Ripasso - Where Valpolicella Classico Meets Amarone

How do you make a great Ripasso? Start with the harvest of the classic Valpolicella varietals from Marano di Valpolicella—Corvina and Corvinone, Rondinella, Croatina, and Molinara. After harvest in autumn select grapes are chosen to make Amarone and Recioto through the “appassimento” method whereby the fruit is dried in wooden racks for nearly 100 days. The remaining fruit is immediately pressed and put through an initial fermentation to make Valpolicella Classico. In the February timeframe, the semi-dried grapes are then pressed and fermented with their skins to produce Amarone and Recioto. The skins are removed prior to placing the wine into wooden barrels for aging.

Get ready! This is where it gets interesting. The skins (lees) from the Amarone are reintroduced to the Valpolicella, and the wine undergoes a second fermentation, hence the term Ripasso, which means to “review” or “pass again”. The result is sweet cherry flavors of the Valpolicella with the firmness and complexity of the Amarone. You can see why this wine is sometimes referred to as a "baby Amarone".

While the exact origin of the ripasso style of winemaking is unclear, I have found references that date this "appassimento" method (drying grapes prior to pressing) back to ancient Greek and Roman times. What is clear is that this style of winemaking produces a truly unique and complex wine unlike any other.

Our Valpolicella producer, Fabio Corsi, has crafted an amazing Ripasso. I tasted it for the first time in Fabio’s cellar in Valgatara. My son, Tony, was along for this search; and on this day we were previewing all five of Fabio’s wines. In full disclosure, we had just toured his ancient, 16th century underground stone cellar where I imagined all the great wines aging over the centuries.

Ok, this may have influenced my tasting experience. After all, context makes a big difference when experiencing wine. We had started with Fabio’s Valpolicella Classico. It was just that—classic, with great cherry flavors balanced with soft, barely noticeable tannins  Next, we moved to the Ripasso; and the moment Fabio poured it in my glass, the color grabbed my attention. Tony and I swirled, sipped, and swallowed at about the same time. We turned and looked at each other; and without uttering a sound, our eyes said it best, “We must have this wine!”  My next thoughts went right to the Amarone. If the Ripasso was this fabulous, then the parent Amarone must be….! Let me give you a preview.  It didn’t disappoint, but I will save that for another post.

Since bringing the wine to California, I have been enjoying Ripasso with barbecued meats, pasta bolognese, and even pizza. Even if you don’t have a cellar built in the 16th century, you will still enjoy this wine.

Don Chigazola