In my judgment the ripasso style of winemaking is a treasure. They take grapes from a very ordinary varietal—mostly Corvina—and make an ordinary Valpolicella wine, which is to say it’s slender and tart. Then they use the leftover, dried grape skins from making the high-end Amarone, which have been raisinated to concentrate flavors and eliminate moisture, and re-ferment the Valpolicella on those skins, boosting the alcohol, flavor and body of what was originally a thin, weedy wine. Ripasso literally means to pass over again.
Ripasso style wines are rare outside Valpolicella—they are expensive to make because you need the leftover skins from the original raisinated wine. But they are available in wine shops and are usually reasonably priced. I’ve found they are almost always worth the money.
This Trader Joe’s exclusive is no exception—a satisfying wine for $9. It shows some complexity on the nose—black cherry, lots of red plum, vanilla, a savory herbal note and dusty earth. Soft, round, and full boded on the palate with hints of leather, there is sufficient concentration to give a sense of depth, and a narrow seam of acidity sustains a tautly drawn upper register given the wine some life. Unfortunately, the tannins are too soft so the wine lacks dimension but the finish is nevertheless of medium length and shows good fruit power through to the end.
A fine everyday wine, it’s casual and comforting but taut and big bodied enough to seem rough hewn like Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.