Flowers, Minerals, Black Cherries!

Valpolicella adds freshness and a bit of the glory of summer to the unstoppable onslaught of Autumn.


It’s not what you think it is, and I’m not sure what the producers think it should be. What it should be is a light wine, something really fresh and pretty, but at other times a bit darker with a lacy tannic appeal and subtle floral, mineral and spicy perfumes framing a gorgeous core of dark cherry fruit.
It’s a wine that is decidedly at home in the summertime, but adaptable enough to work well in the seasons that bracket summer as well. Particularly well suited to the fall are the richer spicier versions, many of which are made in the ripasso style. Ripasso, repassed, as in over the gross lees of Amarone. What is that? Well, in the Veneto you can find Valpolicella made in a fresh style, then you can also find Valpolicella’s big brother Amarone. Made from grapes that have been air dried for months, Amarone is a much deeper, richer, and more alcoholic wine than playful Valpolicella.

As with all wine, when Amarone is made into wine it is drawn off its solids. Now is the time for ripasso when the fresh, young Valpolicella wine is placed in the barrel with the pressed skins of the Amarone wine.  The Valpolicella then rests on those gross lees picking up some of Amarone’s intensity and complexity, but also fermenting again adding a bit more alcohol to the finished wine.

Ripasso is what many people think of when they think of Valpolicella, and many producers certainly think quite highly of it. Thinking that it makes for a better wine, and at bare minimum a wine that is more competitive on a global stage. If similarity breeds competition then that might be true, but precisely because of Valpolicella’s shortcomings, the light body, lower alcohol, and simple freshness I tend to prefer these wines to ripasso style bottlings.
It’s a personal thing. I know folks who can’t think of Valpolicella as a serious wine unless it’s ripasso. That’s a shame. Even the most serious among us have their playful moments. That is why I turn to Valpolicella. It’s a terrific wine with pasta. I particularly like it with baked pasta dishes, but the lighter style and lower alcohol also make these wines wonderfully food friendly. Consider a Valpolicella next time you’re serving pork and if there’s a little spice to the dish, some mole sauce for example, even better. You’ll be surprised how well the spicy character of Valpolicella, this light elegant wine, emerges with the right food pairing. And if there’s not enough wine there, well then there can always be a ripasso in your future!

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Top 15 Valpolicella Tasted in 2014

Tedeschi Maternigo Valpolicella Superiore (2011)
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Bussola Valpolicella Classico Superiore Tb (2008)
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Speri Valpollicella Ripasso (2011)
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Tedeschi Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Capitel San Rocco (2011)
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Speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso (2012)
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Le Ragose Valpolicella Superiore le Sassine (2009)
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Bertani Secco-Bertani Original Vintage Edition (2010)
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Le Ragose Valpolicella Italy (2012)
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Fratelli Speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore Vigneto la Roverina (2011)
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Le Ragose Valpolicella Ripasso (2008)
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Tedeschi Valpolicella Superiore Capitel Nicalo (2011)
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Bertani Valpolicella (2012)
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Brolo Campofiorin Oro Rosso del Veronese IGT (2010)
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Tedeschi Lucchine Valpolicella Classico (2012)
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Tommasi Viticoltori Valpolicella Classico Superiore Rafael (2011)
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