Wine review: Bolla Valpolicella 2009

This is the first wine I ever drank. It is, in fact, the first wine I have any memory of. In the 1970s, if you were a “serious” wine drinker in the United States, you drank French Beaujolais, California burgundy or chablis (which were not necessarily pinot noir or chardonnay), German liebfraumilch, Lancers and Mateus rose, or the Italian Bolla. My father, an Italophile, drank the Bolla.

Which meant I did, too. I brought it with me with when I went to someone’s house for dinner. I bought it to impress girls (one of my first big dates, actually). I had no idea whether the wine was any good. I knew very little about wine 30 years ago; the Bolla was wine, and that was good enough.

Bolla, as a brand, mostly disappeared in the 1990s. It was bought and sold several times, and I had not seen it in years. And then, at the grocery store this week, there it was. I checked with my Italian wine expert, who told me, yes, the current owners dusted the brand off, changed the label, and are bringing it back.

Memory is part of wine, as much as the grapes or the soil. This is one of Alfonso Cevola’s favorite themes, that it’s not just what the wine tastes like now, but what we remember of the tasting — who we were with, where we were, what we were doing when we tasted it. So when I opened the Bolla ($6, purchased), I was thinking about my dad and Chicago in the 1970s and the girls I bought it for. The Wine Curmudgeon was sipping and analyzing, but Jeff Siegel was remembering.

So maybe this is memory talking. Maybe the Bolla isn’t what I tasted the other day — young and disjointed, yes, but fresh and clean, with a funky Italian nose and lots of sour cherry fruit. It’s an incredible value at this price, a wine for winter stews and red meat and tomato sauce. And, of course, for memory.

3 thoughts on “Wine review: Bolla Valpolicella 2009

  • By Alfonso Cevola - Reply

    Wow, what a blast from the past…did they change the label? the original one was a classic.

  • By Jeff Curry - Reply

    Back in the late 70’s I had, as one of my first bottles of wine, a 1973 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. I did have a little idea that what I was drinking was very good but my buds were so inexperienced. I still have the empty bottle and whenever I see it I lament. Atleast I knew it was good enough to keep the bottle. Foolish boy.
    Still, it’s good to remember.

  • By brian burns - Reply

    I’m still in the business, and remember the wine list from the 70’s, you hit em all, Blue Nun, Lancers, Mateus, and the forgettable Riunite, or as we called it Ruin-it. Who can forget the fish wine (Pescarolo?)And for the sophisticated, Mouton Cadet.
    And I hate to say it, every now and then someone will ask for one of those wines.

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