Ain’t we glad that we got ‘em: good times and Valpolicella

It really is the best of times and the worst of times. Across the board, wine sales are down, restaurateurs are suffering sharp declines, and many businesses are hanging on by the seats of their pants. In the same breath, I can also say that I feel lucky to have a good job and a happy life here in Texas, where I know I am truly fortunate to have such a wonderful lady in my life and such good people around me — personally, professionally, and virtually (a nod to all the friends whom I know through the blogosphere).

Just yesterday, I read a report that Italy saw a significant drop in U.S. exports in the first quarter of 2009 and anecdotally, I hear from my Italian wine colleagues, friends, and peers locally and on both coasts that things are tough all around.

Having said that, I believe wholeheartedly that Italian wine represents the greatest value for quality on the market and I was thrilled to see Eric’s article in the Times and subsequent post on Valpolicella and the value it offers the consumer.

As is often the case with Italian wine and regulations governing its production, there seems to be some confusion as to how Valpolicella is labeled — specifically with reference to the term ripasso meaning literally a passing again or refermentation. (The only instance of the term ripassa, with a feminine ending, that I have been able to find is for a Valpolicella produced by Zenato. But this seems to be an anomaly, an affected corruption of the sanctioned term.)

Basically, ripasso denotes the use of “residual grape pomace” in the refermentation or second fermentation of the wine (see below).

Some time back, Italian Wine Guy did this excellent post on three different techniques that can all be classified as ripasso.

Hoping to shed some light on the conundrum of ripasso this morning, I translated the following passage from article 5 of the appellation regulations for Valpolicella DOC.

    The use of residual grape pomace from the production of “Recioto della Valpolicella” and “Amarone della Valpolicella” is allowed in the regoverning [refermenting*] of the wine Valpolicella, in accordance with the ad hoc standards established by the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry Policy and the territory office of the Central Inspectorate for the Repression of Fraud with respect to the standards of the European Union.

    Controlled Origin Designation (DOC) Valpolicella wines classified as “Valpolicella,” “Valpolicella” classico, “Valpolicella” superiore, “Valpolicella” classico superiore, “Valpolicella” Valpantena, and “Valpolicella” Valpantena superiore can be refermented on residual grape pomace from the production of the wines “Recioto della Valpolicella” and/or “Amarone della Valpolicella.”

    Wines obtained in this manner can utilize the added designation “ripasso.”

    * In Italian the term governo or governare retains its etymological meaning, steering or to steer, from the Greek kubernaô.

I also highly recommend that you read Franco’s Decanter article on Valpolicella and Amarone, downloadable here.

*****

I couldn’t find a good YouTube for this, but you get the idea…

Just lookin’ out of the window.
Watchin’ the asphalt grow.
Thinkin’ how it all looks hand-me-down.
Good Times, yeah, yeah Good Times

Keepin’ your head above water
Makin’ a wave when you can

Temporary lay offs. – Good Times.
Easy credit rip offs. – Good Times.
Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em – Good Times.

Above: Actor Jimmie Walker in one of his most famous rolls always brings good times to the heart.