The Valpolicella wine region of northern Italy is home to one of Italy’s strongest red wines, but also to one of its lightest, and a few, like this “Valpolicella Ripasso” that fall somewhere in between. All Valpolicellas are reds, and most are made from the same mix of local grapes, primarily corvina with smidgens of rondinella and molinara. Those simply labeled “Valpolicella” are vinified normally, producing a soft, fruity red that is Venice’s answer to Beaujolais. However, when the label reads “Amarone della Valpolicella,” you can expect a bolder-tasting red that is much heavier, thanks to a laborious intensification process where grapes are air-dried for months after harvest to shed water content, concentrating what remains. As a result, Amarone is forceful in flavor, sky-high in alcohol, and quite expensive to make, but luckily there’s a way to get a taste of its charms without breaking the bank. Some clever Italian winemaker figured that by pouring his everyday red over the raisiny remnants left over from making Amarone, he could referment the lighter wine a second time to impart extra color, flavor, and alcohol. Known as “Ripasso” wines, these delightfully unusual specialties combine the fresh berry snap and tang of standard Valpolicella with a hint of Amarone’s raisiny richness, as though a blackberry compote had been fortified with a decadent dollop of fig jam.
Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso Veneto, Italy, $19.99 (regularly $22.99; sale price through Jan. 27). PLCB Item #6352