Pietro Clementi, Valpolicella Classico Superiore
Pietro Clementi, Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Pietro Clementi, Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Veneto, Italy 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$36.00

Pietro Clementi, Valpolicella Classico Superiore

When we conduct our SommSelect panel tastings, which usually feature a long conference table groaning with bottles, it is often the most “humble” wines that take home the trophies. Such was the case with Pietro Clementi’s Valpolicella Superiore: This humbly priced 2019 delivered more aromatic complexity, energy, persistence, and pure pleasure than scores of reds (yes, including many fancy French ones) costing much more. And if a wine offers everything one could ask for at a sub-$30 price point, what do we do? We get it up on this site as quickly as possible. If you haven’t had a Valpolicella in a while, Clementi’s rendition will rekindle the relationship. What a magnificent value—do not miss this.

It should also be emphasized that this is a resolutely “traditional” style of Valpolicella—a dry, fragrant red in a crisp, medium-bodied package. It is not a more viscous ripasso style beefed up via contact with the leftover solids of an Amarone fermentation. Because “traditional” Valpolicellas of the past were also somewhat rustic (to put it politely), the ripasso style became the “go-to” for many in search of riper, cleaner fruit flavors in Valpolicella. Clementi does also make a ripasso of its own, which you’ll likely be encouraged to seek out after trying this extremely well-made Classico Superiore: There’s plenty of ripe, clean cherry fruit, courtesy of the local Corvina grape (65% of the blend). There’s no ripasso, and you don’t miss it one bit.

The Clementi family has deep roots in the Valpolicella region, and especially the village of Marano, where estate namesake Pietro Clementi served as mayor in the late-1960s. It was during that time that he acquired the 20-hectare wine estate that now bears his name. Pietro had grown up in the Valpolicella region, and while he had trained as a lawyer and moved to Verona for a time, he returned to his hometown and got into the wine game.

Marano is among the villages that comprise the historic heart of the Valpolicella appellation, known as the “Classico.” It’s a series of narrow valleys that amble down towards Verona from the Monte Lessini, a section of the Eastern Alps that forms a natural border with the Trentino region. At the western edge of the Valpolicella Classico are the Adige River and Lake Garda, with vineyards spread over the hills of the Fumane, Marano, and Negrar Valleys, all of which run south to the Adige, which makes an abrupt turn east at Verona on its way to the Adriatic. Soils are a mix of sandy clay and limestone, and vineyard altitudes can be significant, as at Clementi, where vines climb past 400 meters of elevation in some places.

Now mostly overseen by Pietro’s children, Bernardino, Maria, and Maurizio, the Clementi estate uses no synthetic chemicals in their vineyards, and all fruit is harvested by hand. This Classico Superiore bottling is typically harvested in mid-October and is driven by 65% Corvina, supported by 30% Rondinella and a dash of Molinara and Oseleta (all traditional local varieties). It aged 18 months in used, 50-hectoliter French oak casks, and then spent another year resting in bottle before its commercial release.

And while there’s a nice element of earth and underbrush-y savor to this wine, it is also quite plush and beautifully perfumed, with enough saturated red and black cherry fruit to make you think you’re drinking Pinot Noir. This impression is heightened by the wine’s texture, which is quite silky (normally, producers use the ripasso method to soften the characteristically sharp edges of Valpolicella, but there was no need here). Bright, energetic, and medium-bodied, this wine is drinking beautifully now, and is basically a pop-and-pour style: Decanting it 15 minutes or so before service certainly wouldn’t hurt, but really, just keep it cool (60-65 degrees), pour it in some Burgundy stems, and you’ll be very happy with the results. It’s a perfect red for pairing with baked pastas (a meaty lasagna would be great) or something out of the home pizza oven. But don’t underestimate this one—it’s a red of real breed that will do any dinner proud, no matter how fancy. Get some!

Pietro Clementi, Valpolicella Classico Superiore

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