For the last 8 years, I have explored a lot of French wines. I've got to know the different regions, styles, and grapes quite well. In fact, I can taste a Bordeaux and give a pretty good estimation of the blend of grapes used and the age. Not the most exciting party trick, but it at least proved to myself that I have learned a few things!
But outside of French my knowledge of wines was quite basic so I wanted to expand my horizons.
That's why going into 2021 I decided to explore Italian wines!
Wine has been grown and produced in Italy for thousands of years and today it is the largest producer of wine in the world. You'll find a lot of common grape varieties here like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Syrah, but Italy also has a lot of grapes that are not very well known outside of Italy. Those are the wines I am after!
I quickly learned that the Italian wine scene is very, very diverse. Wine is grown in every region in Italy. Every region has it's own styles, methods and even some grapes which are unique to that region.
Because of the sheer volume of these styles, I was a little lost with where to start so asked a few people for recommendations. Most of these suggested, among other styles, to try a Ripasso. So I did!
What is Ripasso?
Ripasso is a style of wine from the Valpolicella region in North-Eastern Italy. It is actually kind of a love child of two other styles of wine: Valpolicella (named after the region) and Amarone.
In short, Ripasso is a Valpolicella wine that goes through a second fermentation with the dried skins and seeds (promace) which are left over after the pressing of Amarone wine.
This process adds more body to the wine while making it dyer with the addition of more tannins form the skin and seeds.
Ripasso has only been commercially available since the 1980s and in 2009 it received its own DOC designation called "Ripasso della Valpolicella".
What were my first impressions of Ripasso?
The first Ripasso I tried was Guerrieri Rizzardi Pjega Valpolicella Ripasso. I picked it up in O'Briens on sale (regular price is €20).
This was a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Merlot! My initial impression was CHERRIES, on the nose and apart from some really subtle earthy notes, it was really all I could get.
But then the taste really took me by surprise. Those cherries were there with some sweet fruits, lots of oak, vanilla and a few other notes, but the really interesting thing was that it was all perfectly balanced, nothing was overpowering and yet everything was showing up. It was a very impressive wine.
This balance carried into the finish where that dryness from the added tannins leaves your tastebuds begging for another sip.
You can check out my review on the Irish Wine Reviews Instagram. I scored it a 4.0/5. Anyone who follows me knows I rarely give 4 or higher!
What other Ripassos have I tried?
Since then I have tried several other Ripassos, including Musella (4.3/5), Porta Nova (3.7/5) and Sartori Di Verona (4.1/5). All very high scores with the Musella being particularly impressive.
What are the common elements or characteristics I have found with Ripasso?
While there are various notes and flavours unique to each Ripasso, there have been some similarities I have noted.
1: Smoothness and Balance
Each wine was packed with different flavours, however they were all very nicely balanced with nothing overpowering. This makes them very tasty and easy to drink wines!
2: Slightly Dry Finish
Each of the wines had a finish that was dry, but just the right amount to leave you mouth begging for the next sip.
3: Dark Berries/Jam
Each wine had a kind of jammy expression of dark berries.
While reading further about Ripasso and the process, I believe each of these characteristics come from the process of making Ripasso, as other wines I have tried with the same grapes don't always contain them.
Whats next with me and Ripasso?
I have definitely found a style of wine that really suits my taste very well and so some of the above (particularly the Musella) have been added to my list of favorite wines. I also have several more Ripasso recommendations which I'll pick up and enjoy as I continue my exploration of Italian wines!
If you want to give Ripasso a try there are two in particular I would recommend.