I’d heard of Amarone and knew it was “one of the top” Italian wines. Day trips outside of Milan have become a passion of mine (GET ME OUT OF THE CITY!) So heading to the land of Amarone seemed like the perfect plan.
What I soon discovered was that this region is calming and peaceful with water, yet curiously traditional with windy grape lined roads leading into vineyards, wineries and agriturismos.
More excitingly, I discovered my new FAVORITE wine in the world…… Ripasso Valpolicella.
I have never been a wine snob, however after living in Italy for a few years… it’s inevitable it happens and after sipping the ripasso… I knew it was a wine worth remembering.
Valpolicella is located in the Veneto region of Italy. I’ve gone a few times as day trips about a 2.5 hour drive from Milan. It’s situated between Lake Garda and Verona. Bardolino borders Lake Garda and then you are in the Valpolicella area. If I were with family or friends from out of town, I would definitely do a Valpolicella, Bardolino, Verona weekend. One thing that I have found quite different from American wineries/vineyards for example Napa Valley is that you should always schedule reservations a head of time. There are maps and resources that can give you MANY wineries to choose from. Many of them are open… but you just never know it’s best to reserve.
The first time driving to Valpolicella was very spontaneous and I did not have a reservation. Antonio and I drove in the region during the worst time of the day in Italy, 3:00. Everything is generally closed during these hours open before or after. We drove all through the countryside getting lost more than once.
We discovered a wonderful winery that happened to be open. http://www.boscainicarlo.it/ The family happens to live there as well. This is a family owned generational business starting with the grandfather. The building looks new recently and the vineyard views are exactly what you would expect from a movie rolling hills, classic old Italian buildings, beautiful colors. One of the brothers helped us and he was very polite (spoke English for me). He would switch back and forth Italian and English and taught us about the different levels of wine (like a wine pyramid/family Amarone being at the top).
Valpolicella Classico: This would be like a table wine. This has the largest quantity produced and has a lighter flavor. It is DOC. This can be paired with pizza and pastas. This is served in Verona as a table wine.
Valpolicella Superiore: A little stronger than the classico with a darker color and taste. It has a minimum of 12% alcohol and is DOC. It must spend one year in the wood. This can be paired with meats, pastas and cheeses.
Valpolicella Ripasso: This is a combination of the Classic Valpolicella mixed with the Amarone. The Amarone is made from dried grapes. After 4-5 months of drying, the grapes are squeezed and fermented and left to be made into Amorone. The leftover skins from the amarone (pomace) are mixed with the classic Valpolicella. This creates a stronger flavor with a higher alcohol content. Recently the Ripasso has been called a baby amarone because it’s similar taste, yet it is less expensive than an amarone. I’ve heard it can be similar to a Beaujolais (a french wine). This can be paired with steaks, heavy pastas and cheese. I love it!!!!
Amarone: DOCG The highest level of Italian wine and most expensive. The best grapes that are picked are dried for 5-6 months. They are laid out in a single row on racks and have to have special attention during this time to make sure the grapes do not mold etc. The grapes lose water and the sugar concentrates. They are fermented to give a sweet tastes. The wine must be aged for two years however many wineries age for at least 5 years before the release. The alcohol content is usually 14-16%. This can be paired.
Recioto della Valpolicella: A dessert wine made from dried grapes.
As I mentioned earlier, Antonio and I had arrived in Valpolicella the first time going at the wrong time. Because of this, we spent a couple of hours exploring nearby roads, areas, etc. We discovered a magical little town called Bardolino.
Bardolino is on the southwest edge of Lake Garda. It is surrounded by vineyards. Bardolino is actually another popular DOC wine produced. Bardolino is a very clean city with a very nice walking boardwalk along the lake. It has a beautiful harbor with ducks and swans and the sunsets are amazing.
There are many little streets with cute boutiques and restaurants.
We have been to Bardolino a few times and have always been pleasantly surprised. We stumbled upon the Bardolino wine festival once.
Bardolino Wine Festival
There are many wine festivals that take place throughout Italy. Bardolino’s wine festival is definitely one of my favorite. We arrived and bought a few tickets. This gave us the yellow cup holder with a Bardolino wine glass. You then could do a variety of wine tastings. They were also serving some Valpolicellas and other local wines. During the day there were many wine and food booths set up. At night, there was a band and the city really came to life.
Bardolino during the holidays
I was pleasantly surprised with Bardolino during the holidays. There were beautiful wooden Christmas booths set up along the boardwalk. An ice skating rink was set up for kids. There was also a holiday train giving rides to children. The town was enchanting for the holidays.
Verona is the land of Romeo and Juliet and requires and entire blog post. I just wanted to mention that it is only 20 km from Bardolino very close. On one of our day trips we wine tasted Valpolicella and then headed to Verona for dinner and a walk in the city.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh la bella vita!!