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Valpolicella is a viticultural zone of the province of Verona, Italy, east of Lake Garda. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region of small vineyards north of the Adige is famous for wine production. The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from three grape varietals: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara.  A variety of wine styles are produced in the area, including a recioto desert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes. Most basic Valpolicellas are light, fragrant table wines in flavor. Valpolicella Classico is made from grapes grown in the original Valpolicella production zone. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year and has an alcohol content of at least 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore made with partially dried grape skins that have been left over from fermentation of Amarone or recioto. Winemaking in the region has existed since at least the time of the ancient Greeks. The name "Valpolicella" appeared in charters of the mid 12th century, combining two valleys previously thought of independently. Its stymology is unknown; it might derive from a Latin and Greek mixture for "Valley of many cellars." MASI Campofiorin 2007 has been given the 5-star classification by the Masi Technical Group. To find another vintage equally as good it is necessary to go back to 1997. In fact, the Masi Technical Group's judgements are very severe and reflect an opinion on the wine's organoleptic qualities strictly in line with climatic conditions, not just in the viticultural phase (growth and ripening) but also in the delicate appassimento phase. This is when the wine can be taken to the heights of excellence when the grapes acquire concentration and over-ripeness endows them with particular aromas and tastes.

Today we're going to talk about Veneto, in the northeast of Italy. Beautiful region, region of Venice. Very romantic place, as much as the region of Verona, another beautiful city. Verona, and the area surrounding Verona is the birthplace of one of the most Italian well-known red wines called Valpolicella.

Valpolicella comes from the Latin, which is a valley of many cellars translated in English. Basically because in this specific area, you have a lot of valleys. Generally, the elevation is not that high. But you're going to have a lot of cellars, basically almost like caves built right into the sides of the valley, where they used to keep the wine. And that's where the name originated itself.

When it comes to the production of wine, Valpolicella, it's one of the major production of wines for quantity. And it's based on three local grapes. You have Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara.

Now we're going to talk about Masi Campofiorin. Again, we're talking about Veneto, the northeast of Italy, specifically in the area of Valpolicella. Masi's always been one of the top producers in the area, one of the innovators, forward thinkers for the production of a Venetian wines. The name of the winery, Masi, comes from the name of one of the valleys located in the Valpolicella area.

This is an incredible wine because it's a style of wine that was created by Masi. Historically, Valpolicella used to be always a very simple wine. It's a wine to drink when it's very young, very fresh in talent, again, very clean. But then Masi decided to make a wine that was going to be something with more body, more character, definitely more structure. Something that you can also age for an extended period of time, if you want to.

So they created the so-called style Ripasso. Ripasso, in Italian, means to repast. So to do something again.

So what they did was after you make your Amarone, which is the other wine produced in the area-- it's a wine based on the same three varietals, so Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara-- but the grapes after the harvest, they're laid down on straw mats and they're dried for about three months. So by doing the drying style, you lose about 30% of the water. By losing the water, you have a higher sugar content, which eventually, during the fermentation, transforms into more alcohol, more body, more aromatics.

So after the Amarone has finished its fermentation, the juice is removed from the skins. And the fresh batch of Valpolicella is poured over the leftover skins and must of the previous batch of Amarone. So what that does gives a wine that historically has been always leaner, simpler on the palate a lot more body. Because whatever sugars are left in the skins, they're going to ignite a second fermentation. So by doing that, you're going to have a wine with more color, more intensive aromatics, definitely more alcohol, but also more structure on the palate.

It's got a nice ruby red color. Let's see on the nose. Generally, this wine is very distinctive on the nose. Immediately jumps like a black pepper note. But at the same time, a lot of dried fruit, lots of spices. And the dried fruit, it's very simple.

You definitely get it by doing the second fermentation on the leftover must of dry grapes. Definitely from those dried grapes, you're going to start getting a little more of the figs, especially dried figs, dates, dried plums, raisins. Let's give it a taste.

On the palate, it's very generous. It's a very well-made wine. Good balance. You definitely have this fruit forwardness, thanks to the style of the appassimento or repasso. And then you have this-- the alcohol content, it's quite high, so it's definitely a wine that you want to sit down and have a nice, nice meal with it.

I would accompany it with entrees. So definitely a full-fledged meal. I would go something, probably a local dish, it's called a pastissada con polenta, which is a classic made with beef or sometimes even horse meat, as is part of the culture there. Sometimes braised with some of the wine itself.

And eventually, after these many hours of cooking, the wine is poured over the fresh-made polenta. It's got a richness on the palate, almost like a concentration of flavor from the braising into the wine itself. I think a glass of Masi Campofiorin would be a perfect complement for that. Salute.

Italian Wines: Valpolicella
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