Ripasso Della Valpolicella

Often thought of as a singular wine style, the prodigious vineyards of the Valpolicella DOC, a Veneto sub-region in north-eastern Italy, now produce a broad range of grapes and blends. Rightfully known for light and fruity wines intended for early consumption, the bulk of the vines planted here include Rondinella, Molinara, and Corvina Veronese. Up until the early medieval age, these hillside tracts of fertile soil that are dependably fed by a lattice of brooks in the Adige River watershed were individually named valleys: Vallis Provinianensis, rolling out northwest of famed Verona, and Vallis Veriacus to the east. In time, the reference to these and an adjacent plain were combined, becoming Vallis Pulicella. Modern day Italians, along with the rest of an appreciative wine world, now succinctly call the region Valpolicella. Circa the 12th-century onwards, stewardship of the ‘valley of many cellars’ was first overseen by the Veronese nobility and then the prosperous mercantile class who followed in their footsteps. As regional contributors to the glory age known as the Serenissima Republia (‘Serene Republic of Venice’), this partnership of multi-generational families coupled with local agricultural expertise has been a winning formula for distinctive winemaking and export know-how. Viva Verona!

Ripasso (to ‘go over again’) is a relatively ancient vinification technique which has again become popular with red wine lovers looking for bolder versions of standard Valpolicella; lighter than the complex, heavyweight, and significantly more expensive Amarone, another specialty in the region. For this week’s DéClassé selection of Storia Antica Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2014, the ‘Ripasso’ designation refers to a multi-step process beginning with selective, hand picking and sorting of grapes that include a predominate blend of Corvina Veronese and Corvinone Nero, as well as, a splash of Rondinella. The fruit macerates in contact with the skins for approximately 10 days before filtering, after which it settles and matures while stored in Inox (stainless steel tanks) for several months. In January/February of the following year, the second fermentation stage that characterizes Ripasso wines is achieved by reusing the pumice of dried grapes discarded after a complicated production process in making Amarone. Blending this mash, which still holds a concentration of unconverted sugars, with the young Valpolicella prompts the re-fermentation. The wine is filtered again, then left to age for 12 months in large oak barrels and 6 months in the bottle. If executed with care, these steps create a richer wine with noticeably more tannin, pigment, and an alcohol content boosted from 11% to at least 13%.

A great deal of time and effort has been invested in this production style, so paying a few dollars above the baseline price-point for generic Valpolicella is more than justified. As this bottling is from the 2014 vintage, it’s ready to drink now – it may also be enjoyed over the next 3-5 years if for some reason you misplace your corkscrew!

STORIA ANTICA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA 2014
VINTAGES – Product #273672 | 750 mL bottle
Price: $ 17.95
13.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D

Made in: Veneto, Italy
By: Le Ville Di Antane S.R.L.
Release Date: March 18, 2017

Tasting Note
With its dominant flavours of dark fruit, some chocolate and savoury notes, and the signature yet subtle raisinated quality, this ruby coloured wine is a signature Ripasso Della Valpolicella. Dry, flavourful and smooth, the bottling’s balance of oak and fruit combine in a refinement that’s not always achieved in the sometimes, heavy-handed Appassimento styles. An excellent wine choice for barbecued steaks and ribs, lamb tagine, roasted butternut squash, or Ratatouille with crispy herbed croutons.

Appassimento Alert

Still hard at work in the renowned and garden-like vineyards surrounding Verona,
an unbroken line of vignaiolo at Masi have built up, then diligently passed on their
wine-making knowledge. As of acquiring the Vaio dei Masi namesake property in
1772, these family vintners have steadily developed a largely unrivalled mastery
with the region’s indigenous grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Up until
the early medieval period, the desirable hillside tracts of fertile soil and prolific
vines, dependably fed by a lattice of brooks in the Adige River watershed, were
independently named valleys: Vallis Provinianensis; rolling out northwest of the
famed city and vallis Veriacus to the east. In time, the reference to these and an adjacent plain were combined, becoming vallis Pulicella. Modern Italians along
with the rest of an appreciative wine world, now succinctly call it Valpolicella.

Circa the 12th century and onwards, the ‘valley of many cellars’ has been under
the stewardship of the Veronese nobility and prosperous mercantile collaborators
who would follow in their footsteps. Multi-generational family oversight of long
standing estates while drawing on locally rooted agricultural expertise, has been
a guiding formula for consistently good winemaking. Since the glory days of the
Serenissima Republia (‘Serene Republic of Venice’), promoting distinctive quality
levels while also bolstering the export potential, has developed hand-in-hand. It
makes for very good business. It might also reveal that the process of becoming
a large and successful vintner doesn’t necessarily translate into production of
unremarkable wine. It is possible to output large amounts of well-made wine, so
long as basic cultivation balances are maintained: judicious pruning to compact
yields, optimal planting density and an indispensable hands-on tending to the fruit.

This week’s DéClassé featured Boscaini family are doing well at balancing scale
with the maintenance of quality–by continuing to explore innovation and applying
the updated techniques to traditional recipes. Among the host of noteworthy
wines from this globally recognized brand is a so-called ‘Super Venetian.’ Making
a relatively modern debut in the mid-1960’s, this wine’s finishing process is yet
another variant of the Greek grape drying technique called passito, then further
refined in Roman winemaking. Historically used to create sweet wine styles such
as Recioto della Valpolicella, it was gradually adapted under the umbrella term of Appassimento, yielding a range of drier, though still immensely rich wines such
as Amarone and various types of Doppio Passo or Ripasso: like the 2011 vintage
of Campofiorin, whose striking label bears a bold Latin subtitle and aspiration:
Nectar Angelorum Hominibus (‘Nectar of the angels for men’)!

When this bottling and it’s patented finishing process was introduced 50 years
ago, it was hailed as a new category of wine. The innovate use of freshly dried
grapes, as opposed to second-use of Amarone must, prompts a slightly more
vigourous 
second fermentation and enriching of the young base wine. Practiced
drinkers of Ripasso will nonetheless recognize its heritage, conveying a plummy,
plush and fulsome style; one which always seems more at home with the richer
food fare around Christmas. Usually selling just above the traditional DéClassé
price-point, the current $3-off sale makes it a bargain; as a robust dinner wine
addition. Remarkably, this 
has sufficient body to withstand several decades of
cellaring–buy plenty and see if you’re able to hold onto some!

Campofiorin

MASI CAMPOFIORIN 2011
LCBO Product #155051 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 19.95
Sale $ 16.95
13% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Veneto, Italy
By: Masi Agricola S.P.A.
Release Date: Sale through November 28, 2015

Tasting Note
This has a densely layered set of aromas and flavours including cherry and plum,
currants and sweet spices. As expected from a Ripasso wine, it’s velvety and
versatile; suitable to richer food fare. Try as apéritif with spicy meat-filled Phyllo
wraps, baked and well-aged cheeses, or to keep up with Bavette steak, grilled
lamb kabobs and suckling pork with fire-roasted vegetables.