The Italian winery Allegrini, one of the Veneto region's best-known producers, has decided to drop the Valpolicella Classico denomination for its low-cost red and label it as Valpolicella, in order to be able to close the bottle with a screw cap. But the decision has more to do with business strategy than antipathy toward corks.
The Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (DOC) regulations governing Valpolicella reds were amended in October 2007, allowing the use of screw caps for the wider-ranging Valpolicella denomination, but still forbidding their use with reds labeled Valpolicello Classico. The Classico designation indicates that the wines were produced in a particular high-altitude area of the Valpolicella region.
According to winery co-owner Marilisa Allegrini, the move is part of a marketing strategy developed to reflect both the current economic climate and market demand.
"With the exchange rate as it is today," said Allegrini, "We think a $14 to $15 non-Classico Valpolicella with a screw cap has a better chance on the market than a Valpolicella Classico, with a cork, costing 20 percent more."
Allegrini said that the change was primarily to suit the UK market, but that the company would also be experimenting with the new-look wine on the U.S. market and, if the launch went well, around 10,000 cases of the wine would eventually be available in the States.
Any effect that the change of closure might have on the quality of the wine was a lesser consideration, according to the Allegrini's winemaker, Franco Allegrini. "I can't really say whether screw caps are better than corks for a young, fresh wine like our Valpolicella," he said. "You might say they are more healthy, as we use less sulfur when bottling with a screw cap."
Franco said that there were no plans yet to release screw-capped bottles locally in Veneto. "I don't think we would get a good response at the moment," he said. "It's a cultural issue," he added. "Making progress is sometimes like driving a car with both the accelerator and brake pedals pressed to the floor."