When the Romans first got to Verona, which later was going to be a Municipium of the Empire and part of the X Regio Venetia et Histria, being very passionate themselves about wine, they were pleasantly surprised by the remarkable quantity of vineyards already planted in the area, and the outstanding quality of the wines thereby produced. They therefore decided to call the hilly surroundings of the city with the name of Vallis Pollis Cellae, literally "The Valley of the Many Wineries".
Back then, the most widely grown grape variety was Corvina, and it still is nowadays, together with its bigger brother Corvinone: two real heavyweights of the Veneto region which is generally renowned for smooth, velvety reds. A number of wines are made in the area, all concurring to the fame of the Valpolicella wine family, by blending these two grapes with Rondinella, which adds a bit of freshness to the body, structure and plum-cherry notes of the two "big boys". A Valpolicella becomes a "Classico" sub-variety if it's made in the central and most emblematic zone of the production area; and a "Superiore" if it comes from the part of the vineyard with the best exposure, is aged for at least 12 months in oak and reaches at least a 12% alcohol level.
Then there's two more extremely impressive types of Valpolicella, both made by drying the grapes before pressing them, a process that takes place indoors in a period of about four months. If the fermentation of the raisins is stopped before it's over and the wine bottled and refined right away, it's a delightfully sweet red called Recioto della Valpolicella, the oldest and noblest, true patriarch of the family and also the base of an eminent fortified version. If it's aged in oak for several years after a slower fermentation, it goes back to a little bitterness and becomes an Amarone della Valpolicella, arguably the best expression of Corvina and one of the most spectacular red wines you'll ever try.
Following us so far? Good, 'cause now it starts to get complicated.
The dried skins that have been pressed to make Amarone are kept (if they are treated kindly, they also make a beautiful Grappa), strained and added to a fermenting "regular" Valpolicella. That's how the Ripasso is born. The wine gets a richer flavour, stronger bouquet and some of those lovely dark-chocolaty notes, a bit of alcohol and body from the Amarone pomace, so you're left with a more complex, intense and even smoother Valpolicella and one of the world's best values.
Only problem is, some producers try to make a Ripasso that desperately tries to be the carbon copy of its bigger brother. Which simply cannot happen because let's be clear, the only thing as good as Amarone can only be Amarone. So these Ripassos may end up being poor men's Amarone, which most of times means they're going to be disjointed, disharmonic or just plain disappointing.
That's why we love Giuseppe Campagnola's Valpolicella Ripasso so much: it's not a simple Valpolicella, it's not a bad Amarone: it's a very good Ripasso with a lot of personality, which highlights the typical flavours of Valpolicella and lets them talk for themselves.
And if you want to be seduced by a lovely wine which is an amazing match with food and also good for meditation; a wine with a silky palate that yet doesn't renounce that rustic Italian note... that speaks to you about village life on those beautiful Valpolicella hills that frame Verona like a fragrant garland... or if you need a present for a friend and don't want only a wine but also a unique story to tell, you are going to love Ripasso too.