Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Veneto region and the famous Ripasso & Amarone with Cesari

Cesari winery & AmaroneI wanted to include some additional wines that I tasted from my 2nd meeting with Alessandra Marino from Cesari wines. At this event she brought some of the more A game players from their line including their 100% Corvina named Jema from one of their cru estates to their 2011 Mara Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso and lastly their Amarone Classico. After the previous tasting with Alessandra these wines were by far the more lighter bodied, easier drinking selection compared to these three mentioned that had much more complexity. These wines are produced in the Valpolicella region in the Veneto/Venice region near Verona, a beautiful city. 
The first wine I tasted was Cesari Jema that is 100% Corvina. Alessandra shared with me that these grapes are dried in grates once picked off the vine for 20 days and then are fermented in stainless steel. The wine is aged 18 months in oak and then another 6 months in the bottle. This wine is from a single vineyard estate and is both a product of dry farming, no irrigation takes part in the process, and also green harvested, where they prune the top and bottom layers of the vines. This was a fuller bodied feminine wine displaying ripe, red fruit with a lasting finish.

Next was the 2011 Cesari Mara Vapolicella Ripasso named after the matriarch of the estate. This ripasso had raisin accents on the nose, which is typical of these wines. It is a blend of 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The wines in this region in general are very interesting as they follow a unique process. This particular wine is aged in stainless steel and then the juice is refermented on the dried grape skins of the Amarone grapes, which is known as the ripasso method, meaning “repassed”, and then its racked for a few more months for the malolactic fermentation. From there it's aged 12 months in barrel and 6 months in the bottle. This wine is smooth, showing ripe fruit with nice depth. 

For those that are unfamiliar with wines from the Valpolicella area, the three grapes mentioned above are a typical combination at varying levels of percentages with Molinara sometimes not part of the equation. It's a similar wine compared to the Amarone where it uses the same grapes, but the Amarone has a different process I will discuss and they are aged longer, but you will get a similar flavor profile just with more complexity and richness in the Amarone wines. The Valpolicella Ripasso is a more approachable wine with similar characteristics and is more affordable than the Amarones. 
Saving the best for last was their 2009 Cesari Amarone Classico made of 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. The process with Amarone makes it special because the grapes are picked and laid out in these rooms to dry and in this particular case for 120 days bringing them into the January timeframe before the press and fermentation begins. About 40% of the water evaporates during this process making the grape more concentrated. Cesari ages their Amarone in barriques for about 1.5 years and 8 months to 1.5 years in the bottle. The aromas on the nose of dark red fruit and raisins was prevalent on the palette. Its full bodied with good balance and nice fruit. This wine can be aged for at least 10+ years, but will obviously transform in the bottle. The tannins I picked up on the finish will smooth out as well. 

I've been aging some of my Amarone that I brought back from Italy some years ago and I look forward to watching how they have transformed over the years.

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