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Falling in love for a second time happens very rarely but when I enjoyed La Casetta Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2015, I fell in love with wine and food all over again. La Casetta is from Veneto, a region in Italy that I know and love very well so my impression of the wine is caught up with the memories of time spent in Verona and Lake Garda.
The difference between Valpolicella and Ripasso, apart from the price where Ripasso is more expensive, is the process of adding Amarone grape pomace to the vat of Valpolicella wine. This increases the tannin in the wine and reduces the palatability without food, giving it a bitterness and intensity which Valpolicella does not have. In addition, it induces a second fermentation of the wine that increases its alcohol content. Valpolicella is a medium bodied, low tannin, easy drinking, light red wine which needs only antipasti. Valpolicella Ripasso is deeper in colour than Valpolicella, full bodied and can be powerful and complex.
I decanted the wine for 30 minutes before pouring. In the glass the intensity was deep displaying a beautiful dark ruby colour with its age of only three years given away by its pink rim. With an alcohol volume of 14% it had fantastic legs. The intensity of the nose was not as pronounced as I would have expected. In the decanter it had a soft, dark red fruit nose and this was the same in the glass only not as prominent. On the palate, the first mouthful was intense and bitter. Then the sour cherries came through followed by vanilla, from the oak, with medium length. It was medium bodied, dry and had high tannin. On the many subsequent tastings, the cherries were followed by the tannic character of grape skins giving the flavour of blueberries, then came the soothing vanilla. I was looking for some complexity and change in the wine, but it was not forthcoming. Feeling a little disappointed, I hoped that the food would soften the tannin and remove the bitterness from the Ripasso process, to leave behind a silky, smooth wine.
Then the food arrived and the wine burst into life.
The food prepared to match with La Casetta Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2015 was BBQ’d venison burgers, broccoli and cauliflower covered in a rich blue cheese sauce and thick cut chips. With the food, the wine instantly relaxed on the palate. The protein in the meat and the fat in the cheese sauce muted the bitterness in the wine as did the smoky, grilled, BBQ flavour of the Venison burger. The transformation was amazing and the wine was absolutely delicious.The cherries changed from sour to ripe and the blue cheese heightened the length of the vanilla finish. The tannin dissipated revealing a smooth, medium bodied, moreish red wine. This was an absolute perfect match.
I purchased La Casetta Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2015 from Majestic Wine in Poole. A single bottle costs £16.99.
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Read my wine and food column in The Bournemouth Echo on the first Saturday of each month.