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Article – La Dolce Vita a Allegrini

October 1st, 2010

Some more Risotto Sir?

What a week, what a trip, and what an obscene amount of risotto consumed over a short period of time. I am of course talking about my trip to Italy with Liberty Wines, the Italian importer I work with. They brought a handful of their favourite customers to the Veneto area of Italy. This strict selection criteria aside, I still managed to get invited, and I was very quick to respond in the affirmative. I was tempted to register a letter with this acceptance in case they suddenly realised they meant to invite someone else. Either way, I was delighted to go and meet some of the most iconic winemakers in Italy. Over the next few articles I intend to introduce some of these people, their wines, history and their status in the wonderful world of the vine. Our base for most of the trip was Verona, and the regions we visited included Valpolicella, Lugana, Alto Adige, Pressano, Soave and fabled Rosazzo hill within Friuli. I am hopeful that the importer will offer me, and by default you, the consumer, some incentive to showcase these wines. At the very least, you will have a chance to taste them in Red Nose Wine, but I am confident we’ll be able to wrangle an introductory price as well.

For everyone who is feeling a little bit nauseated by my joyous description of this freebie trip, before you run to the local supermarket for a case of industrial wine, you need to know a number of facts. We had to be in Dublin airport for 5.15 in the morning. We went straight to the vines and didn’t let up for the 3 days. The turnaround when we finally got back to the hotel in the afternoon was between 10 and 20 minutes. There were some serious choices to make in the short window. Would it be a shower, a shave or a quick look at the best that Italian TV has to offer? Tick tock, tick tock. The bus is leaving.

 

The 'Wine Gang' entering Palazzo della Torre

The 'Wine Gang' entering Palazzo della Torre

Icons

The first wines I would like to introduce are ones that already have a following in Red Nose Wine. For those of who you know them and for those of you who don’t, let me introduce The Allegrini family from Valpolicella. They have not one but two icon wines, and while I sell La Grola, I only got to taste La Poja for the first time on this visit. If you are going to taste a famous wine for the first time, then why not taste it beside the owner of the vineyard. In this case it was the charming Silvia Allegrini. I had met Silvia at a tasting in Dublin briefly, but it was great to visit the famous vines that make the famous wine.

Silivia Allegrini and her grapes

Silivia Allegrini and her grapes

Is Val Policella named after Val Doonican?

I think a little background into the type of wines we are talking about is called for. Basic Valpolicella is made primarily from the Corvina (but also Rondinella, and Molinara) grape and at its purest will be vibrant and taste of black cherries and have an innate freshness. They are round and supple wines that when done well are very approachable and enjoyable in their youth. Allegrini’s single vineyard wines are not technically part of the DOC, and embrace the freedom of IGT classification. This means that Palazzo della Torre and the iconic La Grola can do as they please and reflect the purest expressions of the vineyards. To go and visit the actual vines makes this statement so much easier to comprehend. As the group stood looking down on the vines from the top the hill after a very winding road, the darkness fell and the temperature dropped. We knew it was time to move this party to the restaurant, and a sleepy little village housed an unassuming eatery whose name escapes me now. You must remember I was up since 4am, having visited and tasted a number of vineyards and was now on my 9th course of food of the day and my 25th different wine. It was a wonder I was still alive. This restaurant’s name is known outside of this village however; as it is here that the River Cafe people (of London restaurant fame) learned how to make fresh pasta all those years ago. The best of the wines were paired with some fantastic food. Even though I was up at a ridiculous hour to catch the flight and was getting tired, it’s not a bad way to spend a Monday.

Dinner with Silvia in the restaraunt with no name

Dinner with Silvia in the restaraunt with no name

The pasta melted in the mouth - fresh as a daisy

The pasta melted in the mouth - fresh as a daisy

Do you dry your grapes?

The true superstar wines of the region are those known as Amarone della Valpolicella. This is a type of wine that many people claim to like, but are unwilling to buy. Also, the wines are made a little differently to normal red wine. As we were there the harvest was in full swing and the some of the grapes were picked. Rather than start fermentation now, the wines are placed on small plastic trays and huge fans are used to dry them in a big warehouse. This goes on until January and the sugars in the grapes are concentrated and a lot of the water is lost – the grapes become raison like. The wines are also aged for a number of years and when eventually released are high in alcohol (but very balanced when done right) and offer bitter sweet chocolate, raisin, dried fig flavours. Bottle aging can help these monsters of wines. Allegrini’s Amarone is regarded as one of the very best. Their other icon wine is a single vineyard Valpolicella known as La Poja. It is 100% Corvina and once again taken out of the DOC. This is an increasing trend among the very best winemakers in France and Italy. Rather than be restricted by ancient rules, they are relinquishing their appellation (or DOC) status and producing wines that they believe best reflect the land.  

The grapes are picked and dried until January

The grapes are picked and dried until January

A Tasting missed ( except by me )

For those of you who would like to taste these wines in the presence of Sylvia Allegrini, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that she is doing a tasting lunch in Ballymaloe House and a dinner in the Cliff House in Ardmore. You will get to hear her describe the wines and you will enjoy them with some top class food. She is passionate about her wines in that wonderful Italian way and you should not miss an opportunity like this. So what’s the bad news you are wondering? Well, by the time the paper comes out on Wednesday, she will be on a plane back to Italy. The tastings are planned for Tuesday September 28th. Don’t worry, if you call into me in Red Nose Wine I will tell you all about it and show you some photos and videos. Also, we will have a very special promotion on the wines. 15% OFF these wines for the week… Hurry up, the bus is leaving. Tick Tock Tick Tock

Allegrini lunchmenu at Ballymaloe House

Allegrini lunchmenu at Ballymaloe House

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Silvia Allegrini

Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine and Silvia Allegrini

( There are much more photos available on Facebook and we will be posting video very soon )

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For anyone who would like more information and can’t make it into the shop, please feel free to contact me at info@rednosewine.com

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Paul (http://www.pauljkiernan.wordpress.com) writes:

I’ve only been on one wine junket but, from that experience, I can support Gary’s claim that it’s not as easy as it looks. Early starts, more drinking and eating than feels good, too many new people (for me anyway).

It’s still good though!

This post has really put me in the mood for Amarone, which I haven’t had since last winter.

Gary Gubbins (http://www.rednosewine.com) writes:

I am still wondering who is going to pay my gym bill

I need to lose a stone after the trip

Still goo though, like you say

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