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Tommasi Tommasi 1995 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso ($19.99)
Most of the time, "Valpolicella" on the label spells a simple little wine, fresh and fruity and forgettable. But add "Ripasso" and you've got another matter entirely. In this unusual traditional process, the wine maker puts some of the previous autumn's Valpolicella into the just-emptied barrels used to ferment Amarone, allowing the light young wine to absorb color and flavor from the leftover grapeskins and yeast lees in the barrel. This "re-passing" process converts an otherwise simple wine into something much more robust and memorable. This one is a good example: Inky dark-garnet in color, it breathes ripe blueberry and pumpkin-pie spice aromas. Big and rather pruney fruit flavors are well structured with lemon-squirt acidity and soft but substantial tannins. U.S. importer: Rolar Imports Ltd., Great Neck, N.Y. (Nov. 2, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a stir-fry dish of leftover duck breast with leeks and Szechwan pepper.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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