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Vin Greco's weekend wine: Che Passa, Ripasso?

Vin Greco is well known locally for his wine expertise. His interest in wine has been life-long.

Vin Greco is well known locally for his wine expertise.

His interest in wine has been life-long.

Currently he conducts tastings, formal or informal, upon request, and twice a year partners in a tasting with Chef Ian Thomlinson Upstairs at Rome’s.

This week Vin explores confusing process that brings us Ripasso, The Festival of Beer Part 2: The Refill and the Saultilicous wine and appetizer crawl.

Che Passa, Ripasso?

With the April 27 release, Vintages is focusing on Wines from the Veneto – that is from the area adjacent to Venice, perhaps even closer to Verona.

Specifically, the attention is on those wines with which the production includes to some extent the drying of the grapes as part of the wine-making process. 

As the Vintages catalogue explains, this process started in the region with the production of a sweet red wine, Recioto. 

The grapes, harvested late, are set out on mats or wooden racks in order to dry. 

The evaporation of water content concentrates the flavours and the sugars.

 With Recioto, the grapes must not be pressed before January 1 following the harvest. 

With a harvest starting in mid-September in 2012, this would mean that those grapes had been drying for almost 4 months before being pressed.

Then, efforts are made to stop fermentation to ensure that sweetness is retained. 

This is not done through the addition of neutral spirits such as we find with Port and Sherry, and so unlike those wines, Recioto is usually about 12% alcohol. 

At one point only the best grapes from the top of the bunch  - the “ears” or orrechio – were used, but today it is more likely that whole bunches are employed. 

Once fermented, the wine often spends a year in small French oak barrels.

Recioto wines can be incredibly smooth and have deep, rich, dark fruit and chocolate-like flavours. 

The Antolini  Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 is $28.95 for a 500 ml. bottle. 

This is less expensive than most Ice Wines. 

If you would rather pay more, you could ask the store to transfer in a bottle of the Quintarelli, released on February 5 for $181 for a half bottle. 

Granted, it is going to be outstanding.

Many dessert wines rely on concentrating the flavour and reducing the water content in the grapes as part of the production. 

When grapes for Ice Wine are left to hang until frozen to -8˚C, they will have begun to dry out. 

Then they are pressed while still frozen which means that more of the water content is eliminated in the form of ice in the pressing.

With Sauternes, the great dessert wine of Bordeaux, the grapes are affected by Botrytis Cinerea, “Noble Rot”,  which perforates the grapes and dessicates them. 

Ice Wines can be impacted similariy, but not necessarily. 

One way or another, getting rid of the water really pumps up the character and taste.

While Recioto has been made for centuries, it was only about 75 years ago that the first bottle of Amarone was made. 

With Amarone, the grapes are pressed about a month before those used for Recioto, and the wine is fermented totally dry. 

Amarone is now one of Italy’s great wines, a “Vino di Meditazione”, one to be savoured. 

They typically retail from the mid thirty dollar to $60 range, though they can be a lot more expensive. 

The LCBO lists one of Quintarelli’s creations at $449.00!

Monte Del Fra Lena de Mezzo Amarone 2007, $48.95, earned a 93 from  the Wine Spectator back in October, and it was praised for its dynamism and breadth of flavour with at least 12 years of drinking ahead of it.

If you’re quick you might find one of the four bottles of Tommasi’s “Il Sestante” on the sale rack at the Station Mall store at the beginning of this week.

At 20% off, it should be $32, a very good price and a decent producer. 

It has the smokiness, deep cherry fruit, and cedar notes that often characterize Amarone. 

Which brings us to Ripasso. 

The exact process can be confusing, I originally understood that that Ripasso was made by putting new Valpolicella wine onto the lees – or sediment –left in the barrels after the amarone had been drawn off. 

This, in fact, may be the case with Secco-Bertani, a respected producer in the Valpantena region. 

They put the new wine onto the pomace – grape skins, seed etc. and lees from the Recioto and Amarone, usually around March.

I now understand that with other producers, newly fermented wine is “re-passed”, or given a second fermentation on unpressed skins from the grapes used for the Amarone.

This really lifts up the intensity of the flavours.

The Remo Farina Montecorna Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010, at $19.95 is a bit more expensive than most, but only by a few dollars. 

The “Superiore” tells us that it comes from the best of the Valpolicella production area. 

The Valpolicella that was made the previous autumn was refermented in the Spring on skins soaked in wine. 

The winery refers to leather, plum, cherry jam, licorice and ginger, and feels that the wine is “solid, vigorous and balanced”.  Vintages calls it “lip-smacking, and they are probably right.

The regular list Secco-Bertani Ripasso, available at both the Great Northern and Staion Mall stores, is $16.  After re-fermentation, the wine is aged in big and medium Slavonian oak casks, and medium cherry-wood barrels for 18 months.

The winery remarks on its deep garnet colour, red cherry nose, and evolving black cherry, spice and dried fruit flavours that persist through a long finish.

There are many “Ripassi” available in our stores, both on the regular list and in Vintages; however, I have to mention again the Pasqua “Villa Borghetti” Passimento 2010, $12.95, which is a wonderful entry to this style of wine. 

“Passimento” refers to the drying process of the grapes, and this is true to form. 

Merlot is used along with the traditional Valpolicella grapes, to soften things up a little in the finish. 

Try a bottle along with the Remo Farina, just to see how they compare.

A fascinating and unusual addition to the ‘dried grape’ family is a white example, Tommasi Adorato Appassimento Bianco 2011, $15.95

It’s a blend of Garganega, the grape used in Soave, and Chardonnay. 

Some of the grapes are dried, and the wine then receives 6 months in stainless steel before bottling. 

We can expect heightened honey and tropical fruit on the palate, and a crisp, almond after-taste.  

It’s always fun to find something a little out of the ordinary. 

The Dried Grape process is beginning to make its way into Ontario, and some of those wines could be showing up in Vintages, soon. 

Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute has been experimenting with various methods for drying grapes, including old tobacco kilns. 

Some of those methods are starting to find their way into production.

The April 27 release should be a good opportunity to explore Appassimento wines – provided the wines ordered actually get here! 

In the next week or so, it will be worthwhile visiting the Vintages section of the Great Northern Road store as Elaine has ordered in a number of good wines for which prices have dropped about 15% or better. 

We’ll give you a chance to cruise before I write about the bargains that are left.

Next weekend, Loplops and the Bushplane Museum are partnering to present The Festival of Beer Part 2: The Refill at the Museum from 1 to 7 P.M. Saturday and Sunday April 27 and 28. 

15 breweries are involved, and 500 tickets are available for each day, $28 per day or $50 for both.

At time of writing, Saturday is almost sold out. 

You can pick up tickets at the Bushplane Museum – cash only - or order online at

And don’t worry, winelovers -  the Saultilicous wine and appetizer crawl will be back in June, and it is always a treat.


Read more wine articles by Vin Greco: