Yesterday I picked up Michel Phaneuf's Le Guide du Vin 2006. Scanning through it quickly for a good deal, I came across the Allegrini Valpolicella Classico 2004, which the author qualified as one of the great 4-star bargains of the year, as well as one of the very very few Italian wines categorized as such. I needed to be convinced. I tasted some Valpolicellas recently at a Venetian-themed tasting and none came off very well. I also recalled having this Allegrini on earlier occasions and not feeling like it was as good as it should be. I had wondered why since it's routinely feted by so many, and now, with the 2004 vintage, particularly well-received. So I take home the bottle from the liquor store with this history in mind.
Opening it with pizza à la poulet fumé, I found it thirst-quenching, Rhône-ish in its generous cherry flavours -- but grapey too -- and perhaps bit green. Since it was a young wine, I knew that rebottling it (in a half-bottle so it's less likely to become over-oxidized with time) and then having it the next night would likely do it some good. It did. The ripened strawberry hints now came through and the typical Valpolicella finish, which is slightly bitter, was rounder, longer, and more delicious. Rarely will rebottled wine lose quality within 24 hours. But also equally as rare is the mellowness and added complexity that this one gained. I wondered if decanting it for an hour before serving would do the trick next time. Another lesson might be avoiding it with the pizza I had, which in retrospect was not a suitable pairing for it. In his book, Phaneuf writes that grilled chicken and tomatoes make ideal matches, which is indeed what I ate. But the chicken he mentions are breasts -- specifically ones stuffed with prosciutto. I suspect this is the key to the pairing. Meanwhile my pizza had heaps of cheese, basil, mushrooms, and barbecue flavour but no salty cured meats whatsoever, just bits of chicken. Same bird, different scene! On the second night, I had some scraps of the leftover pizza, but my main dish was a hearty sandwich: chunks of honeyed ham on oatmeal bread with anise mustard and rosemary potatoes on the side. Something about the tanginess of the ham sandwich harmonized with the wine much better than the pizza did.
The bottle label reads: "Well rounded wine with a fruity character accentuated by the cherry aroma. Recommended serving temperature: 16-18 C. Excellent accompaniment to wide variety of dishes: fish, pasta and meats. 13%"