Valpolicella is the name of a geographical area comprising three valleys crossed by the Negrar, Marano and Fumane streams, which flow down from the Lessini mountains into the Adige river. The area defined as "classica" is the oldest of the wine-making districts, offering fertile soil in a lush, full landscape once described as "the garden of Verona". The original centre was extended over time and today the area of provenance encompasses the hills near Verona that run from Sant'Ambrogio alla Valpantena to the valley of Cazzano di Tramigna, an abundant and charming area where vines grow alongside cherries and olive groves.
Ernest Hemingway defined this wine as « light, dry, red and sweet, just like the home of an agreeable brother ».
Travelling much further back through the ages to the fifth century B.C., however, many references to Valpollicella are made as "Retia", and the wine produced from its soil "Rético" - a wine made from dried grapes mentioned for its undisputed quality in classical works of literature by Virgil, Martial, Pliny the Elder and Columella. It would appear that passito wines or "recioti" were also described by Cassiodorus, secretary to the Ostrogothic King Theodoric (fifth century) who described it as "Acinatico". The grapes used to make the wines come from the Rondinella, Molinara and Corvina veronese species of vine, in percentages ranging from 20 to 40% for the first, from 5 to 25% for the second and from 40 to 70% for Corvina. Other grapes such as the Negrara, Barbera and a few others are used in a percentage from 5 to 15%.
Wines included in this D.O.C designation are: Valpolicella, Valpolicella classico, Valpolicella superiore, Valpolicella classico superiore, Valpolicella Valpantena, Valpolicella Valpantena superiore, Recioto della Valpolicella, Recioto della Valpolicella classico, Recioto della Valpolicella spumante, Recioto della Valpolicella Valpantena, Recioto della Valpolicella Valpantena spumante, Amarone della Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella classico, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena and Amarone della Valpolicella riserva.
More recent modifications to the official guidelines state that the Valpolicella, Valpolicella classico, Valpolicella superiore, Valpolicella classico superiore, Valpolicella Valpantena and Valpolicella Valpantena superiore wines may be re-fermented from the skins left over from the preparation of Recioto wines from Valpolicella and/or Amarone della Valpolicella. These wines may use the addition designation of "ripasso".
Amarone - a wine that has become very popular and that is well appreciated around the globe - has close ties to Recioto. It is ruby red, tangy and dry, with bitter tones acquired after fermentation.
The Strada del Vino (Wine Road) proposes many itineraries through a number of towns, which are suitable for walking, riding bicycles or mountain-bikes. They span captivating landscapes which, together with the vineyards, are enchanting and delightful attractions in these valleys. Valpolicella preserves the marks of its history in monuments and buildings that can be fully appreciated even today, and that provide a perfect illustration of the passage of time in Romanic rural churches. Wonderful examples are the San Floriano and San Giorgio "Inganapoltron" churches, where recent excavations have uncovered the original structure of Roman temples.