What good is a dried-out, squashed raisin?
In Italy’s Verona region, this humble ingredient is used to create tasty wine magic. The technique is called “ripasso” and it’s fascinating.
A Prestigious Red
First, let’s talk about one of Italy’s great contributions to the world of wine—Amarone della Valpolicella.
You may know it as just Amarone. Regardless of what you call it, it’s a darling of the wine world. A voluptuous wine, rich in wild-cherry and chocolate flavours with a deliciously subtle sweetness.
In terms of prestige, Amarone is up there with Champagne for toasting special occasions.
Is “Raisinification” Even a Word??
Amarone’s unique character comes from a production method using grapes that have been harvested and dried for 3 months. They loose 40 percent of their moisture over this time.
This unusual “raisinification” process concentrates the flavours and sugars. These dried grapes are pressed, and the concentrated juice is slowly fermented and aged.
Amarone della Valpolicella is a premium wine and it’s not cheap. A lot of that comes down to those 3-month-old dried grapes. They contain less juice, so a lot more of them are required to make Amarone.
A Second Life
If you want some of that Amarone experience with a more-affordable price tag, you can look to Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore—Amarone’s little brother.
It is made with the same grape varieties as Amarone, only they aren’t dried. However, Italian winemakers have cleverly found a way to infuse some of that concentrated dried-grape character using a process called “Ripasso.”
This process uses the leftover, pressed grapes from Amarone production. The result is wine that’s less expensive than Amarone but shares some of its beloved characteristics.
A Gentleman of Verona
Winemaker Francesco Bonuzzi of Villa Canestrari in Verona, Italy stopped by to hang out with us at TOMME a few weeks ago. He makes both Amarone della Valpolicella and Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore.
Francesco is wonderfully charismatic and generous with his wealth of winemaking knowledge. So, we asked him to tell us a bit about the Ripasso process.
I asked Francesco if we could grab a photo together. As we posed, he came up with the comment of the day...