Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Hi Wine for Normal People listeners! Welcome to the podcast page. For more info, please go to the Wine for Normal People Site and use the Contact Page to ask questions or reach out! 

All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
Attribution (3.0) 

Jan 31, 2022

Valpolicella is a famed red wine region in the foothills north of the city of Verona. This area has been making wine since the time of the Ancient Greeks, whose legacy is kept alive by the common practice drying grapes to concentrate the flavors in the finished wines.

Photo: Valpolicella, from Unsplash

We covered this with Filippo Bartolotta in episode 317, but after a conversation with M.C. Ice it became clear to me that he needed to hear the info again. It's an important wine region and it's complex, so we decided to do our version and get anyone up to speed who may also still be a little confounded about these wines! 


There is much to uncover about this region, the “Valley of Many Cellars”, as it translates. The huge area makes so much wine under so many different sub-regions and areas, but not all are created equally. Even the famed and rather new wine, Amarone della Valpolicella, which has enjoyed enormous popularity in the last 20 years, isn’t all amazing. In this show, we will take you on the full tour of the region – examining what is here, the essential components of terroir, and how to get the wines you like from this multi-faceted, diverse, and very confusing Italian region.


Here are the show notes:

We give an overview of the region:

  • Valpolicella borders Lake Garda/Bardolino to the west, abuts the Lessini Mountains (part of Venetian Pre-Alps) in the north, and opens to a wide valley in the east.
  • The historical area of Valpolicella winemaking is in the Monti Lessini hills but the area is much bigger due to an enlargement in 1968



  • Because the region spans so much land, the climate varies depending on the valley. In general it is a mild to cool continental or sub-continental region but hillsides are markedly cooler than lowland areas, and valleys, where the air is more stagnant are far hotter than those at elevation that experience breezes from the PreAlps. Lake Garda keeps the western region cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as you move away from the water towards the east, that is not the case. The winds from the southern, humid Sirocco to the Föhn, a dry northern wind, to those from cold humid ones the northeast all affect particular vineyard sites as well.



  • In general, you will find vineyards in three big areas: mountainous limestone foothills, at elevation in the Lessini Mountains (the Classico region), hill areas on gentle slopes (th majority of vines planted) with limestone and volcanic soils, and the fertile, alluvial, eastern valley floor.

Photo: Corvina, from Conzorzio Valpolicella 




Three main grapes are used with some supporting players

  • Corvina Veronese (Corvina, Cruina) is the backbone of the blends, providing structure, aromas of cherry and red berry, with flowers and baking spice, and softness. It must be 45-90% of the blend
  • Corvinone an unrelated grape with a similar name, provides black cherry, spice, color, tannin, acidity, and elegance to the blend. Corvinone can replace Corvina up to 50% of the blend
  • Rondinella is a vineyard champ – it’s very disease resistant and and its contribution is ripe red fruit, tobacco, and spice notes. It can be 5-30% of the blend



OTHERS…can be 25% of the blend, but no more than 10% per grape variety

  • Molinara: Used to be a mandatory part of the blend, but producers often find it too aromatic and savory, and its lack of structure has made it fall out of favor.
  • Oseleta: Is the new darling of Amarone especially. It dark skin and strong tannin with blueberry, black cherry, minerals, and herb notes. It is powerful and a little goes a long way. The plantings are small but growing
  • Others that are permitted and used for hardiness, color, and body are Croatina, Dindarella, and Spigamonti


Every producer makes the decision about what is best within the allowable parameters

Photo: Valpolicella, from Conzorzio Valpolicella 

Valpolicella Production Regions

  • The production regulations divide the Valpolicella into three distinct zones. Classico was the OG. In 1968 grew to include Valpantena valley near the river, and Valpolicella Orientale – Eastern Valpolicella.
  • The DOCs can have Superiore as a distinction if they age the wine for 1 year and have 1% more alcohol than the normale.


Valpolicella DOC -

  • In eastern Valpolicella (Orientale), the area reaches north into the hills above Verona for approximately ten miles, and east to west for 20 miles. The area is varied,so the wines can be simple when grown on fertile soils or interesting at a bit of altitude with cooling breezes, rocky soils.


Valpolicella Subzone 1: Classico

  • Located in the west near Lake Garda, Classico consists of five high quality areas that make up the traditional places where grapes had been cultivated for Valpolicella before 1968 enlargement. About 30% of Valpolicella from here and the better terroir yields bolder, riper wines with a fuller body and more tannin. The five areas of Classico are Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, Negrar Valley, San Pietro in Cariano, Fumane Valley, Marano Valley,



Valpolicella Subzone 2: The Valpantena

  • Located in the central part of Valpolicella, halfway between the Valpolicella Classica and the eastern zone, this area is located in a narrow valley that has big diurnal swings leading to long ripening periods and very good wines with lovely acidity. These are considered nearly as good or as good as Classico. 20% of Valpolicella is grown here



Wine Styles: DOC/G

***It’s important to note that all the DOC and DOCG wines can be from the Classico, Valpantena OR standard Valpolicella (indication of the growing ZONE) zones and will indicate that on the label


The DOC/Gs are:

  • Valpolicella DOC
  • Valpolicella Ripasso DOC
  • Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
  • Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG


Valpolicella DOC

These wines are dry reds with red berry, sour cherry, cinnamon, and pepper notes. They are unoaked, simple wines with light color and high acidity. They have no aging requirements and are often good with a slight chill in the summer. Other versions:

  • Valpolicella Superiore DOC – wine has been aged 1 year, and has 12% v 11% ABV. It has more flavor and body
  • Also: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Valpolicella Valpantena, Valpolicella Valpantena Superiore are permitted to be used and fall under the DOC.

Photo: Appassimento -- drying grapes, courtesy Conzorzio Valpolicella 

Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG

  • This is a sweet red wine made from dried (passito) grapes. It is the original, historic wine of the region – the Greeks brought the production method to these parts. The name comes from recie, which in the local dialet means ears – which is what the top of a grape cluster looks like.
  • The wines are made in the appassamento method where producers dry grapes in indoor warehouses called Fruttai, and use the half-raisined berries to make high alcohol (14.5% - 15.5% ABV), full bodied sweet wines. These wines are aged for at least 2 years before release. They can be Classico and Valpantena as well

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

  • Made just like Recioto, only fermented nearly dry after a very long fermentation, these wines have strong red berry, prune, raisin, cinnamon, chocolate, and tobacco notes. Because the sugar of the dessicated grapes is so high these wines must be at least 14% ABV, can be 15.5% or more. They must age for 2 years in any vessel before release, except in the case of Riserva, where the requirement is 4 years.
  • These wines are made in all three zones, although Classico is considered best.



Valpolicella Ripasso DOC

  • The ultimate sustainability solution, ripasso means re-passed, and in this case rather than discarding the pomace from Amarone and Recioto, up to 15% Amarone lees and grape skins are added to basic Valpolicella during fermentation. This kicks off a second 10-15 day fermentation that boosts tannin, alcohol, fruit flavor, and glycerine in the wine. It gives more candied, jam notes, a higher alcohol level and if aged in oak, flavors like mocha, spice, and leather.
  • These wines can be made in all zones, e.g., Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore


Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!


If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes!


To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: