Elaine Takes One For The Team...

Elaine got the tough task of wine reconnaissance this week by packing her bags and travelling to the shores of Lake Garda to spend a couple of days with one of our winemakers; the legendary Zenato winery. Zenato are world renowned for producing what many see as the best Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone wines.

So, before we hit the pics; a little background as what these wines actually are:

1) Valpolicella. Made principally from the Corvina grape, it’s made pretty much in the same way as most other red wines. Take a red grape, squeeze out the juice, add yeast, yeast converts natural sugars to alcohol then reintroduce the grape skins and mix around to get the colour (very basic description)!! Valpolicella is a light and easy drinking red. Rarely high in alcohol (typically 12-13.5% ABV) and bursting with red fruits (think cherry and cranberry). Low in any bitter tannins and with a nice crisp acidity. Generally the type of wine you could drink by the bucket load!

2) Amarone. Now we’re in to interesting territory! Amarone is almost unique in the wine world (outside of dessert wine) in the fact that the wine itself is made with dried grapes, rather than just “picked off the vine” versions! The grapes are laid out on wooden crates (in their bunches for 100 days or more) in warm dry storage areas so that the water content drops and the natural sugar proportions increase. This means that when you come to make the wine itself, the body increases and the alcohol levels rise! Rather than the typical 12-13.5% ABV level of Valpolicella wines, Amarone can typically hit 15 and even 16% ABV. The legal minimum level is a stomping 14%! High in tannins, moderately low in acidity and made to be drunk after a good amount of ageing (if you can wait that long)!!!!

3) Ripasso. This is the “in between” wine. Ripasso wines are effectively Valpolicella wines which get an additional secondary fermentation for 10-12 days in which they are placed in contact with the now used up Amarone dried grapes and seeds. This gives additional body and alcohol and reduces the acidity associated with a “basic” Valpolicella wine. Tasty and usually great value.

Elaine’s Office… not too shabby

Elaine’s Office… not too shabby

The back garden… where the grapes grow ;)

The back garden… where the grapes grow ;)

Not all uniformly ripe - leave them up there!!

Not all uniformly ripe - leave them up there!!

It’s no Donegal, but it’s not bad…

It’s no Donegal, but it’s not bad…

Grapes in whole bunches being dried to make Amarone. See how beautifully evenly ripe they all are…

Grapes in whole bunches being dried to make Amarone. See how beautifully evenly ripe they all are…

Quite a lot of them there alright…

Quite a lot of them there alright…

Let’s get this fermentation started…

Let’s get this fermentation started…

Would be rude not to… fair play Elaine…

Would be rude not to… fair play Elaine…

Richard Finney