Ripasso Primer

Here’s a good reminder of what ripasso means in the Veneto. It comes courtesy of George Elde, salesman for Frederick Wildlman, a venerable wine importer and distributor in New York, where, it’s true, I have a number of friends. Like many sales reps, George sends out e-mails re deals, steals and reals, that reflect their portfolio.

Let’s check out the 2009 Santi ‘Solane’ Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC.

From George:

Santi Valpolicella Classico Superiore is a “ripasso” method Valpolicella, meaning that following primary fermentation the wine sees a second fermentation with the addition of Amarone grapes and skins, creating a richer, more complex and more exciting final wine.

Santi Solane is sourced from estate vineyards within the original Valpolicella appellation of Valpolicella Classico.

When primary fermentation is complete in early winter, grapes, skins and pomace from Santi’s Amarone are added to the vats. The additional sugars from the Amarone trigger a second fermentation, which adds additional layers of complexity, rich fruit and structure. The wine is blended and then aged for more 3-5 months in small oak cask followed by an additional 12 months in larger neutral casks prior to bottling.

The finished wine has  70 percent corvina and 30 percent rondinella, typical grapes for the region, (but how could you tell?) excluding the third usual suspect of molinara.

George’s tasting notes:

The 2009 Santi Solane has an intense bouquet of cloves, vanilla, cherry jam and almonds. In the mouth, the wine is full, warm and harmonious, with an elegant finish.

The wine is also fairly priced; it’s a $12 wine.

Here’s how Jancis describes ripasso:

Italian term meaning literally ‘repassed’, for the technique of adding extra flavour, and alcohol, to Valpolicella by re-fermenting the young wine on the unpressed skins of Amarone wines after these dried grape wines have finished their fermentation in the spring. While this undoubtedly adds body and character to a ripasso Valpolicella, the fact is that all the goodness has been extracted from the grapes during their first fermentation, so only bitter tannins are leached from the skins. Some producers, notably Allegrini, are therefore substituting grapes that have been dried (though not to the extent required for Amarone) for the fermented Amarone skins, although this technique is necessarily expensive. The technique is also used in South America.   

The wine has also been recognized by the Italian Food Guide, Gambero Rosso, with its Three Glass designation, their highest, known in the trade as Tre Bicchieri. They have a great tasting each year.            

I’ve had other ripassos, maybe George will let me try this one.       

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