I missed National Cabernet Day. That’s not to say I wasn’t drinking, I just wasn’t drinking Cabernet. I found out too late, and I was already working my way through this bottle with no regrets. Next year!
Anyway, when my wife brought home this Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso with a variety of my usual favorite Italian reds (and some new ones) from our local shop, my eyes lit up. This was the first time I’ve had one of these, and I have distinct memories of trying to memorize the process, without getting my Amarone/Valpolicella and passito/ripasso confused along the way. Hailing from the Veneto wine region of (northeastern) Italy, its second in DOC production in the country after Chianti. Valpolicella (‘valley of many cellars’) is not a variety but a regional DOC wine made of three varieties traditionally: Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Typical Valpolicella on its own is a lighter-bodied red, and so this ripasso technique evolved to create a bigger, bolder wine. It is made by re-fermenting (‘re-pass’ = re-ferment) the local Valpolicella Superiore wine with the partially dried (passito) grape skins left over from production of Amarone and recioto sweet dessert wines, which have DOCGs of their own. Therefore, you will typically find more tannin, and more fruit, complexity and color in this wine. They are also more aromatic, with some tar, resin, and spicy characteristics of the Amarone. Valpolicella di Ripasso got its own DOC in 2007.
It was impressive. The color was a deep intense ruby. This makes a lot of sense given the double soaking on the skins and fermentation. On the nose there was rich black cherry and dried cherry with a compliment of oak. Its palate was intensely fruit forward as expected, full of black and red cherry. It was very concentrated but the tannins and fairly bright acidity were very well integrated. It had a nice full body and a long, delicious finish. I paired it with some pasta – it was perfect.