Back on New Year’s Eve, my wife and I had a little soiree at our place. A few of my fellow CorkDorks came over, and one of them brought a bottle of Zenato’s “Ripassa”. It’s a Valpolicella Ripasso, made from the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes up in northeastern Italy. And so now a few weeks later, as I watch the 49ers and Giants face off in the NFC Championship Game, I’ve decided to crack open this bottle.
Meaning “repassed”, Valpolicella Ripasso wines are passed over the leftover dried grape skins and seeds from Amarones for extended maceration. This makes the wine richer and more flavorful while also making it a little more fuller-bodied than it normally would be. These wines are often referred to as “Baby Amarones.”
This particular ripasso pours a dark crimson color with an inky, black core. On the nose there’s a touch of tobacco leaf, green tea, stewed black cherries and barbecued meats. It’s medium to full-bodied on the palate, and ripe cherry jumps out in front. The tannins coat the palate fully on the finish, letting you know this wine is made for food. A tart cranberry note lingers on the lengthy finish, along with a hint of cocoa powder.
This isn’t one of those wines where you just pop the cork, pour it and drink it. It demands cuisine, and the beef and ground bison pasta I had with it paired beautifully. Now I’ll admit I’m a little biased — a confessed lover of all things Italian — but I’d rate this wine a solid 91 points. Throw some rich food in the mix, and it jumps up to a 93.
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