Ripasso Valpolicella from Veneto – Learning about wine
Vinitaly will soon be upon us. The spring is the time of tasting the new wines. Lake Garda is coming to life with the first sailboats braving the still cold winds on Sunday afternoon. What better time to talk about Ripasso. Not a specific Ripasso, Italian Wine Guy and The Bastardo have already covered them so well, instead to answer the question of why Ripasso. Ripasso is a method of making wine. Ripasso means to do again. The grapes are typical from Valpolicella area but Ripasso is a recent wine. Masi was the first to employ the process of fermenting the young wine using the residual must from Recioto and Amarone in 1964. This process gave additional complexity and tannins to the traditional fruity table wine, Valpolicella. Further improvements to the process moved to re-fermentation.
Re-fermentation is the process of adding dried grapes to wine once the fermentation has been complete. In the case of Ripasso this is done in December. Other wines use this process to increase flavor and often result in sweeter wines. Ripasso is not sweet but the color is intense, deep purple, some even call it black. The flavors are intense and the alcohol content is between 13-14% per volume. The blends change a bit between winemakers but the dominant flavor is black cherries. John the Baptist of Italian wine also evidences the different methods used and the resulting complexity of the wines.
I find the Ripasso a great product. Generally it costs less than an Amarone and more than a Valpolicella Classico, filling that intermediate price range with wines of different complexity. The Ripasso is also a great wine to use when learning about the differences in wines. When determining what you like about wine you should forget the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker ratings. Taste is a function of personal DNA and of experience. For the novice, the complexity of a wine is lost in the immediate sensations of tannins or alcohol. Since price is often a function of complexity, it takes more time to create a complex wine. An expensive wine on a newbe is probably not a good use of funds. As the palette learns and knows what to expect, the transition of flavors and sensations become more evident.
Food is extremely important in tasting wine. Understanding this basic concept will give you an edge over most “experts” of wine. For this experiment I would prepare Crostini and red meats. The Amarone would also do well with wild game or fowl but the table wine Valpolicella would probably not have the umpfhhh to balance the more savory meals. This should become apparent as you move between wines. For this experiment no more than 3 different wines during a meal. Take your time, chew thoroughly the food and let the wine rest on the palette for a while before swallowing.
Wine to taste in Progression
Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore DOC
Tedeschi Capitel San Rocco IGT
Allegrini Palazzo della Torre IGT
Viviani “Campo Morar” Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC
Tags: Valpolicella Red Wine Italian Wine Veneto Sommelier Food and Wine Travel Italy