The wines of Valpolicella are produced with four predominant varieties, all native: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara. Recent amendments to DOCG regulations have allowed for the possibility of including other local varieties known from the '50s / '60s, but abandoned in favour of more profitable grapes, around the time when quantity was favoured over quality. Each grape variety gives the wine a specific characteristic, in terms of flavour, colour and alcohol content, so even old varieties can contribute, just like any musical instrument in a symphony orchestra. Corvina is the most important variety, accounting for 40-80% of the blend (it was 70% in the old regulations) together with Corvinone. This gives body and structure to the wine, along with colour and longevity. Corvinone gives body and spicy aromas to the wine. It is well suited to cultivation in the hills but is sensitive to fungal diseases. Rondinella makes up 5-30% of the blend (25-40% in the previous regulations). It gives depth of colour to the wine, is disease resistant and delivers consistent quality and quantity. Molinara was traditionally blended in at around 5%-15%, though the new regulations make its use entirely optional. It gives the wine elegance and flavour but has little colour. All these grapes are trained on the traditional pergola system, which allows good sun exposure of the fruit, but forces us to use only handpicking.
Another special feature of the Valpolicella wine region is the cultivation of vineyards on “marogne”, stone walled terraces built as long ago as the 19th century. These allowed agricultural use of steep hillsides, including vineyards with good exposure and able to benefit at night from heat accumulated during the day. These spectacular dry stone walls made from locally quarries limestone, also known as pietra di Prun" (Prun stone), are layered in intricate patterns called “lisca di pesce” (herringbone). Both imposing and useful, but subject to high costs in maintenance.
In production terms, there are also specific techniques for vinification of Amarone, Ripasso and Recioto. The harvest is done exclusively by hand, which allows selection of healthy grapes, suitable for the subsequent drying or “appassimento”, this being another speciality of Valpolicella. The process is helped by the cool, dry breezes in this part of the country, and has ancient origins in Valpolicella. Originally, grapes were laid out on wooden floors in barns, then later hung from particular strings called "picai", next they were stretched out on mats called "arele", subsequently, they were arranged in wooden boxes and placed in specially designed drying rooms.This then being the most suitable method. “Appassimento” involves both the physical and chemical processes, as it initially involves grapes losing weight by dehydration (this varies with grape variety) followed by the formation of new compounds through concentration. Through this, both the alcohol and body structure of the wine increase, giving a longer ageing potential. Today we talk of "integrated appassimento", because, thanks to continual monitoring, we can decide whether to use outside air flowing from outsisde (when ambient conditions are optimal) or indoor programmed ventilation.