I fell in love with Italy, and a special kind of Italian wine on my first trip to Milan with my fiancé as we left Luzerne Switzerland where he was working. We decided to take a high speed train to Italy after his work was complete and it was the most amazing experience for many reasons but mostly for discovering my favorite red wine. We bought first-class seats to be glamorous because they came with dinner service and more leg room. We were served a full course meal with wine choices from a real Italian waiter who was sort of tall and skinny with a Vampire like accent. I tried to speak my broken guide-book form of the language and somehow heard him suggest a red Valpollicella wine.
I said “Val-Polla-what?” Bruce my fiancé ordered Chianti, a wine he was more familiar with.
Just how did I discover a liking for a particular kind of Italian wine? Maybe it was the way the server poured it as if it were a gift from the gods, or perhaps it was the excitement of going to a big city called Milan in Italy. At the time it was raining outside so little drops were cascading down the side of our window as the landscape streamed by in the corner of my eye. We were seated at a nicely set table with cloth napkins, a vase with a real rose in the center and Pellegrino waters with fresh sparkly bubbles. There was a certain mystery about being on a train in Europe like some Agatha Christie suspense story. I kept wondering if we were going to see runway models prancing around when we got to Milan too. When I tried the first sip of the Valpollicella and toasted to Bruce my future husband it was a match made in heaven. The match, me and Valpolicella but spouse also of course, now we’ve been together eleven years! The wine was smooth and full of flavor that I hadn’t experienced my usual California or French wines. The name was “Pasqua” Valpollicella, and I haven’t been able to find it in California anywhere. It’s one of those things that comes from Italy and stays in Italy and you have to go to Italy to get it, I guess. I haven’t done a Google search on it but believe me I will sooner or later. It fully enhanced the flavor of the Pesto Genoa style pasta with fresh Parmesan sprinkles from our waiter while the train traveled at what seemed jet-like speeds.
Tasting that wine six years ago really impressed me as I still seek out the lovely Valpolicella wine to this day. The name sounds so romantic like an opera or something VAL-Polla-ChELLO! MMMMMMMMMMMMM….it’s sort of strong with some dried fruit, sort of like raisin flavors. I am not going to get all wine snobbed out and describe all these weird things like a touch of Oak and Earth! But, after that little taste of Valpollicella, I have sought it out ever since in the U.S., however it is hard to find because not all stores sell Valpolicella and if they do it’s much more expensive than it was in Italy. I believe it was only like five or six bucks at the time.
When we arrived in Italy just a few sips and pasta bites later, we spent a few days going from street corner to corner all over Milan eating pasta dishes and pizza’s and drinking more red wines but that’s a whole other story of foodie madness. All in all we found the people to be very nice and hospitable to a couple of Americans with an appetite. Around 5p.m. when most of the city stops work for the day the Milanese café’s have these cute little spreads of little plates with olives and potato chips and different tasty appetizers that compliment the smooth rich melodious wines.
Several years later I met Jasper a friend of my husband Bruce and Jasper and I both discussed liking Italian wines and especially Valpollicella, so now we are both friends and fans of the “V”Italian wine. Of course we adore French and Paso Robles California wines as well. For a period of time in our leisure we would meet up at a high-class wine bar in the city at a fancy hotel by the name of “Ducca” and order a different Valpollicella wine each time. We would sip and discuss the differences. Jasper is really well read on the whole Valpolicella wine making process and he knows the distinct difference between regular Ripasso variety and Amarone.
Wikipedia gives this definition:
Valpolicella is a viticultural zone of the province of Verona, Italy, east of Lake Garda. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region of small holdings north of the Adige is famous for wine production. Valpolicella ranks just after Chianti in total Italian DOC wine production. The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from three grape varietals: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. Most Valpolicellas are light, fragrant table wines in flavor. “Valpolicella” appeared in charters of the mid 12th century, combining two valleys previously thought of independently. Its etymology is unknown; it might derive from the Latin for “Valley of Cellars.” Valpolicella’s economy is heavily based on wine production, which is well known, especially Recioto and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes. The region, colloquially called the “pearl of Verona”, has also been a preferred location for rural vacation villas. Seven comuni compose Valpolicella: Pescantina, San Pietro in Cariano, Negrar, Marano di Valpolicella, Fumane, Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella and Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo.
All this above is fascinating but, I just like the sound of the word Valpolicella because it sounds so Italian operatic and joyful, celebratory if you will! Those wine bar visits are not as cheap as Italy but if you want to you can buy some good Valpolicella’s at K&L wines and bring them home to drink and share with friends. We did that a few times too and saved a bit of money off the restaurant mark-up and were able to sample some of the special imports.
After that first sip I will continue the quest for Valpollicella because of the adventure and excitement that went along with the first experience. From now on when I want to really drink some good wine and spend a pretty penny, it’s off to the Italian section I go!