Aldo Fiordelli takes a closer look at a real rarity; a "cru" wine produced in Valpolicella.
La Poja is a “Chinese-box” cru on top of La Grola hill in Valpolicella, owned by the Allegrini estate.
Scroll down for La Poja tasting notes
Valpolicella is, of course, known for Amarone and for its distinguishable winemaking style – not for its crus. Valpolicella’s two territories can be generalised by the classic, elegant wines from Fumane and Marano to the West, and the more powerful wines from the flat eastern “step”.
Even so, it is the territory’s trademarked style of appassimento that remains the more important factor in the wine’s style.
What makes La Poja so special?
Few are the exceptions, but La Poja is certainly one of note. Planted in 1979, this was a pioneering vineyard in Valpolicella for at least four reasons.
- It was established at a relatively higher density with 4.240 vines per hectare compared with average of 1.600 to 2.000 of that time
- The choice of training system favoured double Guyot (instead of the omnipresent Pergola), to achieve more colour and concentration
- The vineyard was planted only with Corvina from the “Graspo rosso” clone, rather than the field blend of the varietals; Rondinella, Molinara or Vespolina normally used for Amarone
- Last but not least, it has never been intended to produce grapes for appassimento
Why would anyone do that in this area?
So was Giovanni Allegrini absolutely crazy? The founder of the estate certainly had a way with the land, and the intuition to match. He understood straightaway the value of La Grola’s climate and soil.
With its southeastern exposure La Poja enjoys the exceptional microclimate of Fumane, sheltered to the North by Mount Pastello and to the west by Monte Baldo, with the cooling influence of the Adige Valley and less continental influence thanks to Lake Garda.
In September, it experiences an accentuated diurnal temperature range: in 2006, one of the best vintages tasted, differences were as notable as 8°C at night from 25°C during the day.
But the most important factor remains the shallow, calcareous soil. Each guest at this vertical tasting, held at VinItaly, got a box of soil to keep.
Containing 16% of active limestone, it is low in potential alcohol yet ideal in achieving sugar concentration – once a ratio relied on to indicate the moment to pick grapes – but nowadays noted as a beneficial element in phenolic maturity.
Clearly, Allegrini didn’t need appassimento to attain richness in their wines.
The result is a full bodied red bursting with perfume, completely dry, lower in alcohol and more precise than Amarone, almost never showing a hint of volatile acidity, nor raisin or treacle notes, full of the spiciness due to the aging in new French oak barrels.
At times perhaps showing less complexity than Amarone when young, La Poja develops with an incredible suppleness improving its signature Morello cherry aroma along with spiciness and overall elegance.
La Poja wines in this tasting:
Click on the wines to see the full tasting note and stockist details.
The youngest wine of the flight. A denser ruby color and assertive clove aroma, elegance over power due to the mild vintage which lacked excessive heat during maturation. This result is an intense, aromatic nose of cherry-liqueur, chocolate, along with a touch of Indian spice and sweet tobacco. Medium bodied…
A typical example of Corvina with this pale ruby color (Corvina is not known for its colour) and a fresh nose of raspberry and red cherry with an amazing hint of rose hips and a very precise palate. Taut with velvety tannins, slightly rigid at the end and a gradual…
One of the less precise wines in this flight. Deep in colour yet garnet at the rim. Evolved on the nose with aromas of leaves and dried plums. It shows complexity, however the tannins are quite rustic with a dry finish. Franco Allegrini admits: “Lacks a touch of phenolic ripeness…
A darker profile in terms of colour and concentration. Toxicating perfume opens up to complex notes of pure liquorice, cigar box, tobacco and blackberry with a dense, mouth-filling palate, large velvety tannins and a sweet finish of dates (perhaps a bit of appassimento?) supported by long, brilliant acidity. Overall complex…
A lesser vintage due to a lot of rain which results in a surprisingly refreshing, wiry version of La Poja with a paler ruby, brick color at the rim, red fruit aroma of raspberry and a leaner body. Crisp and chewy with grainy tannins and a slightly greenish end. Could…
A longer growing season in this vintage gifted this wine complexity, with more focus on elegance than power. Very classic in colour (pale ruby to garnet), it shows an intense nose of dried flowers leading to Morello cherry, with depth of cacao and bay leaf - a well integrated vegetal…
This wine is at the peak of its expressiveness with a Port-like nose of spicy minerality and an incredible supple palate due to vibrant, velvety, ripe tannins and softened – yet well-balanced – acidity. Its full bodied and rich style summarises perfectly the trend of this period. It avoids being…
A softer, riper vintage, without overpoweringly stewed or cooked aromas but rich and complex from cherry and chocolate to bay leaf. Creamy on the palate with ripe, almost silky tannins and a sweet finish of tobacco supported by a pleasant acidity. Best for more immediate consumption.
The celebrated 1997 vintage didn’t deceive with this extremely youthful wine. It shows striking complexity with raspberry and cherry fruits leading to black pepper and cacao without prolonged evolution and supported by the deep extraction of firm yet mature tannins. On the palate, it could lack the use of older…
One of the most classic examples, an almost “old fashioned” style of Corvina with a complex dark nose of meat, wild fruits, cedar wood and bitter chocolate. A leaner body and taut firm structure with the acidity. A bit nervy, however it is balanced by a good concentration of fruit…
More Valpolicella content on Decanter.com