Ripasso is an Italian word meaning ‘to pass or go over again’ and is a technique of refermentation of Valpolicella wines that has a very long tradition in Italy’s Venetian wine region. Ripassos have proliferated in Italy’s Valpolicella region since the 1980s and are now considered the ‘second wine’ of Amarone.
But what are they, exactly? Well, the typical Venetian winery produces an opulent, powerful Amarone from dried Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, and a much more willowy and juvenile Valpolicella from fresh ones (a wine that is akin in nature to Beaujolais Nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest). When the Amarone ferment is complete the wine is drawn off the grape skins and seeds, and the juvenile Valpolicella is sloshed over this leftover sugar and nutrient-rich ‘pomace’. This ripasso (or re-passing) prompts a secondary fermentation that boosts alcohol, texture, colour and flavour in the resulting wine, in essence imbuing simple Valpolicella with a touch of Amarone glamour.
A third style which emerges when fermentation is incomplete is called Recioto, a rich dessert wine. A unique style, Valpolicella Ripasso attained DOC status in 2009. Try our dark, elegant and chocolately Benazzoli Valpolicella Ripasso 2019 for an excellent example of the genre.
Image: Leftover grape skins at harvest time, Benazzoli Wines; © Benazzoli.