Valpolicella is famed for its iconic Amarone – aka, Italy’s richest, most opulent (and pricey) red. The region’s ripasso wine is a sumptuous alternative that’s a bit easier on the wallet – and local maestro Daniele Accordini makes some of the finest we’ve tasted.
Little wonder – he’s head winemaker at Cantina di Negrar, the famed estate credited with creating the first Amarone. (The fateful discovery happened in 1936 after the Cantina’s then-president tasted a recioto wine that had accidentally been left to ferment for too long. The rest is delicious history … )
Ripasso derives its hedonistic character from a second – now quite on purpose! – fermentation, where basic Valpolicella is “re-passed” over grape skins used to make Amarone. Daniele aged his ripasso for a luxurious 18 months in fine oak barrels and, inspired by a bit of history, named the resulting “baby Amarone” after iconic, local poet Bartolomeo Lorenzi, whose 18th-century verses praised the wines of the region.
Look for aromas of ripe plum and cherry, with notes of cinnamon and licorice. Flavors of bramble fruit, baking spice, and dark chocolate are lifted by the silky mouthfeel and a long, chocolaty finish. This is the kind of red that will really shine when served with full-flavored, creamy cheeses (notoriously difficult to pair with red wines). Locally, Taleggio would be served, but Brie will also be delicious. If it’s dinnertime, try dishes starring veal, like osso buco.