It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Valpolicella in want of true excellence must be in want of appassimento (or ripasso). However, less well known is the fact that even within the ranks of Valpolicella normale – often dismissed as a bog-standard vin ordinaire of the Veneto – a discerning buyer can find an enormous amount of variety.
A great example of this is Valpolicella Superiore, which despite its name does not necessarily indicate ‘superiority’ but instead one crucial aspect of its making – the fact that it has been aged for at least 12 months in oak. This isn’t the aim of every winemaker, as the effect of oak is to soften out wine by way of encouraging so-called malolactic fermentation – not really a fermentation, but a process by which the sharper malic acid present in the wine (the same that gives green apples their characteristic zing) is converted into softer lactic acid (best known, as its name suggests, for its presence in milk).
As a result, expect wines with Valpolicella Superiore on the label to retain the bright fruit flavours of regular Valpolicella wine, but with greater viscosity, roundness of texture and softness of spice. NB: Valpolicella Ripasso wines with ‘Superiore’ on the label also require a minimum of 12 months in the barrel, and so will generally show similarly rounder and more velvety characteristics on the palate than regular Valpolicella Ripasso.
Alcohol: at least 12%, usually 12.5-14%.
Colour: bright purple, some translucence around the rim.
Aroma: characteristic maraschino cherries, with sweet spice notes and sometimes hints of apricot or even coconut.
Palate: enough acidity to make it refreshing, but generally soft, mouth-filling, velvety textures; fruit-forward flavours, but expect hints of nutmeg and cloves, as well as possibly a hard-to-define butteriness.
Food Pairing: the PERFECT wine to pair with the signature Veneto dish of bigoi co’arna – thick spaghetti with a rich duck ragù!