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City of Padova in the Veneto region. Foto: Joyce Pillarella
Demystifying the Ripasso

Looking for a resonably priced wine for dinner tonite ? Pass the ripasso. Quebec has been buying up these wines like crazy. Here’s what all the fuss is all about.

The word ripasso comes from the italian meaning «re-passed». It represents an old school method of winemaking in the Veneto region of Italy.

A region known for the canals in Venice and the story of Romeo and Juliet in Verona. Famous Veneto citizens include Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), Antonio Vivaldi and Roberto Baggio. Travelling westbound from Venice and north west from Verona we arrive in the zone of Valpolicella. Val-poli-cella in Latin means valley of many cellars.

In Valpolicella, different styles of wine are made. Three which I ’d like to focus on is the Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone trio. All three are related and are made from the same red grapes. Think of the three wines in a vertically in terms of body and complexity. Valpolicella on the bottom, Ripassa in the middle and Amarone on top. I’ll explain.

BOTTOM
Valpolicella
is a wine made from three principal red grapes ; Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. It is a light to medium bodied, easy to drink wine that is paired with simple pasta dishes or pizza.

TOP
Amarone
is a full bodied and powerful wine made from the appasimento method. The same three grapes varieties are harvested in September and left to dry for about three months. Then they are fermented and pressed. With at least half of the water evaporated, the sugars are concentrated and the alcohol in the finished wine is a few points higher. Amarone is born out of this process. A big bold full bodied wine with concentrated flavours of cherries, figs and raisins. Suggested food pairings would be Monte Veronese or other similar aged sharp cheeses or a good book near a warm fireplace.

MIDDLE
Ripassa- This method of winemaking is credited to the Masi winery and the first vintage was 1964 right around the time of the Beatles’ debut on Ed Sullivan. This process is whereby the leftover lees (skins, seeds, pips, stalks) from the fermentation of Amarone wine is «re-passed» or re-pumped in the fermentation tank with Valpolicella wine in it.

Therefore Valpolicella wine gets energized or boosted with Amarone lees that contain, colour, alcohol and tannin. A new Valpolicella Ripasso wine is born. Darker colour, stronger in alcohol and tannin more complex flavours.

More versatile than Valpolicella, but not a monster like Amarone, Valpolicella ripasso pairs well with a wide range of foods from ossobuco to porcini risotto and is less expensive !