Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Luigi's Valpolicella: A Review

In order to continue my process of updating you, friends, on wines that I've had the pleasure and privilege of tasting this summer, I'd like to write about the boldest of the wines we have ordered so far: Luigi Righetti Campolieti 2009 Valpolicella Ripasso.

When I say the boldest, I really mean it.  I'd like you to imagine a larger-than-life person who is often loud at dinner parties and always unintentionally draws attention to themselves with their guffaws in public places.  That person is this wine.  As one co-oper said, the wine really needs time to breathe, to expand itself into the space of a decanter and stretch its legs out after being all cooped up in that heavy glass bottle.  This Valpolicella may have taken some of the group by surprise, since most Val is lighter bodied, light of colour, and quite easy drinking.  The Campolieti Val is not like this because it's a ripasso, meaning that the juice that would become Valpolicella wine was passed over the squished skins, seeds, and stems of Amarone-wine grapes.  These grapes would have been allowed to bake in the sun and shrivel a little bit, giving them more concentrated sugars, colours, and tannins, so after they were pressed, the lighter juice for Valpolicella could be poured over the remains to pick up additional sugar, colour, and tannins that were left behind.  This produces a much more muscular and outspoken Valpolicella, with deep colour, a medium to full body, and punch-in-the-mouth tannins.

Valpolicella is made primarily with Corvina grapes, as well as Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, or a few others depending on the producer.  The ripasso process preserves much of the aroma and flavour profiles for a classic Val while boosting other aspects of the wine.  Luigi's Campolieti Valpolicella Ripasso had aromas of dark cherries and black tree fruit, with a hint of dark chocolate and herbs.  On the palate the wine was full of cherries, plums, and mocha.  The tannins were firm, giving a sensation of coffee grit, but the bracing acidity allowed the flavours cut through on a Black Forest cake finish.  This wine is so big that it is a tough one to just sit and drink (it's also a bit higher in alcohol, so one may fall off one's chair if one decides to try that), but it is excellent with food.  We had a game-and-greens dish with this wine: venison steaks with sautéed kale and onions, and despite the fact that this was not an Italian dish at all, it was a great match.  I think that a tomato-based sauce and spicy sausages (spicy Italian, that is) would also go really well.  Not for the faint of heart, but a great wine for the big, bold characters in your life.

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