Tasting Notes: One of my favorite wines in the world is a well-made Amarone. They are produced using a technique that essentially involves drying the grapes until they are raisins before pressing them, which creates incredibly concentrated, rich flavors. The problem is that Amarone is a very expensive wine and the cheaper ones are of poor quality. That’s why I love the Ripasso. Literally meaning “re-pass,” it is a Valpolicella that is fermented a second time on the leftover skins of the Amarone. I like to call it a poor man’s Amarone, but the truth is that a Ripasso from a reputable winery is of much higher quality than some of the lower-end Amarones. This Zenato Ripassa (Zenato is the only winery to call a Ripasso a Ripassa) is a deep ruby red and offers rich, elegant aromas that linger far longer than I would expect. The dried fruit is predominant, such as raisins, prunes, cherries and dark berries like blackberries and raspberries. There is also a scent of vanilla and steamed banana leaf. The wine is so concentrated in flavor it almost has a balsamic quality to it. It has a velvety texture and a long, long, long finish. I love this wine. Food Pairing Suggestions: This wine would be a perfect pairing with game meats like elk and antelope. In fact, we did a dinner party recently with a dish that would have worked well; a Braised Antelope Hind Quarter on Blue Cheese Cauliflower Mash and Shaved Brussel Sprouts. This could also go really well with mushroom-based dishes or aged dried meats. You could also just drink it alone with a loaf of rich bread like a roasted garlic focaccia dipped in olive oil. The bottom line with a wine of this intensity is that you need to double down on the flavor of your food. Whatever you’re cooking, it needs a reduction sauce or other strong, concentrated flavors to stand up to the wine.
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