Half of the reason for me starting this blog was to maintain and improve my nosing and tasting skills, for wine particularly, for also for beer and whisky. It’s been tough to focus my brain at the end of a long day, when all you want is to glug down a glass of something warming and well-deserved, but I try and do it wherever and whenever I can. Sometimes though, you get a wine that you literall can’t help making notes on, such are the powerful memories that come flooding back upon sticking your nose into the glass. I love these wines.
Some context for a particular aroma: one of my best friends growing up in Cornwall lived in a big, creaking old house that sat within two or three massive, overgrown fields. In one of the fields was an orchard, and we spent intermittent summers and autumns there doing wholesome things like playing treasure hunts and gathering apples, and not-so-wholesome things like drinking cider and canoodling with boys. Anyway, the porch of her big beautiful house would always (and still does) smell powerfully of gathered apples and freshly chopped logs; a kind of mulchy, sweet appley aroma with hints of woodsmoke, fresh air and rubber wellies.
This wine smelled like that, and I was instantly transported back to that big old house with its tumble of apples, logs, wellies and fresh air. Don’t you just love it when that happens?
A note on Valpolicella Ripasso, which has fast become one of my favourite wines to drink with big wintry dinners: Valpolicella is a region in the north-west of Italy (near Verona), and the main grape is Corvina (never heard of it? Welcome to Italy where no grape is ever the bloody same). A classic(o) Valpolicella will be nice and fruity with aromas of cherries and no oakiness. If you can ever get hold of an Amarone della Valpolicella, do so – these wines are just beautiful, created by harvesting the grapes and allowing them to dry slightly to intensify the sweetness pre-fermentation, giving a beautiful, rich dry or off-dry hearty red.
A Valpolicella Ripasso is the next best (and more purse-friendly) alternative. The unpressed grape skins from the Amarone process are steeped in a vat of standard Valpolicella post-fermentation, which then ferments a bit more on the sweetness from those dried grape skins – the whole thing gains additional colour, body, tannin and alcohol, and is just cracking as a result.
Name: Taste the Difference Valpolicella Ripasso
Vineyard/Country: Unspecified, Italy
Price: around £10
Colour / Intensity: A medium ruby, bordering on an earthy garnet
Nose: The wood porch! Plus stewed fruit – think plums and red cherries, dried cranberries, mushrooms, pungent leather and tobacco tins.
Taste: High tannin, acidity and alchohol; medium bodied with a long finish. Lots of sweet juicy berries on the palate, and a general vibe of autumnal puddings (crumbles and fruit pies) and earthy spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Just beautiful.
Rating: A gorgeous 9.5/10
Good for: We had this with rare roast beef and rich gravy, and it was perfect. It’s also just a really fine example of a Valpolicella Ripasso if you’ve not tried it before, and makes a really good gift to take to a dinner party. You’ll be hailed as a hero.