Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cost vs. Quality: Four Veneto Reds

With wine, you generally get what you pay for. But I emphasize the qualifying word generally. I love highlighting those lovely, complex wines that cost $15 or $20. And I'm too often left wanting more from bottles in the $50-$70 range.

I was thinking about this complex cost-to-quality relationship when tasting through a few Italian reds from the Veneto region. Yes, I found the cheapest ($17) to be the least interesting, albeit still of decent quality. And, yes, I found the most expensive wine (an $85 bottle of Amarone Classico) to be the best. But the quality (as I see it) didn't necessarily increase along the same trajectory as the increase in cost. This same dynamic is reflected in almost every wine region. Is Dom Perignon three times as good as a non-vintage brut at one-third the cost? Probably not. Is Screaming Eagle twenty times better than Mondavi Reserve? I've never tasted Screaming Eagle, and most likely never will, but you see where I'm going with this.

For my palate, the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre (from the Veronese IGT appellation) is a solid value, year-in, year-out. You get the flavor profile of an Amarone, but it's lighter, more refreshing, and far cheaper. It delivers almost the same amount of palate pleasure as the $85 Amarone, for about a quarter of the price.

Don't get me wrong: The velvety sweetness of an Amarone cannot be matched, and I can't deny the difference in mouthfeel and complexity from the $85 Amarone. But is it $85 good? Umm...

Amarones have been hot stuff for centuries, and they still adorn the cellars of many collectors because of their richness, downright deliciousness and aging potential. If you haven't tried one, you should. Part of the reason they're so expensive is their production method. When making Amarone, the grapes are allowed to partially dry out over the course of several months through a process called appassimento. This process concentrates the juice and gives the resulting wines a unique density and intensity. But it's not cheap and, in the end, there's less juice left over to sell.

High quality + cost of production + solid demand = a justifiably expensive wine. But when I can get a good bottle of Veronese red for $23? Well, I'll leave the Amarone for special occasions.   

2010 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
SRP: $85
A kind of plum-maroon color. Deep nose of candied berries, milk chocolate, vanilla extract, lots of sweet floral tea and berry jam aromas, needs time to fully unpack these aromas. Full bodied and very creamy, the tannins show serious structure, the acid is low, the wine is chewy and creamy. Blackberry, plums, dark currants, laced with campfire, caramel, Brazil nuts and sweet cocoa powder notes. Full and bold but showing some complexity, probably needing 5+ years to unravel. (89 points)

2011 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veronese IGT
SRP: $23
Vibrant ruby colored. Plummy and rich on the nose, dark berries with jammy elements, some smoke and cocoa powder notes. On the palate the wine is velvety with fine tannins and medium+ acid. Tart red and black berry fruit, refreshing spice and rocky elements, some rhubarb, sweet violets and some cocoa powder. Some raisin and caramel notes linger on the finish. Very approachable. (88 points)

2012 Zenato Rosso Veronese Alanera Veneto IGT - Italy, Veneto, Veneto IGT
SRP: $20
Deep purple color. Lovely nose of violets, roasted coffee and earth on top of sweet currant and plum fruit, some nutty elements as well. A bright sense of acid helps balance the rich fruit, blackberries, currants and plums. Notes of earth, grilled herbs, toasted oak and coffee. Structured but still fresh and quite approachable. 55% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone, 5% Merlot, 5% Cab. (87 points)

2013 Allegrini Valpolicella - Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella
RP: $17
Light ruby colored. Tart berries on the nose, some roses and wet soil notes, some rhubarb. Juicy red and black currant fruit on the palate, tart and crunchy, with fine tannins and tangy acid. Strawberries, red apple and red currant fruit mixes with some raisin and rhubarb. Dusty, rhubarb, charcoal and some coffee bean notes as well. A bit harsh and bitter at first, but it smoothed out a bit with time. (84 points)

No comments:

Post a Comment