Throughout the course of Italian history, there are many wines that have reached immense popularity all over the world due to their quality and the amount of dedication that is displayed by their producers in creating them. Names like Chianti, Barolo and Prosecco are known throughout the world and some of the greatest winemakers in the world have been creating these drinks for decades, if not centuries.
Many of the producers of Recioto Della Valpolicella have been doing the same for years, to the point where it is now one of the most famous sweet wines to ever emerge from the country, even if it hasn’t quite reached the heights, at least internationally, of the other wines that were previously mentioned.
That is why here we will be taking a little bit of time to look at the history of this wine and why it is starting to really make waves throughout Italy and, hopefully, the world.
The Early History
Unlike some of the more famous vintages to emerge from Italy, Recioto Della Valpolicella is a fairly new wine that was created as winemakers in the region struggled to find ways to incorporate more body and depth into their wines.
Made using dried grapes, the end product is a stunning sweet red wine that is quite unlike anything that you will taste from any other region, especially when presented in the foaming Spumante form that is just as likely to divide opinions as it is to wow the people who have the chance to drink it.
The men and women behind the wine succeeded in creating a wine of intense flavour and complexity, marking it out from anything else produced in the region in the process while offering Valpolicella another claim to fame.
The creation of Recioto Della Valpolicella was not just one of passion and desire to try something new either. One of the biggest challenges facing winemakers in the western region of Veneto, where Recioto Della Valpolicella is created, is the cool climate that often results in the grapes of the region creating wines that struggle to match the depth and complexity of their neighbours. This cool weather also leaves some of the grapes themselves struggling to reach maturation, which could have resulted in a lot of wasted produce if steps had not been taken to remedy the issue.
This led to the producers in the region working with their grapes in a much different way to what many may have been accustomed to if they had visited some of the warmer wine regions in Italy. In an effort to extract the natural sugars and aromas out of their grapes, the producers of Recioto Della Valpolicella dry their grapes immediately after harvesting them, which serves to remove the water in the grapes while still maintain the sweetness and flavour required to craft truly great wines.
This results in the creation of grapes that essentially contain concentrated versions of the flavours that the region is known for, which could then be used to create wines that are far more indicative of the quality of the grapes themselves, rather than wines that are affected by the cool climate of the region.
Invented many years ago, this technique proved to be such a success that it has practically become the standard practice of many of the producers in the Veneto region. In fact, Amarone, which is another of the great Italian red wines, is often made using the technique of drying grapes before extracting their flavour.
Modern History And The Process
Of course, those techniques still needed to be refined before we could reach the level of quality that we see in Recioto Della Valpolicella in the modern era. Today, the wine is made primarily by using grapes of the local Corvina variety, with many producers also choosing to make use of Corvinone, which is something of an offshoot.
The grapes will be harvested in whole bunches and then placed into drying rooms that feature very warm temperatures and extremely low humidity in order to start the process of drying them out so that they are ready for use. This drying out process can take anywhere between three weeks and three months, depending on the producer and the quality of the grapes that have been harvested. This technique, incidentally, evolved from the older technique of placing the grapes on straw mats and putting them in the warmest part of the house.
Once this drying process has been completed, the winemaker must still take care to ensure they actually extract what is needed out of the wines. The grapes will be gently pressed to ensure that nothing is lost, with the must being fermented until it reaches the balance of sweetness and alcoholic strength that Recioto Della Valpolicella has become known for.
From there begins the ageing process. Most producers will place the wine in oak barriques, though some still choose to put them in the traditional large botti that were used by older producers of Recioto Della Valpolicella. Regardless of the barrels used, the wine itself will be aged for at least two years before it is bottled, creating a wine that is completely different to practically any other red wine in Italy.
Interestingly, the process for creating Recioto Della Valpolicella is still evolving. One of the older issues of this process was the fact that it created a by-product of dried grape skins. While many producers would simply discard such skins, those in Valpolicella saw an opportunity to make their wines even more representative of the region that they come from.
By using something that has been named the ripasso technique, modern Recioto Della Valpolicella producers will take this dried skins and add them to standard Valpolicella wines, putting them through a second fermentation in the process. This serves to add more of the valuable tannins and compounds from thee grapes into the wines, resulting in the production of Valpolicella Ripasso.
Everything about Recioto Della Valpolicella points to the ingenuity and creativity of modern Italian winemakers. This means that, if for no other reason, you should give the wine a try just to appreciate the hard work, endeavour and innovation that has gone into its creation.