Ripasso is an ancient wine making technique used for centuries in Italy’s Valpolicella wineries. Ripasso, also known as double fermentation, is a method used to give more structure, body and flavours to the basic Valpolicella wine. Ripasso is an Italian word meaning “review“, “re-pass” or “go over again“.
Once harvested in autumn, selected grapes to be used in both Amarone and Recioto wines remain in lofts above wineries to dry for about four months. All the rest of the harvested grapes are squeezed and fermented to make the basic Valpolicella Classico wine.
At the end of January or beginning of February the semi-dried grapes for Amarone and Recioto are squeezed and fermented together with grape skins. Once the fermentation is complete the grape skins are removed and wine is then stored for ageing.
The Valpolicella wine that was fermented back in the fall is then put over these Recioto and Amarone skins which, being still full of un-fermented sugars, starts a second fermentation. These skins still contain aromatic compounds and tannins that are transferred to the Valpolicella wine.
Valpolicella Ripasso shares the freshness and lightness of basic Valpolicella wine but has more of the structures and flavours of the more expensive Amarone. This is kind of a happy medium between the other two. There is cherry fruitiness of a classic Valpolicella but it will have more tannins and flavours from the dried grape skins; providing flavour of darker fruits, spice and leather and will have a longer finish.
Valpolicella Ripasso wine will be identified in one of several ways. On the label beside the words ‘Valpolicella Classico DOC’, will appear an additional description such as Ripasso, Double Fermentation or Second Fermentation.
You can count on the wine being a medium bodied wine, fruity and having tertiary flavours and aromas. Some will have flavours similar to a basic Valpolicella wine, while others will be closer to an Amarone wine. Each vintner has their own style of making it as they use varying percentages of fresh to dried grapes. It is worth while trying several different ones to find your own preference.