An excellent all-round wine

Disclaimer: Don’t drink if you’re under 21, don’t buy alcohol for minors and always drink responsibly. 

In this week’s vineyard, we are going back to Italy. The wine we’re looking at is the Tommasi Rafaèl Valpolicella Classico Superiore. When I saw that Total Wine and More had this wine in stock, I was excited to try it again.

At only $15.49, it’s a good quality all-round Italian wine!

The wine is created with 70% Corvina grape, 5% Molinara and 25% Rondinella, which is a very common blend used in Veneto. Veneto is a wine district in northern Italy, close to the border of Austria and Slovenia. The district is known for its quality wines such as the red wines Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore, Ripasso and Amarone della Valpolicella. The differences between the different Valpolicella types, I will get back to.

Straight out of the bottle, the wine is a dark red and gives an aroma of spices, dried fruits, cool herbs and ripe dark berries. The flavor is what you can expect of a traditional more full-bodied Italian wine. There is a hint of oak which adds a layer of debt to the flavor, a hint of juicy dark berries and herbs. The unique combination along with the body, freshness and slight tanning makes this wine pair excellent with meats such as most white meat, lamb, sheep and pork.

Despite all of the flavours and aromas, this wine also works alone. You can easily drink this with your dinner, and continue with the same glass as you end up on the couch with your favorite show. This isn’t always the case, because some wine profiles are just too complex to work alone, meaning you need food for the wine to taste good. 

As I mentioned, Italy is known for its good wines and with that follows an honor. In Italian, an honor is known as an Denominazion de origin controllata. They have two levels, known as DOC (Denominazione de controllata) and DOCG (Denominizone di origine contrallata e grantita). In order for a wine to achieve any of the two distinctions they need to be produced in a certain geographical area. DOCG areas are found within DOC areas. The main difference between the two is that in order to achieve a DOCG status the wine is analyzed and tasted by an official wine expert before the wine is bottled.

Now let’s try to unravel the differences between Valpolicella Superiore, Ripasso and Amarone della Valpolicella.

A Valpolicella Superior/Ripasso uses what’s left of the grape skins, flesh, and stones from the amarone and recioto production. It is mixed with new wine from fresh grapes creating a new fermentation that produces a stronger and more complex wine, with a slightly higher alcohol percentage. Ripasso is stored in oak barrels for one to two years before it is bottled. Ripasso gained its DOC classification after the 2009 vintage.

Amarone della Valpolicella are harvested in September, and laid to dry for about four months before the process of creating wine is even started. During this time about 30% of the grape juice evaporates which leaves a very high concentration of the grape and sugar content. Afterward, the wine is stored in oak barrels to be stored for at least 24 months, and often longer, before it’s bottled. 

The wine can be re-barreled a few times to affect its maturing, and natural oxidation. Amarone will normally have an alcohol percentage of 15-16.5% – which is significant because most red wines are around 12% – with some residual sweetness of 15 grams per liter. This is also quite a lot when in comparison, the Rafael is 4.7 grams per liter – with a slight residual bitterness. Amarone received DOCG status following their 2010 vintage.

A valpolicella like the Tommasi Rafaèl can be a great step up if you recently found yourself enjoying red wine. Yet it can also be loved by the more ‘experienced’ wine drinker, both with a delicious meal and with your favorite show. Cheers!

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