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Wine tour in Veneto: discovering Valpolicella

Let's head to one of the most famous wine-making areas of North Italy: Valpolicella, in the Veneto region, to discover all its delicious bottles.

  • Wine tour in Valpolicella
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The red heart of Veneto – Valpolicella

One of Italy’s most prolific winemaking areas, Veneto’s low plains, rolling hills, and steep slopes are home to a spectacular patchwork of vineyards and an array of regional wines. Undoubtedly, most people associate the territory with Italy’s most ubiquitous bubbly, prosecco, a fresh sparkling wine produced in the Charmat style both here and in neighboring Friuli-Venezia Giulia. However, as most wine connoisseurs know, Veneto offers much more than just the iconic aperitivo-style spumante. In fact, it’s the area’s lesser-known but highly acclaimed reds that rack up stellar reviews alongside the more recognized vintages coming out of Tuscany and Piedmont.

Northwest of Verona, just minutes from Lake Garda, Valpolicella encompasses an area of 240 square kilometers known for its mild continental climate. The name Valpolicella is said to come from the etymology “val polis cellae” or “valley of the many cellars,” and it’s certainly apropos. A paradise for red wine lovers, the territory is home to generations of winemaking families as well as new arrivals on the viticultural scene.

Valpolicella’s grape-growing roots have been traced back to the period of ancient Greece, a heritage linked to the production of its Amarone wines. The most sought-out wine from Valpolicella, Amarone is made from the ancient technique of “appassimento” whereby grapes are semi-dried before they are crushed to enhance the bouquet and wine complexity. A dry full-bodied red, Amarone is known for its great capacity to evolve over many years. 

Other reds harkening from the region vary greatly in style but are made from the same set of indigenous grape varietals, namely, Corvina Veronese (or Corvinone), Rondinella and Molinara. On the lighter spectrum, you’ll find Valpolicella Classico, a lively young red with a bright finish. Its more mature counterpart, Valpolicella Superiore, is barrel-aged one year, while Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is obtained by macerating Valpolicella Classico and the pomace of Amarone. Last but certainly not least is Valpolicella’s velvety dessert wine, Recioto. To make this regional specialty, grapes are harvested and then dried on racks or hung from rafters until the end of January. Then they are vinified before all the sugars convert to alcohol, creating a sweet wine which pairs perfectly with chocolate.

A tour in Valpolicella

To begin your tour of Valpolicella, we suggest starting from the lovely city of Verona and heading northwest towards Pedemonte. Stop at Tommasi Family Estates where you can learn about this renowned fourth-generation winemaking family and get an overview of the history of Valpolicella. Guided visits give you an up-close view of the production of Amarone wine including a visit to the Appassimento (drying room) as well as the cellars where you can admire Magnifica, the largest oak barrel in the world. Tours last approximately an hour and a half and include a tasting of five wines.

Another option is Monteci in Pescantina, where five generations have combined traditional viticulture with technological innovation. The modern tasting room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offers picture-perfect vineyard views - a dreamy backdrop for tasting Monteci’s ample collection of wines. Take a traditional tour and tasting featuring the reds of Valpolicella or try vintages from other areas of Veneto where sparkling and white wines find their ideal terroir.

Following the Strada del Vino Valpolicella (Valpolicella Wine Road), you’ll come to Sant’Ambrogio where the Serego Alighieri estate resides. Dating back to 1353, this beautiful property was originally purchased by the son of Supreme Poet, Dante Alighieri when he followed his father into exile in the hills outside Verona. The family was later united by marriage to the royal Serego dynasty, giving rise to generations of winemakers that transformed the winery into the historical landmark it remains today. Visit the splendid estate, its gardens, vineyards and production rooms, and even extend your tour to the adjacent Masi Cellars for a completely immersive experience.

Just a few minutes to the northeast towards the town of Fumane, Tenuta Ugolini beckons to visitors from a terraced hillside, where perfectly maintained stone walls are lined with vineyards and cherry trees. The antique colonial house and gardens are open to the public at no charge, as is the entry into its architecturally stunning wine shop. Private tours with Tenuta Ugolini’s cellarmaster can be reserved in advance.

Next, follow the scenic winding road on the way to Marano where a small gem, Tenuta Santa Maria Valverde, perches atop a knoll in one of the prettiest spots in Valpolicella. Bikers will enjoy the climb and can take advantage of the winery’s bike repair station, as well as reward themselves with a well-deserved rest and glass of wine. If you come by car, Tenuta Santa Maria Valverde rents e-bikes to explore their vineyards off-road. 

A trip to Valpolicella isn’t complete without a visit to perhaps its most famous, yet enigmatic, winery. Quintarelli has no website, nor do signs give away its location on Mount Ca’ Paletta in the Cerè district of Negrar. However, word about this family has traveled far and wide ever since Giuseppe Quintarelli started producing and exporting wine to America in the 1960s. Small batches, extra-long aging, and superior quality grapes earned him the nickname “God of Amarone” as well as a cult following and international awards. Today his descendants carry on the Quintarelli winemaking tradition in a newly renovated cantina where elegant oval barrels, vintage bottles and a charming tasting room guarantee an unforgettable experience.

Certainly, one day doesn’t suffice to visit this extraordinary winemaking region of Italy. Spread your trip over a few days instead, and make the experience magical with a stay in an authentic farmhouse where local food and genuine hospitality are never amiss. 

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