Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: July 13, 2023

What is Ripasso Wine? Unraveling the Secrets of Valpolicella’s Hidden Gem

Ripasso wine

I've had the pleasure of tasting countless wines from around the world. But there's one particular style that has always intrigued me - Ripasso wine.

This hidden gem from Italy's Valpolicella region offers a unique experience that bridges the gap between lighter Valpolicella wines and the more robust Amarone. 

Let's take an in-depth look at the fascinating world of Ripasso wines and unravel the secrets behind this ancient technique.

The Origins of Valpolicella Ripasso Wine

Ripasso wine is deeply rooted in the traditions of Valpolicella wineries. For centuries, this ancient technique called Ripasso (also known as double fermentation) has been used to give more structure, body, and flavors to basic Valpolicella wines. 

The result is a wine that captures the hearts and palates of wine enthusiasts worldwide.

Let's find out what makes Ripasso wine special.

Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore wine

Valpolicella Explained

Valpolicella is a wine region located in the Veneto area of northeastern Italy. 

It lies just north of the city of Verona and stretches from the eastern shores of Lake Garda to the Monti Lessini foothills.

This region is well-known for its production of red wines, particularly Amarone, Ripasso, and Valpolicella, which are made using local grape varieties such as Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.

The Ripasso Process: A Step-by-Step Journey

Let's take a close look at Ripasso wine from grape to bottle.

Harvesting and Drying Grapes for Amarone and Recioto

The Ripasso method starts in autumn when selected grapes for Amarone and Recioto wines are left to dry in lofts above wineries for four months. 

Meanwhile, other grapes are pressed and fermented to create the basic Valpolicella Classico wine.

Valpolicella vineyard

Which Grapes Varietals are Used to Make Ripasso Wine?

Ripasso wines are made primarily using grape varieties native to the Valpolicella region in Italy. The most common grape varietals used in the production of Ripasso wines are:

  • Corvina: The primary grape variety in Ripasso, Corvina contributes to the wine's structure, fruitiness, and elegance. It is known for its cherry and red berry flavors, as well as its moderate acidity and tannin levels.
  • Rondinella: Typically used as a blending grape, Rondinella adds color, body, and some floral notes to Ripasso wines. It is valued for its resistance to disease and its ability to retain acidity during the appassimento (grape drying) process.
  • Molinara: While not as commonly used as Corvina and Rondinella, Molinara can still be found in some Ripasso wines. It contributes high acidity and lightens the wine's color.

Other grape varieties, such as Corvinone, Oseleta, and Negrara, may also be used in smaller proportions in the blend.

However, the core of Ripasso wines comes from the combination of Corvina, Rondinella, and, to a lesser extent, Molinara grapes.

Fermenting Amarone and Recioto Grapes with Grape Skins

In late January or early February, the semi-dried grapes for Amarone and Recioto are pressed and fermented with grape skins. 

After a long skin contact fermentation, the grape skins are removed, and the wine is stored for aging.

The Second Fermentation: Creating Ripasso Wine

The basic Valpolicella wine, which has been fermented in the autumn, is then added to these Recioto and Amarone skins. 

This second fermentation transfers the remaining aromatic compounds and tannins to the Valpolicella wine, resulting in the unique Ripasso flavor profile.

Ripasso Valpolicella wine

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso: The "Baby Amarone"

Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is often referred to as "the poor man's Amarone" or "baby Amarone." 

While producers may not be fond of these terms, there is some truth to the notion that Ripasso sits between basic Valpolicella wine and Amarone, combining the freshness, lightness, and value of the former with the structure and flavors of the latter.

In my experience, Ripasso wines can be incredibly satisfying, offering a complexity that is both approachable and intriguing. 

I've found them to be perfect for sharing with friends, especially those who are new to the world of Italian wines.

Ripasso Valpolicella wine

Food Pairings for Ripasso

Ripasso wines are incredibly versatile when it comes to food pairings. Their medium-bodied nature makes them an excellent match for a variety of dishes, from rich pasta dishes to hearty meat courses. 

Some of my personal favorite pairings include osso buco, mushroom risotto, and even a simple margherita pizza.

  • Rich, hearty dishes like osso buco, braised short ribs, or beef stew
  • Flavorful pasta dishes, such as lasagna or spaghetti Bolognese
  • Grilled or roasted meats, like lamb, pork, or chicken
  • Mushroom-based dishes, such as risotto or mushroom stroganoff
  • Aged cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino, or Gouda
man choosing wine

Ripasso Across the Seasons

One of the aspects I love most about Ripasso wines is their ability to be enjoyed year-round.

Their lighter, fruity notes make them a refreshing choice for warm summer evenings, while their complexity and structure provide a comforting warmth during the colder months.

This versatility makes Ripasso wines a great addition to any wine lover's collection, and they pair beautifully with a wide variety of dishes.

How to Enjoy Ripasso Wines

To fully appreciate the complexity and depth of Ripasso wines, it's essential to serve them at the proper temperature

I recommend serving Ripasso wines at around 60-65°F (16-18°C). This allows the wine's flavors and aromas to be fully expressed. 

Additionally, decanting the wine for 30 minutes to an hour can further enhance its characteristics.

When it comes to choosing the right glassware, a medium-sized wine glass with a wider bowl is ideal. This will allow the wine to breathe and amplify the wine's bouquet.

Three Gorgeous Valpolicella Ripasso Wines to Try

Keen to jump into the wonderful world of Ripasso wine? Try one of these amazing examples that come with my seal of approval.

Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso

Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso

Producer: Zenato Winery

Price: Roughly $30

Zenato Winery is well-known for producing high-quality wines in the Valpolicella region. 

Their Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is a standout, offering a harmonious blend of cherry, plum, and spicy notes. 

With a velvety texture and a long finish, this wine is perfect for those seeking a taste of the Ripasso style.

Masi Campofiorin

Masi Campofiorin

Producer: Masi Agricola

Price: Approximately $20

Masi Agricola is a pioneer in the Ripasso technique and is widely respected for its dedication to the craft. 

Their Masi Campofiorin is a popular and critically acclaimed choice, boasting rich flavors of black cherry, chocolate, and dried fruits. 

The wine's smooth tannins and balanced acidity make it a versatile and enjoyable option for various occasions.

Tommasi Viticoltori Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Tommasi Viticoltori Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Producer: Tommasi Viticoltori

Price: Approximately $25

Tommasi Viticoltori is another esteemed producer in the Valpolicella region, and their Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore is a testament to their skill. 

This wine offers an enticing bouquet of dark fruits, spices, and hints of leather. With its full-bodied structure and velvety mouthfeel, this Ripasso is a fantastic example of the style at an accessible price point.

Discover the World of Ripasso Wines

I'm always excited to share my passion for Ripasso wines with others. Their unique production process, versatility, and depth of flavor make them a truly remarkable wine style. 

Whether you're a seasoned wine enthusiast or a curious beginner, I encourage you to explore the world of Ripasso wines and experience their enchanting qualities for yourself.

Ripasso wines are a hidden gem within the Valpolicella wine region, offering a delightful middle ground between the light and fruity Valpolicella and the bold, robust Amarone. 

So, the next time you're looking to expand your wine horizons, consider giving Ripasso wines a taste – you won't be disappointed. Cheers!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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  1. Just enjoyed our first bottle of David Sterza Valpolicella Ripasso Classic Superiore with a pasta dinner. We loved it! We can't remember where we picked this bottle up, but will certainly be buying again. Was very happy to read your straight forward educational information and glad to put the correct words to what my uneducated palate was tasting. Made perfect sense!

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