A principal factor in teaching about wine is the primary distinguishing characteristic between old and new world wines: Old world wines almost always emphasize “place of origin,” whereas new world wines almost always emphasize the “grape varieties” in the wine. I subscribe neither good, nor bad attributes as a result of this difference, it just – is.
It’s important to note, though that this difference has been the rallying cry for many wine makers in Italy, especially those in Tuscany seeking a better product, who for decades railed against the law to produce what are known as “Super Tuscan” wines of peerless quality. Bending, or changing the rules was simply not the case in Tuscany, nor anywhere else in Italy for that matter. This devotion to the rules, which is eerily Catholic in its reverence to the local consorzio del vino, drove many fine wine makers to strongly support the passage of the Indicazione Geografica Tipica, or IGT classification in 1992.
As I said, the rigidity of Italian wine law was not only the bane of the poor folks in Tuscany, every other region suffered, including the Veneto. Enter the Allegrinis, a long-standing family whose tradition and connection to the Valpolicella region dates back to the 16th century. Franco, Marilisa and the late Walter Allegrini inherited the mantle of fine wine production from their late father Giovanni, long considered one of the best wine makers in Italy. Deeply rooted in the traditions of Valpolicella, the Allegrinis knew the importance of innovation when it came to producing world-class wine.
I fell in love with my first bottle of Palazzo della Torre with the 1985 vintage. The wine was spectacular – complex with seemingly infinite layers of flavor that left me in awe. At that time the wine was classified as a DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore. I continued to enjoy the occasional bottle now and then, but follow-on vintages lacked the magic of that 1985. The patriarch of the family, Giovanni passed away suddenly in 1983 and Franco, Marilisa and Walter picked up the reins. From the start, this new triumvirate felt that the wine could be better, but the constraining rules for membership in the Valpolicella DOC preempted perfection. Finally, after years of not being able to adapt the laws to accommodate a more innovative approach to Valpolicella, Allegrini broke from tradition and declassified the Palazzo della Torre from DOC Valpolicella status to Veronese IGT in 1997. At the time, the claim was that stifling wine laws prevented the family from making the best wine possible, so they sought refuge in the less-confining IGT classification. With the IGT, Allegrini was free to experiment with the inclusion of different grape varieties, different blended concentrations and less traditional vinification techniques. The strict requirements imposed by the place of origin that was Valpolicella.
By 1997, Palazzo della Torre had become a stalwart of quality, so there was no real concern that the change in classification would impact its popularity. The ensuing decades have reinforced the correctness of this assumption. Personally, I re-embraced an annual purchasing strategy starting with the 1997 vintage, noting that the 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005 were all fantastic wines. As an aside, The Wine Spectator included the 2008 vintage on its most recent Top 100 list. I’m not surprised.
The most recent vintage I sampled is the 2007 and I can safely say that it is upholding this wine’s fine reputation. The 2007 wine is a charming blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese, grown on the mostly clay and chalk soils of the Palazzo della Torre vineyard in Fumane di Valopolicella. The vineyard is approximately 64 acres (26.39 hectares) and was planted between 1962 and 1989, and employs the Pergola Trentina trellising system. The grapes are harvested by hand in two waves. During the second fortnight of September, grapes selected for drying, ala Amarone are harvested. During the second fortnight of October, grapes that are to be vinified immediately are harvested. The first wave of grapes are dried until January, then de-stemmed, pressed and vinified. The second wave of grapes are de-stemmed, pressed and vinified immediately after harvest. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with full Malolactic fermentation to soften the wine. Each wine is aged for 15 months in second-use oak barriques, blended together for another 2 months and then finally bottle-aged for a remaining 7 months. The process is akin to the Vino Ripasso style, except in the case of the Palazzo della Torre, the wine is a blend of actual Amarone-like wine, instead of merely resting on the lees of Amarone wine for several months.
All this for a mere $19.99 average retail per bottle. Did I mention I didn’t waste any time buying a case. Especially since finding the 2008 just got increasingly difficult with the Top 100 designation…
My tasting note:
Perfumed nose with dried fruit, spice and floral hints – lovely. Medium-to-full bodied with moderate acidity and firm, dry tannins – well balanced. Jammy palate with raisin, blackberry and dark chocolate notes – Wow! Long finish with spicy complexity – smooth. Drinking well now and should improve with another 3 to 5 years in bottle – great value.