, The Wine Society; Waitrose; Tannico) Another distinctive quirk in Valpolicella is that the red wines that command the highest prices tend to be those made from dried grapes. Traditionally, the grapes (like straight valpolicella, a blend led by corvina with fellow locals rodinella and corvinone) are harvested in October and then dried on straw mats in special drying sheds until at least December, but often much longer, intensifying flavours and transforming the texture in the wines that emerge once the raisined grapes are fermented. There’s often a degree of sweetness – although the wines are officially dry – in Amarone, as well as plenty of alcohol. But in the best examples, such as Tommasi’s, there’s a characteristic “amaro” bitterness, too, that cuts through the chocolate-dipped black cherry fullness and sumptuous texture in a wine for sipping before a fire with a book and a crumbly hunk of parmesan.
Hunker down and see out the winter with Valpolicella