Valpolicella is a wine with rather a poor image as too much poorly made Valpolicella is produced. But it deserves a closer look because if you select carefully your producer, aim for a Classico DOP from the better hillside sites of the region and steer away from basic light, fruity straight Valpolicella, you can ensure great quality, like this Valpolicella Ripasso from Guerrieri Rizzardi’s Pojega vineyard.
The 2019 vintage of this wine is a little richer and fuller bodied than recent past vintages due to a more consistently warm growing & harvesting season. For this reason a higher percentage of Corvina was used in the blend in 2019 – Corvina brings elegance, aromas and acidity to balance out the higher sugar and tannins. The flavour profile remains very similar though. The complexity of this wine starts on the nose with black cherries, ripe plums, floral, herbal and savoury notes. Rondinella adds floral notes to the aromas with Corvinone contributing colour, tannins and higher sugar levels. On tasting you will find a medium-bodied wine which coats the mouth beautifully with its concentrated fruit flavours; there is a long finish of cherries with a hint of warm spices such as cinnamon and raisins. The acidity is quite high which means that despite the fruits and full body, this is not a heavy wine at all. Tannins are very soft and the wine lovely and smooth.
Valpolicella is always produced from a blend of grapes – for this 2019 60% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and 10% Merlot. It uses essentially the same grape varieties as Amarone for which prices can be up to three times higher. For Valpolicella Ripasso the wine is refermented on top of the skins of the ‘recioto’ grapes used for Amarone, i.e. grapes that have been dried before fermentation to increase their concentration and complexity. The result is that Valpolocella Ripasso intensifies in strength, body, aromas, colour, flavours and tannins without becoming quite as rich as Amarone itself. It is therefore fuller, richer and softer than traditional “plain” Valpolicella. This example is delicious and great value for such a good quality wine. If you fancy a real treat, try the richer Amarone from the same producer. This wine will keep on developing for two or three years in bottle, becoming richer and its flavours moving towards the Amarone dried fruit flavour profile. In the interim it is very drinkable and amazingly concentrated.