Above: grapes being “raisined” for the production of Valpolicella wines.
After a Twitter user tagged me in the tweet below, I immediately sprang to action. There was no time to lose!
Hi @DoBianchi ! Tis the season to post on social media about appassimento, which begs addition to your ITA-ENG vocab list 😅
— Alexandra M. Korey (@arttrav) October 25, 2021
As Alexandra, a Florence-focused art historian, noted, grape growers in Italy are drying their grapes — raisining them — right now.
The process is known in Italian as appassimento: the drying or raisining of the grapes.
Drying the grapes concentrates their sugar, their lifeblood. It’s an ancient process that was widely used in Italy from Roman times until the early 20th century. It’s still used in countless appellations, most famously to produce sweet Vin Santo in Tuscany and Amarone (a dry wine) and Recioto (a sweet wine) in Valpolicella, among many others.
The related Italian term passito means raisined– or dried-grape wine. Passito di Pantelleria is arguably the most well known among the passiti or dried-grape wines (plural).
The great 19th-century Italian poet, philologist, and critical theorist Giacomo Leopardi would have loved the terms appassimento and its verb form appassire. Like so many words in Italian, it can have multiple meanings. It’s used with poetic license to mean wilting or even waning (as in, their passion for [something] has waned).
Knowing that time was of the essence, I immediately called my buddy, grape grower and winemaker Angelo Nicolis, in Valpolicella. (His wines are imported to the U.S. by my client Ethica Wines and I visited with him in January 2020 on my last trip to Italy before the lockdowns.)
He swiftly dispatched the above photo and the below video. And as you can see from the crates of grapes being dried behind him, the timing was perfect!
As per Alexandra’s commission, I’ve also updated the Italian-English Wine Glossary to include the term.
Thank you for the nudge, Alexandra! And special thanks to Angelo who turned this around so quickly.
This is what I love the most about wine blogging and social media. How it brings us all together, from different corners of the world, around a passion that will never wane!