Tasting wine: Valpolicella is good winter wine

Amarone is the most regal non-DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wine made in Italy. Why it is just merely DOC is still a mystery to me and others. However, I don’t let this get in the way of my enjoyment of the wine.

From the Veneto region, Amarone is made in the “passito” style in which the grapes are dried on mats before they are pressed and fermented. This creates a wine that has a lot of alcohol and rich fruit. Many can age for decades.

Today’s column is not about Amarone but its little sibling, Valpolicella, which is made in the “ripasso” style. Like Amarone, Valpolicella ripasso wines are generally made from the indigenous grapes corvina, rondinella and molinara.

They differ from other Valpolicella in that the juice undergoes a secondary fermentation on Amarone lees, the leftover particles from fermentation. Adding dried grapes to the young wine after fermentation is another technique that is used to achieve the same result, and some think, superior flavor. As a result, the wines have an Amarone-like character with less alcohol and intensity, yet they are generally more complex and have more body than Valpolicella not made in this fashion.

This is not exactly a new practice. Masi, one of the top producers of Amarone, was the first to make a wine in this method in 1964. However, it has caught on in a big way in the last decade as Amarone has continued to become more sought after and expensive.

They are also great winter wines and complement hearty food, from different meats to mushrooms and cheeses. The larger houses such as Masi and Alegrini have ripasso wines that are not too hard to find, but some of my favorites are those made by smaller producers. Here are three that are worth the search.

Montresor Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, “Capitel della Crosara,” 2005: Do I have a deal for you! Really — this is superb wine that has all you can want from a ripasso. Medium- to full-bodied with baked black cherries and raspberries, bittersweet chocolate, a hint of violets and spice; this is too good to pass up.

Suggested retail: $16

Giuliari Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, 2004:  This is a fairly traditional-style wine. It has plenty of gusto but is not overpowering. On the contrary, it has elegance in spite of its intensity. Full-bodied with meaty accents in the nose, baked fruit and ripe tannins, it offers more than any Amarone fan would desire.

Suggested retail: $31

Stefano Accordini Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, “Acinatico,” 2005: Carrying on the family tradition, Stefano Accordini runs this estate with his wife, two sons and their wives. This is a more modern-style wine, i.e., less rustic than Giuliari, yet there is a strong presence of terroir. Full-bodied with vanilla, spice and dark-fruit flavors, this is a rich and luscious mouthful of wine.

Suggested retail: $28

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Hyphen hosts a group show at Space Gallery in San Francisco in 2010. (Photo courtesy of Albert Law/Pork Belly Studio)
What’s in a name? Asian American magazine fights to keep its identity

An investor-backed media group laid claim to the moniker of SF’s long-running Hyphen magazine, sparking a conversation about writing over community history

A warning notice sits under the windshield wiper of a recreational vehicle belonging to a homeless man named David as it sits parked on De Wolf Street near Alemany Boulevard on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. A proposed SF Municipal Transportation Agency law would make it illegal for overnight parking on the side street for vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over ‘poverty tows’ heats up

‘What can we do to ensure the vehicle stays in the hands of the owner?’

Crab fisherman Skip Ward of Marysville casts his crab net out off a pier near Fort Point. (Craig Lee/Special to The	Examiner)
San Francisco came back to life, and we captured it all

Last spring, in the early days of the pandemic, the bestselling authors… Continue reading

Revelers at Madrone Art Bar in the early hours of June 15, 2021 (Courtesy Power Quevedo).
No social distancing at Motown-themed dance party

‘I don’t care how anyone feels, I just want to dance!’

Most Read