2013 Zenato Valpolicella ‘Ripassa’ Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, Italy
This wine by Zenato winery is made in the classic Veronese Ripasso style, closely connected to the Amarone Valpolicella wine. If you’re not quite familiar with it, here is how it’s made.
After pressing the dried grapes from which the Amarone style is made, some selected dry red Valpolicella wine is passed over the warm vinace (the grape skins after fermentation) of Amarone.
Because these Amarone skins still contain some sugar that are released in the Valpolicella wine, a 2d alcoholic fermentation starts which increases the alcoholic content and the wine. The Valpolicella becomes Ripasso, fuller, richer in color and flavors. An intermediary style between the thiner Valpolicella and the big Amarone.
The Best of both world? It may well be!
This particular example, called ‘Ripassa’, a trademark owned by pioneering Valpolicella producer Zenato, is a blend of 85% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, and 5% Oseleta, classic blend of local grapes from the Verona province.
After the Ripasso process, the wine was aged for 18 months in 500-litre oak casks and wine barrels (see video of the cask room at the Zenato winery I visited below).
So How Good is Zenato Valpolicella Ripassa?
This Valpolicella Ripasso comes in a rather dark red color. Yes, intense and dark, not overly so but nearly black to the core and quite a dark red to the rim.
The nose is even more intense, aromatically obviously this is.
It’s pungent and utterly spicy, filled with incredible notes of caramelized licorice, dark clove, black pepper and dark cherries mixed with purple plums. It’s both very evocative of savory smells, but also fruity and appetizing. Such a unique smelling experience.
The palate bursts in spicy and explosive fruity flavors as soon as you put the wine in your mouth, confirming in that that we are here with a very special, unusual (as in rare) wine to taste.
It’s round and somewhat soft in tannins, although the body is actually pretty big with intense sweet-ish flavors of caramel and prune. The structure although quite smooth and velvety, also provides plenty of grip to the finish, at least without food to coat things up.
Big bursts of umami flavors, like soy sauce does in a salad or in barbecue marinade, herbal scents as in thyme and rosemary, the powerful and bitter licorice, prune and caramel.
There is so much going on, always blended and stretched between savory and sweet sensations.
It’s both mind-blowing because such a rare complex taste, and utterly enjoyable for a palate like mine that likes dry and savory notes, but also wines made from rich and ripe grapes. There is both here and I found it very satisfying.
You’ve got the point, I genuinely loved this wine and am very positive about its personality and expression. I hope however that this description will also give you clear indications of whether or not this might be of your taste. It might be a bit of an acquired taste to understand and fully appreciate the depth and broadness of flavors packed into this ‘Ripassa’ from Valpolicella.
A unique tasting experience!