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"That Useful Wine Site"
The Corvina Grape

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About Corvina

(Synonyms: Corba, Corbin, Corgnolo, Corvina Black, Corvina Veronese, Double Rizza, Royal Corvina)

Background

Corvina grapes Map showing Veneto

Corvina is a red-wine grape originating in, and still primarily from, the Veneto region of Italy (which is centered on Venice). The grape might be said to live several lives: it makes dry table wines such as Valpolicella and Bardolino; it makes (usually) sweet recioto wines; it makes the high-alcohol Port-like Amarone; and in recent decades it makes Ripasso, a sort of poor man's Amarone.

Recioto wines are an ancient specialty of the region. Nowadays, they are made by placing the harvested grapes in special drying rooms; the drying-out concentrates the sugars in the grapes before they are then vinified.

Making Ripasso, a relatively new technique, involves adding pomace from the grape skins and seeds left after the fermentation of Recioto or Amarone (or both) to normal Valpolicella, then giving the mix an extended period of maceration. The added material serves as input for the yeasts, producing a wine with a higher-than-normal alcohol content, plus—the desideratum—more tannins, phenolics, and other compounds that augment the wine's flavor and taste complexity.

Amarone is made from grapes harvested as late as possible to enhance their sugar content then dried (on straw mats) to further concentrate their sugars. They are then vinified using special yeasts that can convert all of their sugar to alcohol, producing wines high in alcohol but also of great complexity and strong flavors. The resultant wine is then aged in oak casks, typically for several years, further adding to its complexity of taste. Amarone is often compared to good Port, but is less sweet. Good specimens of Amarone want up to a decade of bottle age to mature, and some feel that up to twenty more years can further augment them.

In table wines—very much the dominant use of Corvina—the results range from relatively light to medium-bodied, and are typically fairly light in coloration (for a red); they naturally have a high acid content, and often taste out as tart. They are also usually on the low side as to alcohol, often around only 11%, though Valpolicella Superiore bottlings must be at least 12%. Characteristic taste qualities are sour cherry and (perhaps especially) almond. Oak-barrel aging is not common but not rare either. Vinification is usually as a blend, with the Corvina dominant, but monovarietal bottlings can be readily found. Everyday Valpolicella can be rather uninteresting, but Valpolicella Superiore usually shows the grape at its best (ordinary, non-Superiore Valpolicella is sometimes likened to nouveau Beaujolais). The chief other grape types used in Valopolicella are the lesser Rondinella and Molinara types.

To clarify: Valpolicella table wine can be "ordinary", which is self-descriptive; "Classico", which is a small step up and designates a restricted area of origin; or "Classico Superiore', which marks a major step up in quality, associated with alcohol levels (signifying grape quality) and required aging.

(Italian wine law, like most such laws, is bizarre. For Valpolicella wines, Corvina is required to make up at least 40% of the total blend, but not over 70%, which actually pushes quality down a bit; for Bardolino, below, the requirement is least 35% of the total blend, but not over 65%. Go figure.)

Another well-known blend relying on Corvina is Bardolino, which is quite different in character from Valpolicella. In Bardolino, the Corvina grape usually plays a lesser role than in Valpolicella, and more of the Rondinella, a rather bland grape type, is used. (There is also a Bardolino Superiore, marked by a 1% higher alcohol content and a full year of aging before release.)

Factoid: "Valpolicella" is thought to signify "Valley of (wine) cellars", though that is not settled knowledge.


Some Descriptions of Corvina Wines

(You will find that these are very duplicative, and would have been more so had we not restrained ourselves on adding quotations. "Light color, medium body, cherries, almonds"—the end.)

  • Wikipedia

    "Corvina produces light to medium body wines with a light crimson coloring. The grapes' naturally high acidity can make the wine somewhat tart with a slight, bitter almond note. The finish is sometimes marked with sour cherry notes. In some regions of Valpolicella, producers are using barrel aging to add more structure and complexity to the wine. The small berries of Corvina are low in tannins and color extract."

  • CorkBuzz

    "Corvina's flowery aromas complement punchy sour-cherry and plum flavors, while higher-toned acidity balances out slightly sweet versions. You might taste bitter almonds, leather and chocolate notes, too."

  • Zagat Wine

    "Despite its powerful flavors, Corvina is capable of extreme complexity. Bardolino and basic Valpolicella often make medium-bodied fruity wines, whereas the Amarone makers use the Apassimento process. The grapes are dried - usually on straw mats - before fermentation. The shriveled grapes produce intense prune and fig flavors alongside its usual fruit notes. Here, Corvina also makes the region's sweet wine, Recioto della Valpolicella. Signature Style: Dense, dark black fruit with hints of prune and fig"

  • Complex City Guide

    "[W]when vinified as a single varietal Corvina, shows elegance and complexity . . . The wines are light to medium bodied with soft tannins, big cherry flavors, and a mildly nutty finish. Corvina does well when it's aged in wood, which adds depth and structure."

  • WiseGeek

    "The grapes that come from this vine usually yield wines that are red in color but light in flavor. They often have a subtle fruity flavor and may also taste of almond."

  • Italy Abroad

    "Although difficult to cultivate, Corvina grapes are highly prized for their high acidity and tart taste. Corvina grapes produce light to medium body wines with a light crimson colouring. Aromas and flavours are light and fragrant, often resembling sour cherries, strawberries and nutty almonds."

  • Timeless Wines

    "The grape creates light red colored wines with a light almond aroma. The finishing note is recognized with a tart cherry taste. Winemakers in parts of Valpolicella will use barrel aging to give the taste of the wine more depth."


Some Corvinas to Try

(About this list.)

We will deal mainly with Valpolicella Superiore, but will also list some Ripasso samples, too. (Amaroni are all far out of our price range.) It is today hard to find comprehensive discussions of ordinary, table Valpolicella: the wine community seems currently all gaga over ripasso and amarone, and acts as if "ordinary" Valpolicella were some black-sheep cousin whom one reluctantly nods to in passing, then hurriedly turns one's back on.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Valpolicella Allegrini Classico, $8 - $21. (This is Allegrini's basic Valpolicella, the simple "Classico"; they make others.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Aged in stainless steel. Fresh, aromatic, bright cherry fruit nose. Lovely fruitiness. The palate shows pure cherry fruit with some nice grip on the finish. Very pure and fruity. 88/100

    It yields a cherry- colored and-scented wine with a slight herbal undertone. It has a cranberry-like liveliness and flavor, with a touch of black cherry that brings depth and length to its medium-light body.

    This is a singular, unmistakable wine from a top producer in an often uninteresting region. Valpolicella ranks just after Chianti in production terms, but lacks the latter's profile. The best, like this one, sing cherries cherries cherries! This wine glistens like a jewel and smells like cherry pie – the fruit accented with spice and a hint of vanilla. If compared with a typical Chianti, it is much richer on the palate, with a velvet texture, but it still has some zinging acidity at the finish and lingering flavours which recall the cooked cherries with spice on the nose.

    Allegrini makes a straightforward Valpolicella Classico DOC from hillside-grown grapes fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. It is a terrific traditional Valpolicella with pretty cherry fruit and lively acidity on a trim frame.

    In the past few decades, the prevalence of cheap, dull bottles has taken the lustre off what was historically one of Italy's great wines. The Allegrini family have been at the forefront of restoring its image. This is a textbook introduction to the region: lightweight, full of dark cherries and gentle spice. Put it in the fridge an hour before serving.

    The wine is a dark ruby color with a touch of violet-purple at the rim; this is incredibly fresh and appealing yet with intimations of dark ripeness and spice, of an earthy, graphite-flecked nature that provides some depth and layering. Don't get all het up though; the Allegrini Valpolicella 2012 is primarily a delicious and deeply berryish wine meant for drinking over the next two years. Aromas of red and black cherries and a touch of blackberry are tinged with tar and rose petals and some sandalwood-inflected rooty tea. The texture is easy on the palate, and acidity makes the wine lively and quenching; black and red fruit flavors open to hints of dry and moderately grainy tannins, while a few moments in the glass unfold just enough briery,brambly, granitic character to give the wine a bit of gravity. 13 percent alcohol. Very Good+.

    Fresh, ripe plum and cherry aromas. Balanced palate: juicy fruit flavours with crisp acidity. 17.5pts/20 (91/100pts)


  • Zenato Valpolicella Superiore, $10 - $21.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This medium-bodied red blend is from the historic wine district near Verona in northern Italy, and it exhibits excellent regional character. The blend of 80 percent corvina and 10 percent each sangiovese and rondinella was aged six months in stainless steel tanks followed by 12 months in Slavonian oak casks. In the glass, it offers aromas of wild berries, raisins and red and black currants as well as oak and floral notes. On the palate, the dry wine offers attractive earthiness and flavors of black cherry, plum, dried herbs and spice. The wine is ready to drink now, but it will improve with age. Decant several hours before serving.

    80% Corvina Veronese, 10% Rondinella, and 10% Sangiovese. Deep red in color. Very aromatic with licorice, oak, and black fruit on the nose. Red and black fruits, earth, and licorice come through on the palate. Medium-bodied and crisp with medium tannins, and a long, smooth finish. Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5) QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

    ♣ Wine Advocate (2009), 89 points

    ♣ Wine Spectator (2008), 88 points

    ♣ Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar (2012), 89 points

    Since the typical Valpolicella is a blend of three red grapes (corvina, rondinella and molinara) and sometimes other varieties to make up Zenato Valipolicellathe balance, there is a wide spectrum of quality. But with winemakers putting a greater emphasis on this blend, currently there are some wonderful options to choose from. The Valpolicella Classico Superiore Zenato 2010 is a wine that combines a slightly different blend including 80% corvina, 10% rondinella and 10% sangiovese grapes to provide a delightful red with aromas of violets, fresh spices and almonds. This delicious gem has a deep ruby red color and a medium-full body that reveals hints of raisin and raspberry giving it the experience of a young Amarone, with subtle touches of the dried fruits found in a Ripasso. A smooth and enjoyable wine with distinguished tannins that don't over-power; this is best paired with roasted or grilled chicken and is surely one to enjoy! A real value at under $16.

    By tipping the glass in bright light, you can see that this wine has a little age, the brick red center starts giving way to a brownish tint on the outside edges. And by the way the wine coats the glass and shows off its legs, you can start to discern its alcohol content: higher alcohol equals more viscosity, a thick sheet of wine, and legs that are slow moving down the inside of the glass. This wine has 14% alcohol, and really thick legs. The fruit components brim with black cherry and dried currant. It's fruit forward, but in that sublime Old World kind of way–the fruit is dark and alluring, not bright or obvious. Waxy yet delicate vanilla bean and black licorice add interesting flavors. Not a lot of mouth-drying tannins, but great balance between grippy acidity and gentle tannins. Just a knock of oak comes through with vanilla, a slight hazelnut tinge, and a finesse of finish that rounds out the edges. Give this wine some decanting time before dinner. Cin Cin!

    It is dark ruby red and made in the Veneto region. Along with Soave, it's considered a not-so-serious wine because of some non-Classico versions that became popular in the States in the 70's. This wine has a cherry flavor. It would be a good wine for sipping at the end of dinner. Ripe cherries and bitter almonds. It doesn't have much legs. It tastes a little like cherry cough syrup. Very very cherry, spicy, clove taste with a musky, earthy smell. It is like cookies. It also has a cherry aftertaste. The flavor is full, but then disappears quickly. It is a little dry. I like it a lot, but the cherry flavor is overpowering at times. I retasted this in 2004, the 2000 bottle called Superiore and not Classico. Cherry flavor, low tannins, light nuts. Light spice and light wood. At first, it didn't taste so interesting. It seemed really fruity like a Beaujolais, but then all the flavors start to come out. It's very drinkable. It tastes dark. Tart cherries, light wood, and a spicy finish. It's well-balanced and interesting all the way. It does have some bitterness, which I guess is the bitter almonds. When I breathe out, I can almost taste an almond extract. My husband says it has a clean finish, meaning that there is a tang. I got a long, spicy finish. This was really nice, especially for $10. I also tried the 2001. Bright cherries, light, low tannins, mild, tart, smoky, dark fruit. This wine is supposed to be aged in larger casks so that it doesn't pick up as much wood as [some others].

    I love it when I pull an inexpensive bottle off the shelf for a little experimentation and it turns out to be a real gem. Valpolicella, the red blend from the area around Verona, Italy, can often be thin and simple. But this one from Zenato stands out from the crowd. A sinewy body, with vibrant acidity, and firm tannins, it's the complexity of the nose that sets this wine apart. The standard black cherry flavors are supported by fig and raisin notes. Accents of charred cedar, dark chocolate, dried flowers, earth and very prominent dried marjoram round out a surprisingly complex nose. Fruity up front on the palate, a pleasant herbal bitterness takes over and persists through the medium-length finish that has plenty of tannic grip. The peppery mouthfeel gives it just enough roguish rusticity to remind you that this is a cheap Italian wine; and you will crave a nice Bolognese to go with it. A steal at $14. Good: Complex nose and herbal flavors. Bad: Were you expecting Petrus? Distinctive: A variety with a questionable reputation gets a make over.

    Ruby red colour. It has a characteristic delicate bouquet with dominating cassis aroma and a note of almonds. Dry, full-flavoured, plush wine with cherry flavour.

    Dark cherry and berry fruit with some milk chocolate and plum. Earthy but clean and a decent finish. Nothing to swoon over and not something I would repurchase. There are tons of wines that are better in this price class in my opinion. That said, this seems to be a very reliable wine, so that is always a plus. Not bad if you are in a bind, but not something I can recommend wholeheartedly.

    This is a great red wine, and a large part of why I liked it is because it tastes so different from any other red wine I've tried before. My Wine Bible describes it as being "rich" with flavors of "dried cherries and licorice." Hmmm, licorice -- maybe that was the flavor I tasted but couldn't quite name? I'm going to go ahead and add earthy into the mix of adjectives and peppery, too. For $13.99 a pop, it's definitely worth buying a bottle and giving it a go around.


  • Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre, $14 - $17. (Apparently a ripasso wine; not technically "Valpolicella" because they didn't put any Molinara grapes in it.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    For a few dollars more, Palazzo della Torre offers more weight, richness, and flavor complexity [than their standard Valpolicella Classico]. . . The aroma . . . suggests red and black cherries, along with floral and nutty notes. In your mouth, the wine is dry, has medium-plus body, with some creamyness of texture and an under-layer of velvety tannins; flavors suggest dark, ripe berries, a hint of black pepper, ashy earth and fresh herbs. The long finish shows a concentration of fruit that bodes well for moderate aging, as well as an attractive savory note. The relative richness of this wine owes itself to the technique of drying some of the grapes. In September, thirty percent of the grapes are set aside for drying off the vine, while the remaining grapes are harvested for immediate fermentation. In December, the already-fermented wine is mixed with the fermenting juice of the dried grapes for, in effect, a second fermentation, which gives the wine characteristics such as richness, some fleshiness, and yet freshness. Aging in second-use barriques follows. This is a variation of the "ripasso" method common for fine wine in the area, which involves re-fermentation instigated by the addition of skins from Amarone, the iconic dried-grape wine of the Valpolicella zone.

    This is a sumptious red wine, which is superior by far to most Valpolicella wines that I have taste-tested before, and which took me by surprise during the first blind tasting as Valpolicella wine does not normally reach my expectations of a premium wine. This [wine] is not just different and vastly superior to the norm, but it is in a class of its own among Valpolicella's in this category. An excellent product which at the first blind tasting was compared to the best Vino Nobile de Montepulciano's and Chianti Riserva's, probably due to its Sangiovese content and richness of the Corvina Veronese. . . The wine is dark ruby verging on black, with full ripe fruit aromas, spice, liquorice and vanilla, with a distinct hint of violets on the nose. Rich flavours of mocha, cassis, dark chocolate and dried cherry and plums. The wine is creamy, full-bodied and dry with an excellent texture and complexity. It is well balanced with smooth tannins. Finish is long with an aftertaste of liquorice and ripe black fruit.
    (alternate link)

    First sniff is so aromatic, perfumy, loads of fruit - berries, blackberries, dark cherries with almond overtones - possibly violets? Hard to grasp every aroma that is smelled but everything in my nose says this is right. This is good wine. There is a deepness, a pungency that is reminiscent of Napa Valley - I wish I knew what that smell is. . . It is well-balanced. The tannins and acidity are well aligned without overpowering each other. This balance makes the wine easy to drink with or without food. Very fruity - much like a Red Zin. Medium-full bodied (the legs on this baby are still lining my glass after it's empty!). Ready to drink now, however, it could handle some cellaring....maybe just a couple of years. . . I would buy a case of this in a heart beat. Great everyday wine...and then some.


  • Allegrini La Grola Valpolicella Superiore, $19 - $34. (This is Allegrini's a-step-up "Classico Superiore".)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Aged in oak. Nice fresh cherry and plum fruit framed by some savoury, spicy notes. Nice depth and structure, with a hint of tarry spiciness. Lively and fruity. 89/100

    This wine is 80 percent Corvina and 20 percent Syrah, aged in second-use barriques. In this Allegrini line-up, it stands out as the least traditional because of its fleshy fruitiness, its fairly full body and its oak tannin. But taste it alongside a New World red in the same price range, and its grainy texture, mineral nuance and energetic palate length pronounce loudly that it is not a taste-alike red.

    80% Corvina, 20% Syrah, from a single vineyard. Silky smooth, ripe and pure with vivid, well defined bright cherry and berry fruit. Nice focus here with sweet fruit and good acidity, as well as some structure. Lovely wine. 92/100

    Allegrini La Grola Veronese 2005 is made from the vineyard the Podere La Grola. It is aged 16 months in French oak and then rested for almost a year in a bottle before being sold. Forest fruit, juniper and coffee undertones define the scent.

    Deep dark brooding purple in the glass. Aromatically forward, notes of spices, baked plums, blackberries and chocolate. On the palate the wine is big and luscious with rounded tannins and a mid palate raisin inspired flavour profile, nice length on the finish if a little "hot". 90 Points.

    Since I'm a bit of a purist at heart, I tend to prefer wines made from local varieties, but there are always exceptions. This delicious red from the Valpolicella region has some syrah alongside the more traditional corvina, but it still sings in a northern Italian accent: black and red cherries, black chocolate bitterness and a silky feel.

    Dark garnet towards inky purple in color, medium- to full-bodied, with fine balance between tannins, wood and fruits. Reflecting its 16 months in oak with a light spicy overlay, that yielding to generous blackberries, currants, and spices, all on a softly tannic and round background on which hints of bitter-sweet chocolate and spicy fruits that make themselves felt nicely on the finish. A blend of 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10%, Syrah and 5% Sangiovese grapes, those vinified separately and blended several months before bottling. Score 92.

    Made from Corvina and Syrah this is one of the most complete expressions of the Valpolicella region you could ever hope to taste.

    A deep plum red with a cherry jam nose. I thought the mouth feel was acceptable with ripe tannins, some sourness and a not overly long finish. 83/100.


  • Zenato Valpolicella Ripasso, $15 - $26.

    Some quotations and facts:

    Like previous versions, Zenato's 2008 Ripassa (Zenato is the only producer to call its Ripasso a “Ripassa”) is an absolutely delicious wine and a great value at this price [$26]. The wine is aged in a combination of small and large oak casks for 18 months followed by 6 months in the bottle prior to release for sale. It is a full-bodied wine with full-on flavors of dried fruit such as raisins, plums and dark cherries accented with sweet kitchen spice notes. A velvety texture, gentle tannins and a long finish will keep you coming back for more.

    This has fragrances of dark cherry, moist soil and spice. The palate offers ripe black-fruit flavors, along with white pepper and baking spice accents. Pair this with salami or pot roast. 89 points.

    This wine is dark, deep ruby red. Full-bodied with strong ripe black fruit aromas, with hints of violets, spice and vanilla from the oak casks. Rich flavours of dark chocolate, dried red cherry, black pepper, and ripe black fruit. Well balanced with smooth tannins, elegant with a long finish.

    Pretty purple to ruby colour. Beautiful fruity and vegetal aromas, with hints of black fruit, red plum, raisins, spearmint, hay and oak. The palate is complementary. Starts out sweet and smooth and structure.

    Plenty of stamina, vivacity and richness. Very good balance, depth, big finish. Big, but not overdone.

    This is an absolutely delicious wine. It is aged in small and large oak barrels for eighteen months and six months in bottle before release. It is very full bodied and very Amarone-like, with flavors of dried fruit—raisins, plums, and dark cherries—accented by rich spice. It has a velvety texture, gentle tannin, and a long finish.

    Opaque and ruby red. Perfumey with muted red berries, blueberry, and a nutty hint. The mid-palate is lush and elegant, full of black plums and blackberries, ending with velvety tannins, concentrated red and black berries, and eastern spices.

    [T]he result is a rounded, velvet-textured wine with rich, complex aromas of berries and an impressively lengthy finish that seems to linger forever.


  • Bussola Ca' del Laito Valpolicella Ripasso, $17 - $25.

    Some quotations and facts:

    [T]he gentle, loose tannins made it super approachable. Its dark, almost inky purple color belied its mocha nose with lots of cocoa powder. Black cherry fruit with a fine dust of herbs lingered in the background. A chalky mouth-feel gave it just enough minerality to balance everything out. This is a big wine at 15.5% alcohol, but remains really feminine and lovely without grippy acidity. Also, this wine was fine right out of the bottle. It's plush, drinkable Ripasso. Definitely my kind of wine.

    This wine is from one of the premier producers in Valpolicella zone. Made in a forward and bold style, this lovely Ripasso struts its stuff with big, ripe cherry jam and black currant flavors followed by a rich, smooth finish. Sweet tannins and an undertow of acidity tie it all together nicely.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (date unknown), 89 points

    ♣ The Wine Spectator (9/2013), 89 points

    The 2004 Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso Ca' del Laito reveals notable richness in its ripe jammy fruit, caramelized sugar, grilled herbs and toasted oak. The wine offers terrific depth on the palate in an engaging style.

    Alcohol 15%. The color was a medium garnet. The light nose bore ripe fruit and a hint of raisins and dried fruit but maintained a fresh aspect. In the mouth this medium bodied wine was well-balanced with flavors that follow the nose. There was plenty of acidity, fine, ripe textured tannins, and a little tang in the finish. The flavors were drier in the finish. With air black fruit developed and a little residual sugar was noticeable on the lips. There were lifted, cherry notes. ***

    A refreshing Valpolicella, showing pleasant currant and spice character, with a hint of fresh herbs. Medium-bodied, with a clean, racy palate and a crisp finish.

    Great intensity and structure with black cherry, fig, raisin and currants; beautiful silky texture with firm tannins, great balance and a fresh, lifted long-lasting finish. Delicious and rich, but still elegant and immensely drinkable. Complimenti! 4/5

    A high-toned nose leads to subtle candied cherry, creme de cassis and plum brandy fruit, underscored by graphite-tinged mineral, dark chocolate shavings and dried herb notes. Elegant and lightly tangy.

    Voluptuous but balanced – a simply beautiful wine.

    A gem of a wine, much more streamlined and focused than other producers we have tasted. This has all the dark creaminess you'd expect from a Valpolicella Ripasso, but contained in a tight package which glides around your mouth and over your face.


  • Tommasi Valpolicella Ripasso, $18 - $32.
         ($18.24 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    In the glass, the wine is a nice medium garnet colour. The nose suggests dusty raisinated fruit. The palate provides cherry fruit and a wonderful barnyardy flavour that gives the fruit tremendous depth. The wine generally has fantastic concentration. The tannins are very moderate and well balanced. What can I say, I love this wine and it is the best value wine I've had in a long time.

    Deep garnet with purple highlights; cherry, blackcurrant, figs and herbal aromas; sweet black fruit flavours with smoky herbal note; dry with touch of white pepper on the finish.

    Dark in color with a mild nose of some red and dried fruits. On the mid palate this is a bigger wine as some Ripassos are. Lots of red berries, some chocolate and some dried fruits. On the medium length finish the wine has some firm acidity, some nice tannins and some nice dryness that builds in the mouth. This is definitely a bigger wine. It could easily hold its own with lamb or steak. I would give it a solid 89.

    This dark garnet shows big ripe, spicy blackberry, black cherry and black plum flavors and aromas, shaded with notes of leather and root beer - cola; tannins are soft, acids are good without being too racy and it finishes nicely. What's not to like here?! Very nice indeed.

    The '09 Ripasso from Tommasi is ripe, rich and robust, offering powerful blackberry and currant flavors wrapped in soft, gentle tannins with a pleasant touch of bitter almonds on the finish.

    Jammy, rich, deliciously sweet fruit yet finishes dry and pleasantly bitter. Fragrant, lifted, pretty lengthy too.

    The flavour has hints of cherry jam but the texture's not jammy or syrupy. Polished to a smooth sheen, it's lifted on the finish by lively acidity.

    This expression is genuine and frank without being heavy or overextracted. It presents a fine, polished texture, with bright endnotes of black cherry, cassis, leather and Spanish cedar.

    [Ripasso] can be rather clunky, but not in this rich but refined version from a longstanding family producer which has an amazing depth of svelte black-cherry flavour and a spicy finish.

    Subtle black cherry, boysenberry, pekoe tea leaf and dried thyme are structured by tangy acidity and supple tannins, with aromatic ground spices and tea rose notes on the finish.

    Warm ripe cherry fruit along with some rustic volatility makes this a peppery, pleasantly sweet red.


For a Splurge

Try a well-thought-of Amarone (Robert Parker's Wine Spectator 95 points, 2/2011; Wine Spectator, 94 points, 7/2010) actually available at a relatively reasonable price: Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($50 and up).



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