Matching well with grilled meats, barbecued fare, and game birds, Ripasso should be on savvy consumers’ lists of red wines to drink in summer and early fall (as well as year-round with savory cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Stilton). Made from a blend of classic Valpolicella grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara), the wine is “passed over” the seeds and stems of the dried, raisin-like grapes used to make Amarone for 10 to 12 days during post-fermentation (hence the name ripasso).
This process imparts concentrated flavors of ripe plums and cherries with hints of vanilla and spice into the wine without markedly increasing its alcohol content. And, based on a number of recent tastings, the following are four top-tier, sensibly priced examples available locally.
Classico Ripasso Ca’ del Laito
Bottles of the 2016 have sold at Westchester Wine Warehouse in White Plains and Suburban Wines & Spirits in Yorktown Heights for around $20-$24, while the 2014 recently went for $49.98 at Rye Brook Wine & Spirit Shop in Rye Brook. Both vintages are ready to drink now or can age for a few years.
Classico Superiore Ripassa
Bottles of the 2016 or 2017, ready for drinking now, can typically be found at Stew Leonard’s Wine & Spirits in Yonkers for around $27.97, and 2015 or earlier, ready now or to age for a few years to increase its complexity, at Varmax Liquor Pantry in Port Chester for $26.99.
The 2018, sold at Wine Bazaar in New Rochelle (about $26.49), shows memorable ripe, fruity flavors, that pair perfectly with grilled lamb and veal. Expect this wine to continue to improve, with increased concentration of flavors after a few years of aging.