Don't pass up Ripasso
Made predominantly if not entirely from the local Corvina grape, Valpolicella doesn't generally profess to be anything more than an everyday table wine, and there's no shame in that. In fact, so many of the better Corvina grapes go into making the region's full-bodied and strong wine called Amarone and the "Ripasso" that we'll be talking about today, that jokesters call the regular Valpolicella "twice-skimmed milk" because the fruit left to make it has been well picked over.
But even if you're looking for a heartier Italian red, don't pass by Valpolicella without taking a close look at the label. If you spot the word "Ripasso" (or, in the odd case of the wine featured in our Tasting Note below, "Ripassa"), you've got your hands on something entirely different and, I think, much more interesting.
Ripasso literally means "re-passed," and it involves an unusual wine-making process: In the spring, after fermenting over the winter in the usual way, select batches of regular Valpolicella are transferred into casks holding dried grapeskins that were left over after the fancy Amarone was made. This process of "re-passing" the lighter wine over the "squeezings" left from its bigger brother adds additional body, color and flavor and may even kick off a bit of additional fermentation which boosts its alcoholic content. The result is a much fuller-bodied, flavorful and intense wine than the standard Valpolicella, a fruity and complex red that goes very well with red meat, game or sharp cheeses.
Even if you've never been impressed with Valpolicella, I commend Ripasso to your attention. Have you tried this wine? If you would like to share your tasting experiences, send me E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, and my travels this month will also limit my ability to respond; but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.
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Full-bodied Italian red
Dark garnet in color, with plummy black fruit aromas and a whiff of almonds. Full and tart, intense plums and prunes and lemony acid flavors with a marked but pleasant peach-pit bitterness, especially in the long finish. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; Leonardo Loscascio Selections. (Jan. 12, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: Very fine with a wild-mushroom lasagna.
All American Wineries
Such a site is http://www.allamericanwineries.com, a labor of love by Bob Hodge, who retired from U.S. government service last summer and, eager to put his retirement to good use by visiting as many American wineries as he can, found that none of the existing U.S. winery indexes on the Web fully satisfied him. So he is making his own, starting from the East Coast and working west as quickly as he can.
I think you'll like it, and if you're planning a visit to the Eastern states where he already has a good start, I think you'll find it useful. I hope you'll drop by, and say hello to Bob while you're there.
Winetasting.com is an online cooperative of Californiaís leading wineries selling directly to wine lovers. This gives customers like you unique access to limited-release wines not available outside the tasting room. For full information, visit http://www.Winetasting.com/hub/landing.asp?wlpgid=WLPG001LA. I have known these folks for a long time and can confidently recommend them.
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Vol. 2, No. 52, Jan. 15, 2001