'New' varieties for Valpolicella 
A project that is rediscovering the best of the old grape varieties in this region 

On a recent trip to the Valpolicella wine region (near Verona, in northeast Italy) I had a chance to taste some very interesting wines made at the Provincia di Verona Servizio Agricultura, with the director of the Centro per la Sperimentazione in Vitivinicolture, Emanuele Tosi.

The Centro's experimental winery

The Centro have been looking at new grape varieties for use in the region, to supplement the three staples here: Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone. But rather than bring in varieties from outside, they have decided to look at very old varieties that are already found within the Valpolicella area. This is a commendable approach.

Grapes drying, for making Amarone: these are Corbina

The new varieties would be used both for regular Valpolicella (Fresco wines) as well as the celebrated Amarone wines, made from drying grapes before fermentation (Appassimento wines).

We tried experimental wines made from these new varieties, as well as a Corvina as a reference. The wines were all made at the Centro's own winery.

Typical trellising in the region

Corvina 2008
Bright and fresh with vibrant floral cherry fruit and a hint of sweetness. The palate is bright with fresh red cherry and raspberry fruit and good acid. A really bright wine. 87/100

Castelrotto 2008
This is one of the new varieties that has been rediscovered in the region: it was propogated from a very old vine that looked different to all the others, and is named after one of the local towns. It has lovely intense pure dark cherry fruit on the nose with a bit of chocolatey richness. The palate is concentrated, fresh and pure with sweet, appealing dark cherry and blackberry fruit. Very successful with lovely purity of fruit. 91/100 [Molecular analysis has shown that this variety is actually the same as Teroldego]

Bressa 2008
Firm, dense and spicy on the nose with some savoury earthy notes. The palate has lovely freshness t the bright fruit with a strongly savoury, spicy, earthy character and high acidity. Lively and food friendly. 89/100 [Molecular analysis has shown that this is the same as Barbera]

Spigamonte 2008 (made with grapes that had been dried for a while, Amarone style)
This is a brand new 'old' variety: DNA analysis has shown that it is not the same as anything else. Concentrated, focused dark fruits nose is quite pure with a spicy edge. The palate shows lovely freshness and purity of fruit: dark cherry and blackberry. Dense and concentrated with lovely acidity and structure. Really fresh and intense. Fantastic. 93/100

Turchetta 2008
This is the result of a big project started 10 years ago. 60 varieties that had been rediscovered were trialled, and from these five were selected to be added to the catalogue of varieties to plant in the region. This has a fresh dark fruits nose with lovely freshness and a subtle herby edge. Lively and fresh with bright cherry fruit, although there is a touch of spritziness to this sample. 89/100

Turchetta 2008 (from dried grapes)
Very sweet and juicy with bright, fresh dark cherry fruit. Juicy and bright with good purity and freshness. 90/100

Corbina 2008
From the same project, this is a high polyphenol grape that could be added at, say, 10% to the blend to improve it. It's lovely and vivid with fresh dark fruits, a hint of cherry, and a touch of meatiness. The palate is dense and concentrated with amazing tannins, good acidity and great depth. Really mouthcoating. 91/100

Corbina 2007 (from dried grapes)
Fermentation was stopped because of high volatile acidity, so there's 70 g/litre of sugar here as well as 16% alcohol. Amazing depth of fruit: structured and sweet, with incredible concentration. It is so dark you can dilute it with five times the amount of water and it still seems impenetrable.

These varieties all show a lot of promise, with my favourites the Corbino and Spigamonte, which I thought were fantastic.

While we were there we also had a chance to look at some grapes nearing the end of the drying process.

See also:

Visiting Chianti Classico

Wines tasted 12/09  
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