Ripasso love

Fellow wine lovers,

Today I am very excited to be sharing one of my favourite wines styles with you. I often forget about it, but today’s bottle has served as a delicious reminder.

Ripasso wines are made in the Veneto region, which is the area in northeastern Italy between Verona and Venice.

The first step in making ripasso wines is making a valpolicella.  This table wine is made from three Italian grapes: corvina, rondinella and molinara.

The second step involves another wine called amarone. Amarone is made with the same grapes, however these grapes have been dried in a process called apassimento, whereby they are dried in the heat of the end of the summer, traditionally on straw mats.

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“Drying racks” by Tommasi

This process dries out the water and concentrates the amount of sugar in the grapes, which then yields a higher alcohol content during fermentation. Amarone is the wine created using these dried grapes, and is the crème de la crème of Italian wines. However, these bottles go for $30 and up, so are not always the most affordable choice. Ripassos (meaning re-passed), however, are a happy medium between the everyday valpolicella wines and the exhorbitantly priced amarones.

Ripasso is made by running valpolicella wines through the rich leftover amarone skins. This process adds body, texture and rich flavours to the valpolicella and makes for a consistently beautiful wine.

 

Breakdown of valpolicella wines c/o Wine Folly

Last Saturday night I made my special lasagna. It is special because I’ve adapted the recipe over time to meet my husband’s non-dairy needs. Instead of ricotta, I make my own tofu ricotta and I replace regular mozzarella with President’s Choice goat mozzarella. It’s pretty darned good, if I do say so myself. Because it was Saturday night and we didn’t have any other plans, I decided to choose a nice wine to accompany the meal. A standard rule of thumb for wine and food pairing is to go by geography, so for the lasagna, I decided to open the only bottle of Italian wine I had in the house: you guessed it, a ripasso.

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Farina “La Pezze” Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC 2013

This medium ruby red was full of cherry, blackberry, raisin (from the amarone skins), cedar and menthol.  On the palate, the first thing I noticed was a juicy, mouthwatering acidity that makes you want to drink more!  This wine is medium bodied and surprisingly light in tannins. It’s got really nice fruit flavours like fresh respberry, blueberry, blackberry and cherry,  and is also heavy on the dried fruit (raisin and fig) as well as some nice refreshing mint. It finishes off with a  lovely medium-long cherry finish.

In conclusion, drink ripasso. This particular one, although much lighter than the benchmark ripasso, went extremely well with my lasagna. Sometimes goat cheese does funny things with red wines, particularly tannic ones, but this Farina ripasso’s medium body and fruit-forward character, not to mention high acidity, made it a perfect match. Don’t forget, wines with high acidity are great food wines, so this guy is a great food-friendly candidate that would make a great contribution to dinner parties. Plus now you have lots of fun ripasso facts to share with the other guests! And did I mention the price? In the valpolicella diagram above you will notice that the price range for ripasso starts at $20, so this one is a steal at $15.90!

BONUS: Again, I am ahead of the curve. This ripasso is now on sale at the LCBO until February 3 for $11.90!! That is a $4 savings! I tried to pick up a few bottles at my local store tonight but they said a guy had come in and bought their last 100 bottles earlier (!!). I guess that means I need to scour the city tomorrow for a case! The race is on folks. Get ’em while they’re hot! (I hope all the exclamation marks properly express the urgency of the situation).

 

Happy weekend and happy wining!

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 2

Hello fellow wine lovers!

As you will recall, a few weeks ago I blogged about an LCBO article listing its 2015 Customer Favourites. I ran out and bought 3 of the 4 most-bought wines to see what all the fuss was about. In the blog post I reviewed the Beronia Tempranillo, and last weekend I brought the 2 remaining customer favourites to dinner at my sister-in-law’s place. All in all, I think Ontario and I have different tastes, but I can see the appeal of both the wines I tried.

Let’s break it down!

Open Smooth White VQA (Ontario)

Open Smooth White

Pale-medium yellow, with a very strong aroma including citrus, floral aspects, a bit of tropical fruit and lot of plastic/vinyl, that telltale characteristic of a riesling (in this case blended with vidal). Nice round, lush body. More peachy notes on the palate, as well as lemon, and still that riesling vinyl taste. I found this wine opened up a lot more as it warmed up a bit (our bottle had been left in the car overnight and so was extremely chilled when we first opened it). An easy-drinking wine on its own or with appetizers like paté and crackers.

I probably wouldn’t buy it again, but it’s $11.95 and an extra dollar off until the end of the month, so if you’re thinking of trying it, go get a bottle soon!


 

Ok, so after trying the Open and the Beronia, I’m starting to think that I may actually be a wine snob since that’s two strikes for me against the good wine-buying people of Ontario. I had heard good things about the next one so my fingers were crossed that I would like it!

The Wanted Zin 2014 (Puglia, Italy)

Wanted Zin

Intense ruby red, lots of dark cherry, dark fruit, raisin and plum on the nose. Smells delicious. On the palate, more of the same: black cherry, clove, sweet spice, vanilla and lots of dried fruit. Medium body, fairly low on tannins. Old World meets New World in this American-style Italian primitivo. Primitivo and zinfandel are genetically the same grape. And with zinfandel gaining popularity, this Italian wine probably wanted to benefit from that, so has been made in a similar style to the California zinfandels, likely specifically for sale on this side of the pond.

This one was ok! Actually, it was perfect for the pulled pork we were eating, and would work with anything smoked or grilled. Out of the 3 customer favourites I tried, this one I might buy again. It’s a pretty good price ($13.95, $1 off until the end of January) and is cheaper than my go-to zinfandel (Ravenswood). So I will keep this one in my back pocket for the next bbq I go to. And although that will likely not be for a while, the days are getting longer, folks, so that in itself is something to raise a glass to!



 

Beronia Rioja Reserva 2010 (Spain)

Beronia Reserva

As I mentioned, last week I tried the Beronia Tempranillo, which was one of the 2015 LCBO Customer Favourites, but not necessarily one of mine. However, I also picked up the above rioja by the same producer. This one is a blend of tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo grapes. The “reserva” indicates that it has been aged in a barrel for at least a year (if you’re a wine nerd like me, you’ll want to check out the diagram below for more info on rioja classifications). According to the bottle, this wine spent 18+ months on oak, then was aged for 20 months in the bottle.

 

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Awesome rioja classification diagram by winefolly.com

I much preferred this one to last week’s experimental tempranillo. It was dark ruby red, bordering on opaque. On the nose, aromatic black cherry and other dark fruit, as well as tobacco, cedar and sweet spice. At first sip, holy tannins! Let this one breathe for at least an hour. It is very grippy with equally high acidity, for a simultaneous drying yet mouthwatering sensation (how is that even possible?). This full-bodied red boasts red cherry and berries, clove, herbs, cedar and some minerality on the palate. I quite enjoyed drinking this rioja with (yet another) beef stew, but think it would go very nicely with any grilled red meat. It could also stand to be aged for a few more years, which would help take that tannin-y edge off and bring out more of the fruit.

Unlike the customer favourites, this wine is in the $15+ category, coming in at $19.95, with no special discount (alas). However, I am adding it to my list of wines to drink with steak! Also, you will notice that in the diagram, it says reserva riojas are generally $25+, so this one is a steal!

I am still on the lookout for the fourth LCBO customer favourite, the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz, but it looks like the last bottles left are in Deep River and Timmins. And I love wine, but you have to draw the line somewhere.


 

Have you tried any of the LCBO Customer Favourites? What did you think? Are your wine tastes in line with the rest of Ontario’s?

Happy wining, friends!

Pinot: when wine and words collide

In my job, I spend a lot of time with dictionaries. So wasn’t I surprised when today I saw that “Pinot” is the second most popular search term in the US on oxforddictionaries.com! It’s even trending!

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Screenshot, Oxford Dictionaries, January 13, 2016

I find this is interesting. Why the sudden in interest in Pinot in the States?

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Definition of Pinot, OxfordDictionaires.com

The only thing I can think of is that scene with the music video from the Netflix TV series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And while I appreciate that this scene from an oddball Tina Fey–produced comedy may be sparking interest in wine, I fear that people may get the wrong idea, given that the song is actually an ode to a dark male appendage. That said, no press is bad press, right?

But is that really it? Is that really why Pinot is the 5th most popular Oxford Dictionary search IN THE WORLD right now??

Oxford Pinot World

Pinot is the 5th most popular search term in the world on January 13, 2016. WHY I ask you??  Also, interesting to note that the abbreviation for the province of Quebec is the most searched term in the world today.

In an effort to distract myself from these questions, here are some of the wine regions around the world specializing in pinot noir. Note that this list is by no means exhaustive:

Bourgogne (France) – the original pinot noir – a medium-bodied wine tasting of cherry, fresh red fruit, mushroom and mineral (from the limestone soil in which the grape is grown). It is lower in tannin than most wines since it spends less time on oak, and has high acidity. Its colour is more garnet than ruby red. I like the Albert Bichot.

California  – Cali’s pinots tend to be bigger than the average pinot, due to a longer growing season in this warmer climate. I personally enjoy the Robert Mondavi.

Oregon – Oregon pinots are making quite a name for themselves and gaining  in popularity on the world market. Their characteristics are much more subtle than their Cali counterparts and make for a refined quaff. As a result, they tend to be on the pricier side (starting at $22). I tried the Duck Pond pinot when I was in DC and quite enjoyed it.

New Zealand – These cold-climate pinots are medium bodied, with yummy fruit and earthiness. They are often grown in the same regions as sauvignon blanc. Try the Kim Crawford.

Pinot noir’s typically high acidity, paired with its lighter body, makes it a perfect food wine. Someone once said it’s the black jeans of wine—it just goes with everything!

On that note, I’m off to have a glass of Pinot Noir to ponder this some more. Leave a comment if you have any other ideas as to why Pinot might be getting so much attention these days…

Happy wining!

Testing the LCBO’s Customer Favourites – Part 1

Happy New Year fellow wine lovers!

I hope 2016 is treating you well thus far. Have you tasted any good wines lately? I’m always looking for new wines to try, so please share in the comments!

Speaking of new wines, as I was doing some Facebook stalking perusing the other day, I came across an ad for the LCBO’s Customer Favourites of 2015.

Faves captureIntrigued, I clicked on it, hoping that Ontario’s tastes would be in line with my own. According to the LCBO, here are the supposed fan favourites:

I was shocked to see that I had never had any of the chosen wines. Not a single one! Was I missing out? Did the rest of Ontario know something I didn’t?? Obviously, I had to find out. Luckily, my local LCBO had 3 out of 4. I am still on the look-out for the shiraz, which is dwindling rapidly here in Ottawa.

Last night, I opened the Beronia Rioja, and here are my notes:

Beronia

Colour: Deep ruby red

Aromas: Yummy: Black cherry, tobacco, chocolate, strawberry

Palate: Fairly fruit forward: tart cherry, strawberry at the outset, evolving into vanilla, liquorice (Google disapproves of my Canadian spelling, btw) and cedar.

Structure: Medium-bodied, medium tannins and high mouthwatering acidity – the perfect structure for food!

We paired this rioja with a hearty beef stew, and it was a hit! When a red wine has light–medium tannins and high acidity, it often pairs well with most foods, and this wine was no exception.

Conclusion: I think Ontario bought this in such large numbers precisely because it is such a food-friendly wine. On its own, the wine is so-so, but it goes really nicely with a wintery beef roast or stew. Also, is it just me or is there an aura of mystery surrounding Spanish wines? I feel like they tend to be lesser known wines that are often surprising in terms of their price-quality ratio. That said, I’m not sure I would buy this one again. But don’t take my word for it; that is simply a reflection of my personal preferences. Remember: wine tasting is an incredibly subjective venture, so I would encourage you to try this wine for yourself to see if you like it. Plus, it is $2 off until January 31, so at $13.95, now is the time!

Post-conclusion thoughts: I was asking myself why the category for this wine was “Most Surprising Twist”. The description in the article explains “This unusually barrel-fermented Tempranillo from Spain began as an experiment and turned into a commercial hit”. Is that it then? Was the surprising twist that it ended up selling so well? I think they need to hire better category creators.

Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing more so-called customer faves soon!

 

P.S. I also bought a bottle of the Beronia Rioja Reserva, which I think is this winemaker’s standard rioja (not the experimental version). I’ll let you know how it is!