Weekend Wines: An Italian red outgrows its musty image

This earthy red wine pairs nicely with anything from beef stew to the pasta of your choice.

Wine lovers of a certain age might still sniff at Valpolicella based on their experience years ago with some big, mass-produced brands that served as this country’s introduction to the wines of the Veneto region of northeast Italy. For some, these brands not only defined the red Valpolicella and the white Soave, but Italian wine itself.

Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent, distinctive wines from the region today and any stigma attached to Valpolicella and Soave as little more than thin, inconsequential wines is fading fast.

A case-in-point is the 2011 Valpolicella from Brigaldara, a $16 wine that demonstrates the quality that the region can produce at reasonable prices. The wine is a blend of the area’s traditional red grapes, including corvina, corvinone, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese, and is aged only in stainless steel, which maintains a freshness that makes young Valpolicella so enjoyable.

The aromas offer an enticing combination of red and dark berry fruit and earth. In the mouth, the wine reveals its considerable complexity. Blackberry and black cherry tastes are accented by earth and spice notes, including cinnamon. The wine is relatively soft, which makes it highly drinkable in its youth, but ample acidity and just enough supporting tannic structure give it focus.

With its earthiness, some may find it a little funky without food. But pair it with a simple beef stew, a roast chicken or the pasta of your choice and it will quickly come into its own, a versatile wine that can enhance a range of foods. It’s bright and easy to drink, but most of all it’s interesting. This is not your father’s Valpolicella. (Imported by Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.)

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his reviews and commentary on his blog,, and follow him on Twitter.