Valpolicella is one of the most interesting appelations in Italian wine. Known for the strong, high-alcohol Amarone, Valpolicella is one of the few wine areas of Italy that frequently employs the drying of grapes. On today’s Somm Tasting Notes, Sabra Lewis tastes one of the more interesting spins on the dried-grape genre of wine, Ripasso. The Fabiano Valpolicella Ripasso is a lovely entry point to these wines: well-balanced, full-bodied, with fruit and honey notes. Be sure to watch today’s episode for Sabra’s full tasting notes!
Winemaking in Valpolicella dates back to the Greeks, but Amarone (and subsequently Ripasso) are newer styles. Drying grapes (called “apassimento” in Valpolicella) to increase their sugar content was initially used to create a dessert wine called Recioto, but in the 50s, winemakers began using different yeast strains that could devour more of the sugar in the grape, which would produce a dry (but higher in alcohol) wine. Amarone wines are usually referred to as “big” wines that are reserved for special occasions.
Ripasso, on the other hand, is a style of wine that dates only to the 80s. Meaning “repassed,” the wine is fermented twice. First, the winemaker vinifies a still wine comprising of at least 45% of the appellation’s most planted varietal, Corvina, and other local varietals like Molinara and Rondinella. This yields a wine that could be drunk as a typical, light-bodied Valpolicella blend. But ripasso takes the process a step further, and “re-passes” the wine over the leftover skins and yeast from Amarone production. This extended maceration on the skins adds tannin, and also causes fermentation, because of the richness in sugar that Amarone skins contain.
The result is a wine that is less intense and alcoholic than Amarone, but more full-bodied and tannic than a typical Valpolicella. For an illustrated breakdown of the process, check out the winemaker Tommasi’s website. And for more information on Valpolicella, read Jancis Robinson on the Veneto, which is the region where Valpolicella is located.
Thanks to Sabra for giving us her Somm Tasting Notes! If you want to try Ripasso for yourself, head to Golden Ram Imports’ Where to Buy page to find your nearest retail location. And if you liked this video and love food and wine, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Instagram. Thanks for watching!