Italy has an incredible diversity of wines to offer. No wonder with the huge number of native grape varieties they have to choose from. There is something for everyone and in particular for red wine lovers. Of course, some of the better known Italian red wine regions are very evocative such as Chianti’s rows of poplar and olive trees and Barolo’s alpine backdrop. However, there is plenty of red wine interest outside of these regions and, whereas they were only available locally, they are now winning wine lover’s hearts across the globe.
And these more recent arrivals on our shores are not necessarily from ‘new’ wine regions. More so, they are red wines from regions that have benefited from investment and now can showcase their region’s best. Alternatively, these reds might come from regions already known for high quality that have reinvigorated a nearly forgotten technique.
It is not all cut and dried
One technique that has seen a rise in popularity is appassimento.
Appassimento simply refers to the process of using a portion of dried grapes when making the wine.
These dried grapes add fullness to the body of wine, as well as more complex aromas and flavours. This process is responsible for those rich, smooth red Amarone wines of Valpolicella.
Appassimento wines are now easy to find from other regions of Italy and they often represent good value. You might find white wines as well as red. Some regions have their own specific versions of the practice. In Tuscany, for instance, they use a technique they call Governo all’uso Toscano.
Of course, one of the differences in styles is how dry the grapes are. The percentage of dried grapes the wine includes is also a stylistic difference and often differs between regions. Likewise, the point in the fermentation where the dried grapes are added.
The Amarone and Recioto wines from Valpolicella are perhaps Italy’s best known red dried grape wines. In these iconic Veneto region wines, 100% of the grapes dry on racks before pressing. Although, it is not just Italian red wines or sweet wines that use these techniques. White wines can also benefit from using dried grapes too, such as Pasqua Romeo & Juliet’s Wall White (click here for review). Interestingly there has been a steady increase in the availability of ‘Ripasso’ Valpolicellas.
Ripasso wines are those made with the addition of already fermented pomace, lees and all, of the Amarone style wines to bolster the body and complexity of the traditionally lighter styled Valpolicella AC wines.
Reportedly the first producer to do this for a commercially sold wine was Masi when they released ‘Campofiorin’.
It is not just about Valpollicella though…
Some wines are made by picking a portion of the grapes earlier than the rest of the harvest. They are then kept aside to dry while the other grapes continue to ripen. This will concentrate the sugar in the grapes and subsequently add body and alcohol as well as flavours and aromas. Sicilian producer Terre di Faiano uses this method in their Organic Nero d’Avola.
Governo all’uso Toscano winemaking involves drying a portion of the harvest. These dried grapes are added back to the nearly completed ferment to extend fermentation.
Governo all’uso Toscano is a dried grape technique that has been practised for centuries . Winemakers select a small portion of grapes to dry after harvest. They crush and ferment the remaining fresh grapes as normal. As the ferment slows down, adding dried grapes extends the ferment. According to villapucciniwine.com, “This slow re-fermentation leads to release noble polyphenols and increase in the alcoholic strength, extracts, glycerin and smoothness.” A family who also does this well is the Piccini family. Their wine, Piccini Strapazzamento (click here for review), uses this technique to great effect.