A Luscious Red Wine from the Veneto

The 3rd wine in our blind tasting of 4 red wines at NY Vintners was particularly attractive and liked by all 7 participants. First there was the deep, dark purple hue. It is difficult to resist beauty! Then there was the aroma—smoke, new leather, and preserved plums. One of those seductive bouquets that suggest good things will happen when you taste the wine. I am happy to report that the wine delivered as much on the palate as it offered to the eyes and the nose.

Superbly concentrated fruit, mouth coating richness, balanced by just the right amount of fresh acidity and a really long finish. This was not one of those soft fruit bombs that taste great for the first 3 sips then get cloying. The lovely acidity suggested Italy. Indeed the wine turned out to be a Valpolicella, the famous red wine region about 50-60 miles west of Venice. For many years the typical red wine from the Veneto was pleasant, inexpensive and forgettable. But in the last decade, several wineries have kicked up the quality notch 3 or 4 levels. One of the ways they have done this is by adopting the technique used to make the regions’ most famous wine: Amarone. The grapes from which Amarone is made are dried on mats until they begin to become raisined. This concentrates the juice and raises the sugar levels. By employing this technique judiciously with a modest proportion of the normal grapes, the best producers can make a Valpolicella with more concentration than the regular version but without the residual sugar and very high alcohol levels of Amarone itself—and at a much lower price I might add.

The outstanding example of this modern approach that we tasted is from a winery called Campo Prognai. Italians like to give subtitles to their wines. In this case it is called Latium. Latium is the Latin name for the vineyard region which was originally conquered and planted by the Romans and now owned by the Morini family, producers of the range of Campo Prognai wines. Back to the wines’ roots so to speak! Of course the story would not be interesting if the wine were not so good. But it is delicious and affordable—indeed it tastes quite a bit better than its retail price. Who does not love a real value? This is a big wine which cries out for roasted meats and game birds. It will also go well with full flavored cow’s milk cheese. Highly recommended.

Bob Millman

Latium 2006 Valpolicella Superiore Campo   $28.99

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