Giovanni Allegrini Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2003
In Italy's Veneto, winemakers use traditional Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes to
make wines in three distinct styles: standard Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella, and
Recioto della Valpolicella. Ancient Roman commentators, including Virgil, Suetonius, Martial
and especially Pliny the Elder, thought highly of these wines. The Veneto wines lauded by
these Romans may not have been made in exactly the same style as the wines we enjoy
today, but researchers believe the grapes used now are nearly the same as those the Romans
knew. The land, of course, hasn't gone anywhere.
Briefly, Valpolicella (the name means the “valley of many cellars”) is the dry wine, conventionally fermented (though it may be enhanced by a second fermentation on un-pressed skins of Amarone grapes using the ripasso technique). Amarone, created from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their sugars, is yet fermented to full dryness. Recioto also uses dried grapes (the law requires they be dried a month longer than those used to make Amarone), but the winemaker stops fermentation before all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. The resulting wine is sweet, syrupy and firmly mouth filling.
The Allegrini Recioto contrasts 14% alcohol with about the same percentage of sugar. Corvina Veronese leads the grape mix at 75%, with 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. It is all aged 14 months in new French oak then sees a further year in bottle.
The $61 deep ruby wine gives spirited aromas of deep berry jam (straight off the stove and room filling), with chocolate, dried cherries, baking spice and cedar notes. The nose feels a touch of alcoholic heat.
The concentrated wine explodes on the tongue as it fills the mouth. The experience is direct,
sensuous, and profoundly tactile. This is full bodied wine. The acidity and concomitant fruit
extract are mouth watering, balanced but not suppressed by the sugar. Flavor notes appear
once the mouth settles down a bit, led by cherry, with fruitcake spicing, chocolate, toffee,
coffee, and dried fruit. Sweet the wine is without doubt, yet the sensation of sweetness is but
one factor among many. The long finish shows fruit, spice, and just enough of the sweetness.
Verdict: A treat for the mouth
Recioto is a lot of trouble to make. Dare we say it is worth it?
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman