Elegance, romance and a surprise ending on a trip to the opera and a vineyard. A visit to Fumane di Valpolicella, home of Allegrini.

TheGrapeWizard @ Allegrini
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Dramatic skies over Villa del Torre

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The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country

So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to the open air opera festival in Verona. This was a trip that had been on the bucket list for quite some time, not just because of the world class opera but because Verona lies in the heart of the Valpolicella region, east of Lake Garda and west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region north of the Adige is famous for wine production and is home to Italy’s, most famous, most celebrated, biggest and boldest wine – Amarone.

We chose to stay in a most welcoming Agroturismo, atop a hill just south of Verona. It was a well established place attracting both local and tourist custom. With its own organic winery and well run kitchens, breakfast and lunch under the shade of the vines was a most agreeable experience.

So after a couple of days squeezing in everything Verona had to offer; culture, opera, gelato, long evening strolls around town doing “La Passeggiata” moving gracefully as only a Brit resembling A Man from U.N.C.L.E. can do – the morning finally came when it was time to look beyond the city walls.

The countryside around Verona has some of Italys oldest wine production, established in the 16th century to quench the growing thirsts of the Italian Nobility. Words such as Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolicella” litter the map. As a sight-seeing destination for wine buffs and amateurs alike, this region does not disappoint. Ancient terraces of vines, studded with cypresses and historic hilltop villages. Personally, I find this region rivals the more feted Tuscany in terms of prettiness.

Our destination was the picturesque village of Fumane di Valpolicella, home to a foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family who have been producing wine for over four hundred years. Its vineyards span 247 acres or 100 rugby pItches of vines. They produce their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja from four Vineyards each showcasing different styles; .Corte Giara is their young, easy drinking wines, Poggio al Tesoro produces more restrained, elegant wines and San Polo the perfect terroir for Sangiovese grapes producing wines with great finesse of fragrances and elegant flavours. Allegrini also purchased the Villa Della Torre estate in the heart of Fumane di Valpolicella which now serves as the official Headquarters of its operations

The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties. Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more. These grapes produce a variety of wine styles including a Recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.

Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.

The most basic Valpolicella Classicos are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest and not for ageing. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year with an alcohol content of 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore but made with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.

Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).

The afternoon of wine tasting at Villa Delle Torre kicked off with a tour of the house and gardens with a glass of the Estates cool, crisp Soave in hand before retiring to a barrel-vaulted wine tasting room for the main event – a tasting of five of their fantastic wines accompanied by hunks of salty aged Parmesan and fresh local bread.

GW Tasting Notes:

SOAVE 2017

Grapes : Garganega and Chardonnay
Straw yellow in colour and the nose reveals notes of white flowers followed by fresher jasmine flowers and a crisp and delicate citrus vein.

GW Score 4*

VALPOLICELLA 2010

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 70%, Rondinella 30%
Ruby red in colour, the nose shows notes of cherries, echoed by fresher hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Whilst young it is lively and playful – delicate later on.

GW Score 4*

PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2015

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Sangiovese 5%
This wine is elegant good aroma. Ruby red in colour with purple hues, it offers hints of raisins, vanilla, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Soft and velvety tannins with a long finish. The delightful aroma of raisined grapes is enhanced if the wine is served at 18° C in a large wine glass.

GW Score 5*

AMARONE 2014

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 5%, Oseleta 5%
Vintage 2014 began with a mild winter. From April onwards, the weather started to get progressively worse, culminating in a surprisingly cold and wet summer. Meticulous trimming and selection was necessary at harvest time to select grapes of sufficient quality. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are left to air dry at least until December and are then checked daily to ensure perfectly healthy grapes. This wine has structure and depth and shows mature fruit and spices – good acidity and smooth tannins.

GW Score 5*

Give this region a try and find something “just off the beaten track” that you just wouldn’t normally experience. Who wouldn’t like a christmas pudding in a wine or cracked black pepper smattered all over a dark red ! Valpolicella is is now a top ten region for me.

Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more 

Corvina Veronese, CorvinoneRondinella, and Molinara.

Music Pairing 

Herbie Hancock – Gershwin’s world

🍷 The Grape Wizard ratings 🍷

5* A must buy – don’t miss it.

4* Invest in this cheeky bottle for something different

3* ‘A middle of the road’ pleaser

2* Under average. Disappointing.

1* Do not go near this one – avoid at all costs.

Harry Megan : must have Wedding tipples !

This weeks article will be a short one. I’m currently in Champagne and Alsace conducting 2 interviews for the website and I thought it would be a good idea 💡 to publish a short piece on the big day for the reluctant royal 👑

Prince Harry and Megan get married tomorrow and there seems no better way to showcase British alcohol 🍷. Both wine and spirits.

We currently have 124 wine producers in 🇬🇧 and some are more prominant than others

Three that stand out for their style passion and popularity : Camel valleyHattingley Valley and Black chalk

£25.16 with a case price from camel valley

A fresh and fruity fizz, perfect for all celebrations. With English hedgerow scents and a touch of honey 🍯 on the palate.

 

A limited release, this wine is a classic blend of grapes from their vineyard. It has a fine mousse with soft approachable fruit with a delicate oak character.

£80 direct from producer.

The use of oak barrels provide this wine with depth and complexity. The result is a fruit driven, perfectly balanced, crisp English sparkling wine.

£35 direct from producer.

 

Links to producers can be seen above

If you don’t fancy sparkling wine why not try some cocktails 🍹 to while away the 10 hours of 📺 your about to watch.

What better way than to enjoy the “ginger cocktail” and the “absent father” cocktails

Cocktail 🍸 courtesy of Diffords

‘Dirty Harry ‘ ginger martini 🍸

Recipe

————

1½ shot vodka

2 unit London dry gin

Use your favourite gin if you would like !

2¼ shot Sake

¼ shot Monin Pure Cane sugar syrup

Method

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MUDDLE ginger in base of shaker. Add other ingredients, SHAKE with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.

Garnish with a ginger slice on rim

Lightly spiced with ginger, distinctly oriental in character

“Absent father ” cocktail 🍸courtesy of the drinks mixer.com

1 oz. Bulleit rye

0.25 oz. Dillon’s absinthe

0.1 oz. Fernet Branca

1.5 oz. cold brew coffee

0.25 oz. simple syrup

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake over ice. Cinnamon stick and mint for garnish.

So what ever your drinking this weekend. Make it a celebration of this couple. Enjoy the 🌞 and toast this couple to a long and happy life.

“And if your reading this Harry I’d be happy to have an interview with you, of course when things have quietened down. “

Just mail the wizard 🧙‍♂️

For the rest of my loyal followers please email me if you need any help or advice with choosing any 🇬🇧 wines

Email me

En Primeur 2017 – A GrapeWizard insight!

Every time at this time of the year we see hoards of wine buyers and wine critics trekking down to the Gironde in Bordeaux – Moleskine in hand , full of previous years grape notes and baguette stuffed full of ham and cheese – 🥪 Ready for the onslaught that is Bordeaux En Primeur

buyer-debate-2

And Them !!

Ready to taste arguably the worlds best wines. En Primeur is a funny old thing.

It’s like buying a flat or house off plan (wine is in the barrel and a price is set for investors and consumers to purchase. Months later the wine is placed in bottles and the price is re-assessed.) In all this time critics and producers rate the wines – influencing the price up or down. Do you buy or choose something else. What is the best Chateau for the year and can i get my hands on it ?

 

Want to see my last article on 2016 ?

 (Click here to see 2016 En Primeur) 

 

Wine critics and Producers normally have a consensus on the very best years (1982, 1990 2000 2005 2009 2010, 2016 ) . These are the best years to get your wines from – but it will cost you !!

A few years ago Lafite Rothschild was trading at £22000 a case. Some months later it was down to £14000. – if you were an investor that was bad news. It shows how much is at stake if you make the wrong choice or buy at the peak of the value price. Chateau Pavie, by comparison was raised in the upper echelons of ‘Class A’  St Emillion classification (explained) – as a result bottle price went from. £300 to £1300. For the investor this is good news for the consumer not so.

The secret is finding out which producer has excelled in that particular year.

2017 was not without its problems though as various wine critics have stated :

 

Will Lyons(L) of Berry Bros has stated that the “wines are lively and fresh and are possibly not of the quality of 2015 or 16” (9/10’s in the wine world – 2005 and 2000 would be a 10) Bordeaux yield (grapes grown) is also down by 40% on 2016 equating to a loss of 300 million bottles.

Jancis Robinson (M)highlights that there was a small crop this year (supported by Lyons ) that was at least 45% down on last year, that the growing season was “pretty good” but that 80% of the top wines from the best producers were not impacted by frost. Very good year for Pauillac, St-Julien, St-Estèphe. Bulk wines went up and top wines prices stayed static..

She believes that almost all of the top and very good wines are not affected. Good for potential investors.
JamesSuckling.com (R) states “The quality of 2017 is much better than most people might expect… it’s not in the same league as the outstanding 2016 and 2015 vintages.”

He scored some of the wines from the great names of Bordeaux – 96 to 99 points. The 2017 vintage underlines that vintage variations among the top wines of Bordeaux

GW Tip

So you have to be very careful when choosing to invest or to enjoy the wines by comparable years. So safely assume 2017 to be a 7 or 8. Kind of really good but not exceptional or outstanding. Not as good as the last two years but no far off.

Chateau Andulet and Chateau Climens wiped out complete stock and have stated that no production occured. A result of the frost.

All of this seems quite negative news there is some positive -the frost that seems to have attacked so much of Bordeaux seems to have affected only Côtes de Castillion-Blaye,  St Emillion and Pomerol. Only small areas and not the big swathes of the heartland of Bordeaux

The frost seems to have crossed the Gironde and affected up to 1 km inland. See Gavin Quinneys map below

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CouGavin Quinney

Please click on each map to see how close the frost got on the 2017 growing season . Any vineyards that are 1km from the river are vunerable to damage. Be cautious .

 

View the map below and use the red amber green spots to warn you of what to not invest in and what your safe with !

bordeaux-wine-map

 Avoid Côtes de Castillion blaye and lesser top chateausred-horse-dot-m_2778460a

Chateaus close to the gironde (within 1km)- See Below

Grand Puy Ducasse (St Estephe)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Coufran (haut Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Malacasse (Haut Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Delamarque (Haut- Medoc)avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Ch. Leovill – Poyferre (choose wisely) avatars-000076718647-ptllos-original

Green GreenCircle-56a87e193df78cf7729e54d9   Click here to see a list of top Chateaus largely unaffected by the frost

So vineyards that fall into the red dot are producers to very carefully consider not investing in

Vineyards in the Orange dot fall in the danger zone of the frost of 2017 – research very carefully

Vineyards that fall in the green dot require very little research as 80% of the top chateaus had no problems whatsoever.

So the most important thing to understand is what wines are investable what regions are the right regions for climate over the growing season and which ultimately will mature over 10+ years. So far 2016 and 15 are better than 17 and for that reason demand will not be as high as the previous 2 years.

d’Yquem 201798-99
Latour 201798-99
Cheval Blanc 201797-98
Château Suduiraut 201797-98
Cos d’Estournel 201797-98
Ducru Beaucaillou 201797-98
L’Eglise Clinet 201797-98
Lafite Rothschild 201797-98
Lafleur 201797-98
Margaux 201797-98

taken from James Sucklings website En Primeur 2017

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So just by giving two examples the consensus is not universal – it is merely subjective. If i highlight 6 critics you would probably find different conclusions to the vintages .

If  everyone rated exactly the same that would be boring !

If you keep a close eye on the market and the ongoings with potential sales of Chateau’s classifications and what producers are doing  you can get a fair indication of what might happen. That is  the time to invest. In the last year I have invested £2500 and made £500 on that  Most of the wines have not matured yet or are on the cusp of the maturing window. Not bad for a beginner….

GW Investment tips

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2017 Leoville Barton(no prices released as yet) (2016’s price was £370 /6 outstanding value

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2017 Decru- Beaucaillou (no prices released as yet) (2016 £142.00×6 =£852 )

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2017 Chateau La Fleur-Petrus(no prices released as yet)(2016 £158×6 = £948)

If your feeling brave ………..

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2017 Chateau Angelus, St Emillion (no prices released as yet)(2016 £298×6 =  £1788)

and the outsider

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2017 Chateau Clinet (no prices released as yet)(2016 £78×6= £468)

Whether you have a preference for one wine critic or another the best thing a wine investor/consumer is have some affinity with their chosen critic. It is important that you believe in the tastes and experience of your chosen taster. Whether it be status  or the way he/she writes one thing is important is that you have that relationship.  Hundreds of critics exist out there  some notable examples are :

What ever your choice do it because you like them !

If you are going to invest in this year , be cautious. There are a lot of fabulous regions waiting to be discovered  – not just bordeaux

Washington Wineries, USA

Oregon Wineries, USA

Alsace wines , EU

Wines of Great Britain, UK

All these areas offer good value for money and have a diverse range of tastes and styles. something for everyone. Explore and transport. Its so cheap to do so

Remember its your money Have fun with it . This could be the new pension . Wine is in demand .

Wine Investment

Stick to a few rules and you can’t go wrong !

Enjoy the Journey !!!

GW