One of the first mistakes I made when I began my exploration of wine many years ago was to think that Valpolicella wine was made from, well, Valpolicella. As I uncomfortably found out, Valpolicella is the name of a town in northern Italy, and the wine is actually made from three Italian grapes; Corvina, Rondinella and often Molinara.
Valpolicella was a first love, so I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know my first love as well as I thought or professed. Time moved on and, like many imperfect romances, old Val and I went our separate ways. I had a few cheap dates with Merlot, a rendezvous or two in Rioja and a brush-in with Barbera.
A couple of years later, I’m in Italy on business when lady luck bumped into me. I turned to rediscover an old love, Valpolicella. She was the same; part Corvina and part Rondinella. Except this time, something was different. This time, Valpolicella was a Ripasso. She had matured, become more elegant and developed into an all-around richer and complex wine.
Valpolicella Ripasso is frequently referred to as a “baby Amarone.” Because the Valpolicella wine is passed back over (thus the term ripasso) and laid to rest in the remains of crushed fruit or Amarone lees, the resulting wine becomes deeper in color and richer in flavor.
Ironically, a good Ripasso can often get overlooked. With other Italian studs, like Brunello and Barolo, Valpolicella Ripasso is sometimes left out of the choice equation. Typically, consumer options are left to picking between producers like Tommasi and Bolla. However, there are a handful of other choices that should be enjoyed. A good Ripasso-style wine will cost about $20-25, and the following three are reason enough to pursue this remarkable wine.
Accordini Ripasso della Valpolicella
Accordini was the wine that reenergized my passion for Valpolicella. The 2005 Accordini Ripasso displays aromas of cigar box and plum while revealing flavors of raison and dried dark fruits. If you happen to notice something that is nostalgic of childhood, you’re not getting loopy. The fresh, bright fruit on this bouquet could have Toucan Sam swoop in for a drink.
Allegrini Palazzo della Torre
Although technically not labeled as Ripasso, the Allegrini Palazzo della Torre is a blend of Corvina and Rondinella with a small amount of Sangiovese added. The addition of dried grape juice to the blend helps to create the same effect of richness, complexity and color. The Palazzo della Torre offers notes of violets and cinnamon with a polished texture that shows off crushed cherry and coffee flavors. This is one palatial and towering wine.
Zenato Ripasso della Valpolicella
The Zenato Ripasso della Valpolicella maintains the same rich texture as the other two selections but differs in aroma. The prevalence of cedar drawer, mushroom and forest aromas is both unique and misleading. The unconventional funkiness on the nose doesn’t carry over to a flavor profile that tends to be more traditional, with a raisin-like essence and an espresso edge.
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