A few months ago I was at an Italian wine tasting event in Sydney and ended up chatting to a lovely lady named Anastasia who is the export manager for Allegrini Wine, a producer from the Valpolicella viticultural zone just north of Verona and part of the greater Veneto wine region of north-eastern Italy. I told her how I would be off visiting family in Ireland around June and would be taking a trip into Italy for a few days but I hadn’t yet chosen what wine region or wineries to visit.
For many years Valpolicella was known for making bulk table wine of ok but also average quality. I had been hearing for some time that this particular reputation was far out-dated and that they now produced some fine Italian wines. I’d just finished a master class where I tasted some seriously good Italian wine but it was the Amarone wines of Valpolicella that I was most impressed with so I was keen to find out more about the region.
Anastasia was clearly passionate not only about Allegrini but also the Valpolicella wine region. She even pulled out a huge map of the area and began running me through all the different hills and valleys that produced the finest wines. Anastasia had me sold on the region and after tasting the wine, especially their Amarone, I was pretty well close to sold on visiting Allegrini. Then to top it all off, Anastasia said she’d come and pick me up from Verona and drive me around the vineyards if I was keen. A chauffeur… what every wine drinker needs and wants! So that was it, wine region and winery chosen with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
So, just after 10am on a beautiful day in mid June Anastasia arrives at the hotel to pick my wife and I up and there’s 2 other people in the car. Yay, a party! It just meant more people to share the experience with and what an experience it was.
We drove about 20 minutes or so out of Verona and up to the top of a hill in the vineyards of Valpolicella. Sitting at the very top of this particular hill, the historic La Grola hill, is the 2.65 hectare / 6.5 acre La Poja vineyard. It seems like the top of the hill has been carved off leaving a flat triangular plateau that has been planted with vines, the red Corvina grape in particular. This tiny flat on the top of the hill, with soil that is about 80% chalk, produces Allegrini’s premium red wine “La Poja”. Anastasia had taken us straight to the top! I could say it was all down hill from here, but it wasn’t.
The views from the top of the hill were nothing short of spectacular. You could even see the Alps off in the distance between the vines. And a few metres down the hill on another plateau was the La Grola vineyard which produces another delicious wine, as I was to discover, one which has a bit of Shiraz thrown in for good measure.
We headed down the hill and up the adjacent mount to San Giorgio, an ancient village made out of the local stone, the same stone quarried nearby by the Romans to build the Colosseum in Verona (ahhh, so that may be why La Grola hill has had its top lopped off). From this fascinating village we were able to look across the valley to the La Poja and La Grola vineyards (see the photo above).
From San Giorgio we drove to the terraced Corvina vineyards that produce Allegrini’s Amarone, an utterly delightful wine crafted via the traditional drying and pressing method that dictates how this wine style must be made in Valpolicella; a process that creates a concentrated red drop. We then visited the massive drying centre before heading to Allegrini’s amazing tasting centre in Fumane, the Villa della Torre.
The mid 16th century Renaissance inspired Villa della Torre has too long a story to go into here but it’s worth looking up. Each of the rooms have a freaky fireplace with the least intimidating one being the angel adorned fireplace where we got to taste the red wines of Allegrini, actually, where we got to drink them, savour them.
Allegrini’s own chef brought us in a selection of Italian breads, cheeses and meats along with their own-made condiments to keep us well fed while we went through the wine… absolutely sensational. Time to tuck into those reds!
I won’t go into a lot of detail about the wines, I may do a dedicated tasting post down the track, but I can tell you that all five of their reds that we tasted were beautifully crafted for their style and I’d happily sit back and drink any of them any day.
So here they are in order tasted, pretty much representing the “oomph” of each wine…
The 2013 Valpolicella Classico, a lighter style wine but not too light and still packing loads of flavour and enjoyment that would probably suit a lighter meal while sipping outdoors. I’d even give this one a go with a BBQ. My wife really liked this wine and it was probably her favourite of the day.
The 2014 Palazzo Della Torre, a bit heavier and more on the medium end of red wine. I really enjoyed the soft finish of this drop and it seemed to go quite well with the cheeses and meats. A totally balanced wine and I believe it’s the most popular Allegrini red in the US.
The 2010 La Grola… this one was so beautifully scented that I just kept sticking my nose into it before sipping. Not only did it give off lovely berry aromas, it also had an obvious mocha scent that was very inviting. Although 80% Corvina, along with 10% Oseleta, the 10% Syrah was very obvious and gave the wine a very enjoyable complexity, and probably a fair bit of its spicy and earthy/mocha components.
The 2009 Amarone della Valpolicella... I loved it the first time I had it and this wine just popped that love up a notch. This was the wine that got me here and I happily topped my glass up after finishing the first one, not being greedy or anything. I’m glad Allegrini were feeding us because this high alcohol beast packs a punch… but a delicious one. It’s a super car… a show pony… it just stands out.
The 2008 La Poja Rosso del Veronese, there’s only about 14,000 bottles of this produced due to the small vineyard size so we were privileged to get to drink this one. Made of 100% Corvina it’s a powerfully intense wine that has needed those 6 years to develop. I couldn’t get my nose out of this one either, I was just drawn in over and over. It was a very well-balanced wine with loads of dark cherry flavours along with a hint of toast and spice that just lasted and lasted in the mouth after each sip. I think it would mature into an even more enjoyable wine over the next decade.
If you’ve got the coin, because you’d need it, the Amarone and the La Poja are so worth the experience… they’re just lovely. But the value for money wine is very much so the La Grola. It’s a very enjoyable wine offered within a price range most people could afford. The Classico and Pallazo Della Torre are good wines too and I’d happily sip on either at a café. There were four of us there and each one of us had a different favourite wine.
And as you can see, I got right into it! Like a pig in a trough. What a day!! It was a privilege.
Author: Conrad Grah