Downtown Italian dining destination, Constantine, was buzzing with pre-dinner service energy. There, I had the pleasure to meet Melissa Pulvermacher from Cru Wine Merchants, who introduced me to Jane Glees from Cantine Aldegheri, a family winery located in the Valpolicella Classico area of Veneto and has been making clean, elegant, and approachable wines since 1956.
Jane quizzed me quite immediately.
“What does Valpolicella mean?” she asked.
It took me a second, and I responded with “valley of… many cellars?”
Jane nodded with glee.
Valpolicella is home to some of the most recognizable classic Italian reds, fresh and friendly Valpolicella DOC, often rustic Valpolicella Ripasso and the iconic Amarone della Valpolicella.
The white wines, however, are a little more elusive, only making a cameo in Ontario every now and then. I glanced over Jane’s shoulder and noticed two bottles of whites in the line up and smiled.
I smiled, because the white wines of Valpolicella challenge our perception of Amarone producers – always carrying an air of seriousness – at least the ones I have encountered. Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover the more genial side Amarone wineries, as much as I was eager to discover their often-dramatic flagship reds, and so I did, through the two whites and the three reds they shared with me that evening.
Wine 1: 2021 Aldegheri ‘La Rune’ Custoza DOC – $18.95
Aldegheri’s ‘La Rune’ gives off good vibrations, ready to lounge in its favourite chair and have a good time. Yet amidst its jolly prancing around, the wine still maintains its elegant composure, because beneath that colourful label lies a wine that is as clean, brilliant, and pure as the winemaker’s (or should that be alchemist’s?) intention. This is a blend of seven grapes after all.
Bright summer fruits, fresh tropical notes marked by an attack of fresh peeled mangoes, crushed apricots, followed by layers of yellow delicious, lemon flesh, and a touch of honeysuckle. A serious bargain at about $18.95. Order by July 2022.
Grape varieties: Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Fruilano, Malvasia, Riesling Italico, Cortese, and Chardonnay. On average, 30-year-old vines in the southeast of Lake Garda.
Wine 2: 2021 Aldegheri ‘Cà Perla’ Lugana DOC
The good energy of La Rune continue to linger on my palate when we move on to wine number two, a fashionable bottle in a chartreuse outfit.
Cà Perla, Italian for “House of Pearls”, unapologetically suggests elegance, and elegant she is!
This rather graceful white wine is Aldegheri’s interpretation of Lugana DOC, Lake Garda’s gem. The grapes went through appassimento – common in the region, where they are left to dry for some time prior to vinification. The result is a nice peachy wine with great concentration. Elegance juxtaposed by an inexplicable fullness, helped by an impressive texture.
Calling it the House of Pearls sounds about right. Why buy a pearl necklace when you can enter the House of Pearls for $26? Order by July 2022.
Grape varieties: A blend of handpicked late-harvest Trebbiano di Lugana (90%) and Chardonnay (10%).
Here comes the bread and butter of Valpolicella.
Wine 3: 2019 Aldegheri Valpolicella DOC Santambrogio
If Bourgogne AOC is to Burgundy, then Valpolicella DOC is to Veneto. Period.
Hailing from the Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella commune in Veneto just 120km west of Venice and about 15 km northwest of Verona, this Valpolicella is classic and approachable. I told Melissa that it reminds me of fruit roll ups and childhood dreams.
Crunchy fruits and confection nuances ascend to red violet fields, then a subtle taste of olive puts our feet back on the ground. The tannins are present, yet subtle. Sure, we can consume it on its own, but if antipasti were involved, there are no reasons to be mad either. $19.95. Available now.
Grape varieties: A classic Valpolicella blend dominated by Corvina (65%), followed by Rondinella, Molinara, and some old native varieties.
Wine 4: 2019 Aldegheri Valpolicella Classico Ripasso DOC Santambrogio
A Valpolicella coming of age or a baby Amarone? Well, maybe both.
Ripasso means “to repass”, meaning the wine is refermented on the pomace, in the case of this wine, of classic Recioto and Amarone made in the appassimento process.
Aldegheri’s Valpolicella Ripasso displays fleshy raspberry and black plums, a touch of sage and oregano, a hint of leather at the end of the olfactory journey and a savoury character that made me salivate. The olive note found in the Valpolicella echoes here, but significantly more prominent. Great rustic texture influenced by the time it spent in large wooden barrels. A classic, textbook Ripasso, and a perfect ‘drink now’ baby Amarone. $29.95. Order by July 2022.
Grape varieties: Corvina, Covinone, Rondinella, and other indigenous varieties – harvested from vineyards just northwest of Verona in the hills above Saint’Ambrogio in the heart of the classic Valpolicella area.
Wine 5: 2016 Aldegheri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Santambrogio
Drum roll…… Amarone!
Would you agree that it is rightfully one of Italy’s most important red wines?
This is an elegant Cru Amarone that sports a bronze halo, and wears a perfume that smells like crushed black cherries peppered with sumac, dates, and cocoa, that later reveals a hint of leather and a touch of liquorice.
Made in a rather restrained style with fine, silky tannins, this wine checks all the boxes of a red red wine. A classic expression of Amarone della Valpolicella with a great range of flavours and remarkable concentration.
All it needs is a rack of lamb. Or perhaps, barbecued merguez hotdogs in the backyard next to a campfire? Available now at $56.95. Perfect bargain.
Grape varieties: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, other locally grown varieties.
For those who’s interested in something extra, extra special, Melissa informed me of an Aldegheri Cantinetta del Bacco Amarone Riserva 2009 that is currently available via the LCBO. Well, although I haven’t quite tasted it, at $99, it is definitely a steal.
Thank you for the flight.
(All wines are scored out of a potential five apples)