Devotion is the topic of this month’s Wine Writing challenge (#MWWC7). It seemed appropriate for the Valentine month of February, so I decided to participate in order to give myself a deadline. But then I started to explore the word. How are we devoted? Does everyone have devotion? What does it mean to be devoted in the food and wine world?
The Allegrini family have been wine producers in the Valpolicella region of Italy for at least six generations and played leading roles in the area since the 16th century. (Full disclosure, we partner with them at our cooking school in Italy and I assist them in navigating the chaos of American social media.) But it was Giovanni Allegrini, the father of the current leaders of the company, whose insight and creativity built the brand that has today gone global. He had the foresight to purchase untilled hillside properties and use what were then innovative growing techniques. Throughout his life, he was passionate about creating great wine. For him, the mark of a great wine maker in his area was the brilliance of their Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, and Giovanni Allegrini dedicated his life to perfecting a great Allegrini one.
Recioto is concentrated with a high alchohol content of 14%. It has been made for millennia, and the Romans, liking things sweet, drank it as their table wine. This sweet red dessert wine bursts with the aromas and flavors of fruit and berries. It is produced by drying the grapes until they have lost 45/50% of their original weight. Traditionally, these grapes were laid out on straw mats to dry; however, Giovanni’s son, Franco Allegrini, wanted something more controllable and was at the forefront of creating Terre di Fumane, a high tech drying facility where the grapes are gently placed in plastic crates and held for three months in a cavernous warehouse where the humidity and temperature can be maintained. This has enabled Allegrini to produce more Recioto and Amarone wine and consistently improve the quality.
After the drying process the grapes are destemmed, soft pressed and fermented. Fermentation is stopped before all the sugars have turned to alcohol, resulting in the prized nectar. The wine ages for 14 months in French oak and then the wine maker’s devotion and genius takes over as it is blended two months before bottling. Giovanni Allegrini worked tirelessly, from figuring out the vine density of the vineyard, to grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 80%, Rondinella 15%, and Oseleta 5% and perfecting the blending process. He was proud of his product and considered Recioto della Valpolicella Classico to be his favorite wine. His family continues to share his pride and in recognition of his devotion have named their Recioto after him. This wine has almost continuously scored over 90 points from most of the major wine magazines such as The Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Gambero Rosso.
Giovanni wanted all of his three children to go into the family business. His beautiful, but headstrong daughter, Marilisa Allegrini wanted to go into medicine. She pursued her wishes, getting a degree in physical therapy from the University of Verona. However, on the first day that she was supposed to start her job at the hospital, she found her father at the kitchen table making his Will. When she asked what he was doing he said, “I am dividing the property and the business between the children who work in it, those who don’t will not receive a share.” Marilisa never stepped foot in a hospital as a professional. She has since become the tireless brand ambassador for Allegrini and is credited as bringing the wines to global attention. So…. was that devotion, duty, or father-knows-best? Perhaps she stayed in the family business out of familial duty, something expected; however, it has obviously become a passion to which she has devoted her life, traveling the globe to promote the business and expanding the winery into new territories while preserving the connection to the land of her heritage. Devotion is pursuing an object with profound dedication. The Allegrini family has done just that. They have consecrated themselves to bringing out the best expressions of the grape in the form of wine. They continue to expand and are eager to incorporate the appropriate latest technologies. They honor their legacy and treat their Giovanni Allegrini Recioto with the respect, allegiance, and reverence that it deserves as the ultimate delicious ending to a meal.
Deep ruby red in color, Giovanni Allegrini is the perfect wine to express ones’ devotion and love during a Valentine’s Day celebration. The creation of this wine takes forethought, time, and dedication. Like true devotion, it is not easy. Nature does not always cooperate and there are years that this wine cannot be made; however, the truly devoted persevere and plan for the long term. Although Recioto goes very well with fruits, cookies, and especially chocolate, my father-in-law, noted wine writer Victor Hazan, has always said that a wonderful dessert wine is dessert. My first taste of this ambrosia was at our cooking school in Italy. It felt velvety on my palate and I remember the intense flavors of stone fruits with a hint of spice and mocha. What better way than to toast one’s love by lifting a glass and professing your love is as sweet and wonderful as this wine?
During an exploration of the world of the wine writer I came upon SAHMMelier and her post on the Wine Writing Challenge, I was impressed by the high caliber of the participants and was fortunate to discover some wine bloggers whom I had not yet found. Kudos goes to The Drunken Cylclist who created the challenge that has only gotten more popular. Thank you also, Armchair Sommelier who designed the logo. There are lots of wonderful bloggers who are participating and I urge you to view their pages, they can be found listed on SAHMMelier‘s post or from looking at the hashtag #MWWC7. I’ve been fortunate to taste many glasses of Giovanni Allegrini Recioto over the years. They have all been luscious and wonderful.