Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario DOC (2008)

Serego Alighieri’s Valpolicella dell’Anniversario celebrates a heritage longer than almost any other when it comes to winemaking in Verona, North East Italy. First produced in order to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the Serego Alighieri winery’s foundation, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is today (along with the Serego Alighieri “Vaio Armaron” Amarone della Valpolicella) one of the signature wines of the historic Serego Alighieri estate in Valpolicella.

Founded by the son of Durante degli Alighieri (better known simply as “Dante” - the famed Italian poet and political thinker) the Serego Alighieri Estate was purchased in 1353 by the Alighieri family and has remained in the hands of the Alighieri family (and the Serego family who married into the Alighieri family in the 1500s) ever since. In 1973 Count Pieralvise Serego Alighieri formed a partnership with the neighbouring estate owned by Sandro Boscaini (the president of the famed producer of Veronese wines: Masi Agricola) to further the quality of the wines produced by Serego Alighieri and to gain access to Masi’s vast technical knowledge and sales network. This is a partnership that has yielded impressive results and Serego Alighieri’s wines (including this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario) are amongst some of the more critically acclaimed to be made in Verona each vintage.

With some fantastic Serego Alighieri family vineyard sites to draw fruit from (including a walled vineyard of Molinara vines on non-grafted root stock and a unique genetic identity), this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is a Valpolicella produced with both an eye for tradition and an eye to modernity.

In terms of tradition, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is made of a blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 10% Molinara grapes (what most Valpolicella connoisseurs would consider a typical Valpolicella blend). Further, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is partially matured in cherry wood barrels. Serego Alighieri remains one of very few producers to persist with this (very) expensive and traditional form of maturation which tends to add a perception of a slight sweetness to the matured wines.

Looking at modernity on the other hand, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is made using a refinement of the “ripasso” technique that has been perfected (and actually completely reinvented) by Masi since the 1960s. Following an initial fermentation of the grapes that have been hand-picked to form this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario, the resultant wine is then “passed over” over air dried grape skins of the same varieties. This “repassing” (“ripasso”) of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario kicks off a secondary fermentation that adds richness, depth and alcohol (!) to the resultant wine.

In 2008, the harvesting of the fruit for this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario began in October with what were described as ideal maturation conditions for grapes. A 15 day initial fermentation of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario was undertaken before this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario was passed over the air dried grapes (30% of the total grapes used were dried) in December. Following this secondary fermentation this 2008 Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario was passed into oak for maturation. An initial 18 months maturation was undertaken in Slavonian oak barrels, before this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario  was committed to 4 months maturation in cherry wood barrels. Following oak maturation this 2008 Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario spend 6 months in bottle before release.

The bottle of this 2008 Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario itself is tall shouldered, as is typical for Valpolicella and Valpolicella Ripasso style wines. The diamond-shaped label is consistent in style with all of the other wines in the Serego Alighieri range.

In the glass, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is a clear (i.e. non-faulty) and intense ruby colour. A degree of rustic discolouration occurs towards the rim of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario representing the time spent in oak. The alcoholic content of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is a little higher than in many Valpolicella-based wines (as might be expected given the “ripasso” style of production). The quoted abv for this 2008 Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is 13.6% abv.

On the nose, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is clean (i.e. non faulty) and pronounced. Rich and deep red cherry leads the aromas and whilst it is not possible to say definitively that this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario has seen maturation in cherry oak from the aromas alone, there is a sweetness to the fruit of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario on the nose and a complexity of spice that this unusual method of maturation surely contributes to. There is a slightly baked fruit complexion to the aromas of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario which is thoroughly appealing.

Once in the mouth, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is dry and full bodied. Noticeably weightier on the palate than the other “ripasso” style wines in the Masi portfolio, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is a more “serious” interpretation of the traditional style of Valpolicella. Again over-ripe cherry red fruit is prominent and particularly deep, with dried pure fruit notes and raisined fruit notes also forward in nature. There is a real sense of complexity and depth throughout the palate of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario, aided by the arrival of subtle spice and wild herbs through the mid-palate. Once swallowed the finish of this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is notably long and despite a clear tannin structure to this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario, the tannins never become too pronounced and are well integrated with the fruit.

In conclusion, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is an outstanding expression of Valpolicella. Not a traditional “light and fruity” style of Valpolicella, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario adds weight and complexity via the “ripasso” process. By comparison to other “ripasso” style Valpolicella, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario is deeper, more complex and shows a greater sense of balance than the vast majority on the market. Partial maturation in cherry wood adds a unique character to this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario and is integrated fantastically well. A combination of factors combine to offer a genuine sense of history, profundity and place to this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario – attributes that are found in very few wines indeed.

In terms of value, this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario retails for around £15 per bottle in the UK. Considering that this sits in the middle of a typical price range for “ripasso” style Valpolicella in the UK (£10 - £20), the fact that a wine of this quality is available at a moderate price must be considered good value.

Food pairing for this elegant and full-bodied Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario can be more varied than for it’s more illustrious cousin Amarone della Valpolicella. Suggestions might include venison and other game, braised meats and pastas with rich sauces. This Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario has the elegance and flexibility to be drunk across a meal should one desire to do so.
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Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell’Anniversario DOC (2008)

Score: 91/100 – An outstandingly nuanced and profound Valpolicella

Value for Money: 9/10 – Surprisingly this Serego Alighieri Valpolicella dell'Anniversario is not more expensive than it's £15 per bottle price tag.
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