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by Bill Reddy

Cellar Classic Winery Series Italian Valpolicella

I'm a big fan of Valpolicella. I'm a pasta man. Love Italian cuisine. In my opinion nothing complements pasta like Valpolicella.

I find Valpolicella to be an easy drinking wine. I can drink it when it's young but it also matures gracefully. To be honest with you my Valpolicellas don't get much of a chance to mature. When my wine stock is low my young Valpolicella is always the first one that I reach for. It's that kind of wine. You can drink it at any time.

I really enjoy the Cellar Classic Winery Series so it was only natural that I would choose the Valpolicella kit as my first to make.

This kit weighs in heavy. It contains 16 litres of fresh juice and concentrate plus a 2 litre jar of wet grape skins. The skins have the consistency of jam and I found them a little awkward to work with. You are supplied with a cheesecloth bag which you have to spoon the skins into. This can be quite messy unless you have someone to hold the bag open for you. But I eventually discovered that if I spread the cheesecloth bag into a bowl before spooning the skins, it was much easier.

As I said, the kit is pretty heavy but there is a cutout in the top of the box where you can extend the spout while keeping the bag in the box. This makes it easier to pour the large bag of juice into your fermentor.

After the juice is poured into the bucket you have to top it up to 23 litres with water. Then you add the bag of grape skins and sprinkle the yeast on top. You have to push down the skins at least once a day during fermentation because they keep rising. I also used my spoon to squeeze the bag of wne skins against the side of the fermentor each time I pushed down the skins. I think by doing this I extracted more of the tannins and flavour from the skins.

The Cellar Classic Italian Valpolicella is ready to bottle in six weeks. I usually let my wines stand a little longer so it was about ten weeks before I bottled. It tasted great at bottling time. I could definitely detect the extra tannin imparted by the grape skins. It was a little rougher than the other Valpolicellas I had made but the potential was evident. When the corking was finished I was left with a half bottle of wine. I enjoyed this while reading my book. It went down good. I wanted to open another bottle but I resisted. I promised myself that I was going to let this wine stand for at least three months before sampling again.

Well, the truth is I couldn't keep my promise. I opened a bottle after one month. It was much smoother but there was a strong indication that this wine had a lot more to offer. The sad fact is that this wine was so good that I couldn't hold on to it for a year as I had planned. I drank my last bottle when it was six months old. And of course that last bottle was the best. We had it with lasagna and everyone wanted more but unfortunately there was no more.

What's next? I'm going to make another Cellar Classic Winery Series Valpolicella but this time I'll keep it for one year before sampling. I promise.