Valpolicella is a wine with rather a poor image as too much poorly made Valpolicella is produced. But it deserves a closer look because if you select carefully your producer, a Classico DOP from the better hillside sites of the region and steer away from basic light, fruity Valpolicella, you can ensure great quality, like this Valpolicella Ripasso from Guerrieri Rizzardi's Pojega vineyard.
Valpolicella is always produced from a blend of grapes - in this case 45% Corvinone, 45% Corvina and the balance made up from Rondinella and Merlot
. It uses essentially the same grape varieties as Amarone for which prices can be up to three times higher. In fact for Valpolicella Ripasso the Valpolicella wine is refermented on top of the skins of the 'recioto' grapes used for Amarone
. The recioto grapes have been dried before fermentation which increases their concentration and complexity.
The result is that Valpolicella Ripasso intensifies in strength, body, aromas, colour, flavours and tannins without becoming quite as rich as Amarone itself. It is therefore fuller, richer and softer than traditional "plain" Valpolicella
. This example is delicious and great value for such a good quality wine. If you fancy a real treat, try the richer Amarone from the same producer
The first sniff of this wine gives clues to its complexity withlots of fresh fruit like black cherries and ripe plums. Rondinella adds floral notes to the aromas, Corvina brings elegance, aromas and acidity with Corvinone contributing colour, tannins and higher sugar levels. This vintage is lighter in body than the 2016 but is still full of concentrated fruit flavours; there is a long finish of cherries with a hint of warm spices such as cinnamon and raisins. The acidity is quite high which means that despite the fruits and full body, this is not a heavy wine at all. Tannins are very soft and the wine lovely and smooth.
This wine will keep on developing for two or three years in bottle, becoming richer and its flavours moving towards the Amarone dried fruit flavour profile. In the interim it is very drinkable and amazingly concentrated.
The producer suggests consuming this wine with grilled lamb cutlets, fillet or sirloin of beef, stews, casseroles and hard, aged cheese. It would also work well with roasted meat, game dishes slightly sweet dishes, most cheeses, cured meats and also with savoury dishes flavoured with lemon. Also delicious on its own
2015 was one of the most rewarding vintages in recent years, plenty of sunshine but not overly hot resulting in a Ripasso with depth and concentration yet maintaining its signature freshness.
Plenty of dark berried fruit and subtle sweet spices, a Ripasso that is fine on its own but even better with food.