2019 Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
2019 Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Recioto with Christmas Cookies in Mind

425 Words (or so) on Traditions That Won't Die

3 min read

I am fascinated by traditions that — despite our modern obsession with convenience and ease — refuse to die. Take for instance, my mother’s linzer cookies at Christmas time. Year after year she toils in the kitchen to cut out their shapes, bake them evenly, layer them with jam and dust them with powdered sugar. Unlike the recipe, she is not Austrian, but rather German — born in Osnabrück, Germany shortly after the war. She lived there for a short time before her family immigrated to the United States.

“Cookie Day” is when she shows affection for her German heritage by baking several adopted recipes from across the umlaut nations. The linzers look lovely, yet they have fierce competition from all the other cookies baked. Being a wine person, I can’t help but see a sorta of weird, inverse irony to the cookies. The more traditional the cookie, the drier and more unpopular they are. We devour the sugar cookies and the oatmeal-craisin-white cholocate chip cookies first. The linzers hang around forever. (Sort of like sweet wines vs. dry wines on your wine shop’s shelf, only in reverse).

Recioto della Valpolicella has the dark, dried fruit flavors and heady richness to match the darkest days of winter solstice.

Because of that dryness, the linzers demand an adult beverage of some kind. Enter Recioto della Valpolicella, one of the most traditional and historic wines in the world. Think of it as the OG Amarone. Before stuck fermentation could be avoided through technology (and before dry wines became the ruling fashion), recioto was among the most prized wines of Veneto. Made from the sweetest clusters of local red wine grapes (e.g. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara) which are air-dried on racks, then pressed and fermented, Recioto della Valpolicella has the dark, dried fruit flavors and heady richness to match the darkest days of winter solstice. It also has juicy acidity to carry each sip forward. Without that, it would be overwhelming cloying, especially as a linzer chaser.

It has been a few years since I got into a recioto, and come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve encountered one stateside. The others have all been while visiting Veneto. So tasting this with Christmas cookies seemed like the thing to do, and for me, it works nicely, especially when those fig and cocoa-like notes washed over the raspberry jam of the linzer.

Brigaldara is a superb Amarone producer, and this ancient style of wine is reserved only for the best years. Aged for two years in oak barrels and with a serious 86 g/L of residual sugar, this little bottle has quite a bit of density. There are innumerable contexts for such a wine in Veneto, but in this American life, I think the holidays is when it shines. See if you can find some, and if not from Brigaldara, look for such producers as Zenato, Buglioni, Tedeschi and Speri.

2019 Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella

2019 Azienda Agricola Brigaldara Recioto della Valpolicella ©Kevin Day/Opening a BottleRecioto della Valpolicella DOCG (Veneto)
Grapes: Corvina (55%), Corvinone (25%), Rondinella (20%)
Alcohol: 15%
Opinion: ★★★★ 1/2 (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Soloist
Value: A Little Pricey


A beginner might like … the richness that is recioto. Think of dark dried fruit (e.g. figs, raisins, prune) as well as hints of cocoa around the edges and unique leathery hallmark, and you’ll be close to grasping the flavor profile of this wine. There are shades of Port here, if you’re familiar, but I find Port to have a lot more variety in styles. Recioto is basically a sweet Amarone, and Brigaldara’s version conveys that standing quite clearly.

A wine obsessive might like … the rarity of such a wine. I know that was on my mind as I enjoyed Brigaldara’s Recioto della Valpolicella. These wines are not widely available, but their 2,000-year lineage and endurance through the ages seems to add a little extra magic to each sip.


Note: The wine was provided as an editorial sample by Brigaldara’s press agency. Learn more about our editorial policies.

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