A complete Ripasso della Valpolicella wine guide. Everything you need to know about the “Amarone’s little brother”.
Ripasso della Valpolicella DOC is one of the five appellation Valpolicella wines. Together with Amarone DOCG, Recioto DOCG, Valpolicella DOC and Valpolicella Superiore DOC is one of the reds from Valpolicella wine producing region, in Verona (Italy). Among all of them, it is probably the most appreciated wine on the market. Ripasso in fact stands in the middle between the fresh and easy-drinking Valpolicella and the complex and fullbodied Amarone, to which it is often compared.
In fact, for many, Ripasso is “the little brother” or a “baby Amarone”. However, Ripasso is a wine with its own identity and it boasts even older origins than Amarone itself. In this Ripasso della Valpolicella wine guide you will discover the characteristics that make it unique.
THE MEANING OF THE NAME
In Italian the word Ripasso literally means “repeat“, “”re-passed”, “passed twice”.
It refers to the technique used to produce it, which implies a double fermentation. The first fermentation transforms the grape must into Valpolicella wine. The second fermentation turns Valpolicella wine into Ripasso. This second step starts with the addition of the Amarone pomace (alias Amarone leftover) to the base wine. In other words, the Valpolicella wine is repassed on the skins already used to make Amarone wine.
Here is the Ripasso production process in detail:
- September – October : the freshly harvested grapes are vinified to produce Valpolicella wine. This first fermentation lasts about 10-15 days. Then this wine is transferred into stainless steel tanks where it remains until winter.
- December – January : Amarone is vinified. The partially dried grapes are crushed and fermented for about a month.
- February – March: Amarone wine has completed its fermentation, it’is racked off the skins and moved to another steel tank. On the remaining pomace, still soaked in wine, is transferred the Valpolicella base.(video below)
- Thanks to the presence of sugars and yeasts, a second fermentation starts and it lasts about 10-12 days.
- A minimum aging of about 6 months follows and usually it takes place in oak casks. In fact by law it is not possible release Ripasso on the market before two years after the harvest. In case Ripasso ages at least one year before bottling, it becomes Ripasso Superiore.
To make Ripasso, besides Amarone pomace, is also possible to use the Recioto pomace. Recioto is a sweet dessert wine, made with the same blend of semi-dried grapes of Amarone.
The “Ripasso technique” gives:
- higher alcohol content (+ 1% or 2% Vol.)
- color extraction
- more structure (thanks to the extraction of tannins, anthocyanins and polyphenolic substances)
- bouquet and complex aromas
Since Ripasso takes some characteristics from Amarone, some persons refer to it as a ” baby Amarone” or “little Amarone”. It is not rare to mistake an outstanding Ripasso for a mid-quality Amarone.
Ripasso della Valpolicella video guide. Valpolicella wine is pumped over Amarone pomace.
RIPASSO WINE ORIGINS
Ripasso della Valpolicella became a DOC wine in 2009 but despite what one might think it is not a recent wine.
The term Ripasso, in fact, refers to an ancient and humble wine making tecnique. It dates back long before 1936, birth year of Amarone. Its origins losts in the past, to the times of sharecropping. This word indicates a very common contract in the past between the sharecropper, the farmer who took care of the field cultivation, and the land owner. Half of the grape harvest remained to the farmer. The other half, the best part, went to the land owner who usually also owned a villa with modern cellar to make wines.
The farmers because of the lack of tools and the low quality grapes, produced very poor wines. Wines with a low alcohol content, light bodied and not suitable for ageing. They often had evident faults: oxidation, hints of mold, acetic acidity.
At that time Amarone was not “invented yet”. In Valpolicella there were just 2 types of wines: table wines made with fresh grapes for daily consumption and Recioto wine. Recioto was (and still is) a sweet wine. It’s made from selected and semi-dried grapes, so very rich in sugars and aromas. It was the wine for special occasions.
In order to improve their low-quality wines,the farmers asked the landowners for the Recioto pomace. These sweet leftover covered some faults, raised the alcohol and concentrated color and aromas. The Ripasso was born as “rescue practice” which evolved during the years in one of the most appreciated Valpolicella wines.
Rigoverno is a similar technique, from Tuscany, in the Chianti area. The difference is that in Tuscany instead of Recioto or Amarone pomace, the winemakers add dried Sangiovese grapes to the base wine.
Ripasso della Valpolicella is produced with a blend of red gape varieties. They are indigenous grapes, which means, typical from Valpolicella area and quite difficult to find outside this region.
Corvina: is a grape with oval berries and a dark skin, which resemble the crow feathers. The grape name in fact comes from “corvo” which in Italian means “Crow”. Corvina gives ruby red color, acidity and hints of red fruit, especially cherry. It is the signature Valpolicella grape variety.
Corvinone: is a variety with oval berries, bigger than those of Corvina. It gives intense aromas and spicy notes.
Corvina + Corvinone make up from 45% to 95% of the Ripasso blend.
Rondinella: contributes from 5% to 30% in the blend. It is a grape with round berries. It gives floral aromas, color and a slight savory note.
Also other non aromatic red varietals, both local and international grapes, can take part of the blend (up to 25%)
Despite the full body and aroma complexity, Ripasso wine is very easy to drink (also thanks to its affordable price). The alcohol content (between 13% and 14% vol.) is noticeable but it’s balanced by the freshness, given by the acidity, and the fruitiness. Tannins are smooth and not astringent.
Thanks to these characteristics, you can enjoy a glass of Ripasso in the most different occasions. If Valpolicella is the every-day-wine and Amarone is the big-occasion-wine, we can consider Ripasso as the week-end-wine.
Due to its structure and complexity, Ripasso wine requires intensely flavoured food.
Moreover, Ripasso has a good acidity which makes it perfect for fat dishes. Acidity in fact balances the sweetish taste typical, for example, of fatty meats and it helps to clean the palate.
The ideal pairing is with red meat. In particular, grilled and barbecue meat which, being slightly bitter because of the grill cooking, are balanced by Ripasso softness and fruity aromas. Thanks to its complex bouquet, Ripasso also matches with meats cooked with spices and herbs, such as roasts, stuffed meats and roast beef. It is also perfect with rice or pasta dishes seasoned with meat or game sauce.
Another excellent match is with aged cheeses and cold cuts.
About the local dishes we recommend:
First courses: Pasta e fasoi (pasta with beans sauce), Bigoli con il musso o con l’anatra (pasta with donkey or duck sauce), Tortellini di Valeggio (filled pasta seasoned with butter and sage), Risotto all’Amarone (Rice cooked in Amarone wine)
Second courses: Pastissada de caval con polenta (horse meat stew with maize cream), Bollito misto con pearà, (boiled meat with pepper cream)Formaggio Monte Veronese Dop (local seasoned cheese), Polenta con soppressa e formaggi della Lessinia (maize cream with salami and local cheeses)
Valpolicella Ripasso is a wine with intense flavours and a long finish. Therefore you should NEVER match it with delicate and lightly flavoured dishes as the wine will overwhelm the food taste. Therefore we do not recommend to match Ripasso with simple dishes such as plain rice and pasta, vegetable soups, white fish.
The cost of a bottle of Ripasso, just like all wines, can vary a lot. From 8-9 euros to more than 50-60 euros.
The average price of a bottle, if bought directly in the winery, is between 10 and 20 euros.
However it is possible to find some Ripasso at a lower price, both in supermarkets and in some winery shops. These bottles are usually more “basic” but however appreciable. These low cost Ripasso come from cooperative wineries or big companies, capable of lowering production costs and therefore able to guarantee a very competitive market price.
Some others Ripasso bottles can cost even more than 30 euros. This is the case of particularly prestigious wineries or high quality wines obtained with more expensive techniques. Organic certification, low yielded cultivations, strict bunch selection and long aging process can determine a higher final price.
Now you have read our Ripasso della Valpolicella wine guide. If you are curious to explore Valpolicella region with a professional local sommelier, our WINE TOURS are for you!
Don’t hesitate to contact us! We will be happy to give you all the information you need.
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