Tasting No. 223 (Virtual) – October 26, 2020 – Valpolicella


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By Aaron Epstein – Flickr: *Italy 28, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32520084


Tasting Overview

This tasting is part of our varietals tasting program but is not strictly about a particular grape variety. Instead is about a particular kind of wine, the Valpolicella, that is always made of the same handful of varieties combined in different proportions.  There are five types of Valpolicella wines (see the Technical Note Below) some of which share the common feature of starting with the sun drying of the grapes to concentrate sugars.  The sun dried grapes or raisins are then fermented with wine.  The young dry Valpolicella Classico wines exhibits punchy flashes of spicy, tart, and sweet flavors, often referred to as having a “sour cherry” note and considered to be the Beaujolais Nouveau of Italy.  It felt a bit in disrepute in the 70s/80s because of excessive production. To be considered Superiore, the wines must be aged for at least a year and are therefore darker in color and more concentrated. Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is produced by macerating the pomace (grape skins and stalks) leftover from Amarone production with Valpolicella Classico. Resulting in a much richer, denser, and higher alcohol content. Yet even more exciting than the ever-improving array of dry red wines are the area’s sweeter creations. 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wine presenters: Ricardo Santiago, Jorge Requena

The reference wine is:

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

The presenters recommended two other wines for comparison , the first is one notch above and the second is one notch below in terms quality and price than the reference wine:

2015 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella

2017 Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

 The menu is up to each participant discretion

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Clara Estrada, Michelle Fryer, Alberto Gómez, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Orlando Mason, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago, Pedro Turina 

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Zenato Ripassa, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC Superiore

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The Wine: Zenato’s Ripassa style wine is a lush and powerful red. The color of the Zenato Ripassa is deep ruby ​​red. It has lots of dark fruit on the nose. The bouquet is intense, fine and persistent, with hints of black cherry and plum. It has a rounded, velvet-textured palate with an impressive lengthy finish. The taste is harmonious and velvety, with good structure.

This wine is closely connected to Amarone, the greatest wine of Valpolicella. After pressing the dried grapes from which Amarone is made, the Valpolicella wine is passed over the still warm marc of Amarone. A second alcoholic fermentation begins which increases the alcoholic content and the wine becomes richer in color, bouquet.  The wine is aged for 18 months in oak casks and barrels.

The Zenato Ripassa is a blend of grapes with 85% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone.  The recommended serving temperature is 18 ° C. It has 14.5% alcohol content.

It is an excellent companion with game dishes, grilled meats and roasts, cold cuts and aged cheeses.

The winery: Zenato is an important producer in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, with estates in the Lugana and Valpolicella regions. It is particularly known for its Amarone della Valpolicella wines, although it makes a range of other wines, from Pinot Grigio and Soave to varietal Corvina wines. Sergio Zenato started the winery in 1960 and today the family tradition in winemaking is carried on by his children Alberto and Nadia.

The vineyard is in a hilly area of ​​Valpolicella with South-East and South-West exposure. The average altitude of the land is 250-300 meters above sea level.  The soil type is mainly cretaceous, calcareous. The average age of the vines is 10/15 years with an average load of 8/10 buds per plant. The yield per hectare is about 100 quintals. The harvest is manual and it takes place the first half of October.

Read more about the winery here: https://www.zenato.it/en/our-wines.html

The region: The Veneto is the leading wine-producing region of the north of Italy in terms of volume. The most important Veneto wines are Amarone, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella.

The Valpolicella wine zone is in the Veneto region. Straddling Lombardy and Veneto a few steps from the southern shore of Lake Garda, is one of the most original wine areas in Europe. It has a particular climate tempered by the mass of water of Lake Garda.

Read more about the region here: https://www.cellartours.com/italy/italian-wine-regions/valpolicella

Technical Notes 

Presentación Valpolicella by Jorge Requena

Compiled by Jorge Requena and Ricardo Santiago

Valpolicella varieties. The Valpolicella Ripasso wines are based on blends of native red grapes. The main varieties are Corvina, Rondinella, and Corvinone.  Corvina and Rondinella are mandatory grapes and can form the entire blend by themselves. Corvina participates with 45% to 95% and Rondinella with 5% to 30%.  Corvinone is permitted to the maximum of 50%, replacing an equal percentage of Corvina. Additionally, other traditional varieties of Verona, such as Molinara and Oseleta, and international varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, can contribute to the blend with very small percentages.

Corvina is the backbone of the blend.  It confers aromas and softness to the wines. It has low tannins and low anthocyanin content: its color is never ultra-dark. A good Corvina will remind you of violet, blackberry, and red cherry, with a delicately aromatic touch of herbs.

Rondinella is the second most grown variety. It contributes with color and aromas. Some producers claim that it is an invaluable part of Valpolicella as it confers color and a lovely herbaceous note. For other producers, it is rather neutral, and its only real virtue is its reliability being the strongest of the local grapes against diseases and adverse weather.

Corvinone is a particularly important allowed variety conferring aroma complexity and structure to the wine. It supplies Corvina with the tannins it is missing, and the result is much better than the single components on their own.

Molinara was historically a major contributor to the blend. It gives supporting acidity. It contributes aromas and flavors of red berries, citrus, and delicate herbs and spices. Its participation is declining because of its rosy, light color “…is not liked by producers looking to make the biggest, blackest wine possible.”

Oseleta, old native variety rediscovered in the 1980s and now used in very small amounts by some producers. Gives great tannic concentration and exceptional color.

Styles of Valpolicella. There are five styles of Valpolicella; Classico, Superiore, Superiore Ripasso, Amarone Della Valpolicella, and Recioto Della Valpolicella.

A) Valpolicella Classico, everyday wine, is the largest quantity produced ($13-$15).

B) Valpolicella Superiore, minimum 12% alcohol and 1 year in wood. Darker color than Valpolicella Classico ($15–$20).

C) Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, one of Italy’s best values. Made by macerating Amarone pomace (grape skins & solids) with fresh Valpolicella Classico. Medium – full body. Rich, soft, complex ($20–$25).

D) Amarone della Valpolicella. Made with grapes that are dried for 4-5 months. Minimum 2 and up to 5 years prior to release. Can cellar 10+ years. Minimum alcohol 14%, usually 15-16%. Full bodied, dried fruit, firm tannins, high acid ($50 or more).

E) Recioto della Valpolicella is a dessert wine. Same grapes as Amarone, same process, but fermentation is halted before completion to leave residual sugar in the wine. Extremely concentrated, spectacularly complex. Rich dried fruit, lots of tannin and bright acidity. 12% alcohol. Can cellar for 20-30 years ($40+ 375ml bottle).

Vinification: Because Valpolicella’s wines generally lean towards the lighter end of the scale, for centuries the local winemakers have employed various techniques to improve the depth and complexity of their cuvées.

The passito and ripasso methods have been the most successful: the former is used in the Recioto della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella, while the latter is used to make Valpolicella Ripasso. For a passito wine, the grapes are dried out for weeks or even months prior to fermentation, during which time their natural sugars and flavors become sufficiently concentrated to produce deeper, more alcoholic wines. The ripasso method is to ‘re-pass’ (re-ferment) the passito grape skins with standard Valpolicella wine, creating a deeper, more character-laden result. The style was granted its own independent DOC title in 2007.

Valpolicella is the most famous red wine to come out of the Veneto wine region (Bardolino is the only other contender). The defining character of all quality Valpolicella is its fragrant, tangy cherry aroma, a quality which is carried through into the ripasso wines.

You can see a PowerPoint presentation on Valpolicella wines (in Spanish) here:


The Zenato site: https://www.zenato.it/it/ripassa-valpolicella-ripasso-doc-superiore.html

Valpolicella Wine Pyramid: https://winefolly.com/deep-dive/valpolicella-wine-pyramid/

About the grapes: https://www.amaronetours.it/wines/amarone/grape-varietals

About Ripasso and Amarone methods: http://wineandabout.com/basics/ripasso-amarone-methods/#.X2-SMpNKjeo




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