Driving to a vineyard for lunch will always rate as one of life’s nicer experiences, but a visit to the renowned Allegrini Estate in Veneto makes even the most extravagant repast seem like a soggy Gregg’s steak bake.

This is a chance to live like a bloated and fantastically rich Veronese merchant with gout – and take a nice Sideways-esque meander through Italian wine country at the same time.

Lucy Sweet

Lucy Sweet is a writer and journalist from Hull (2017 City of….oh, you’ve already heard that one?) who now lives in Glasgow. She has contributed to Glamour, The Guardian and Sabotage Times and can cut the top off a bottle of wine with a sword.

@lucytweet1
lucysweet.org

Published

August 1, 2014

The Allegrini Estate, which has been making wine since the 16th Century, is only 15km northwest of Verona – towards Lake Garda – in La Valpolicella. Valpolicella isn’t just what you yell at a waiter in a pizza restaurant when you’re thirsty – it actually means ‘land of many cellars’. It’s also the land of many beautiful undulating vineyards, the Lessini mountains, dry stone walls, endless cypresses and terracotta roofs.

You could take the relatively dull SP12 motorway and be there in about 20 minutes, but it’s worth taking a bit more time to investigate the back roads of La Valpolicella  – even if you might find yourself face to face with donkeys and confused looking farmers. (Yes, there’s the odd donkey, just hanging about being rustic and charming.)

As you drive up to the Allegrini Estate, which takes up 100 pine-scented hectares of the Fumane area, you’ll find the rather breathtaking blonde Villa Della Torre, which is still used as a party pad by the younger members of the Allegrini family. It’s a beautiful Medieval copy of a Roman villa, complete with courtyard, outrageous lion’s mouth fireplaces, Murano chandeliers, frescoes and gargoyles wherever you look. (Kimye would LOVE it.) It also has a devil’s folly, traditionally used as a place to hide your sins and dirty books. Walk into its spooky hideyholes and think about what you’ve done  – or what you are about to do.

The area surrounding the Villa Della Torre is also divine. Ponds full of lily pads, buzzing with iridescent dragonflies? Check. A hilly vineyard which spawned a convoluted local legend based on a crow who turned all the rubbish grapes into the fat, black Corvina grapes that now produce their award winning wine? Check. Manicured lawns and stone balustrades and decorative bridges that scream ‘GET MARRIED HERE AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER’? Check.

By the time you’ve gone through various vintages with your risotto and secondo piatti, you’ll be spreading yourself out and pretending that you live there.

After that, you can settle down for some Veneto-style hospitality. They offer comprehensive tasting menus, which you can wash down with their famous red wines. With a glass of Palazzo Della Torre, they’ll serve you a knockout ‘drunk cheese’, with a Valpolicella soaked rind. By the time you’ve gone through various vintages with your risotto and secondo piatti, you’ll be spreading yourself out and pretending that you live there. The meal is finished with an intense glass of Giovanni Allegrini – named after the vineyard’s founder – accompanied by the local delicacy sbrisolona, a crumbly flapjack-style cake made from polenta, almonds and lemon.

But Allegrini is best known for its full-throated masterpiece Amarone, which retails at €52 a bottle and tastes like you’re smoking the best cigar ever on a velvet chaise longue in heaven. They also have a seductive wine called La Grola, (The Crow), which references the local legend and has an amazing label featuring a buxom Angelina Jolie lookalike with a bird on her shoulder.

You can fill your boots (and your car boot) at the vineyard shop, where they giftwrap it all in blood red ribbon. But don’t forget to bring a designated driver –  this is definitely no place for self-denial.