What’s the difference between appassimento and Ripasso?

Answered by Frank Schwing

Appassimento and Ripasso are two terms that are often associated with wines from the Valpolicella region in Italy. They both refer to specific winemaking techniques that result in unique and distinct flavors. While they may seem similar, there are key differences between the two processes.

Appassimento is the process of drying grapes before fermentation. This technique involves leaving the harvested grapes to dry for a certain period of time, typically on wooden racks or straw mats. This drying process causes the grapes to lose moisture, concentrating their flavors and sugars. The grapes are typically left to dry for several weeks or even months, depending on the desired style of wine.

The drying process for appassimento wines is crucial in creating rich, full-bodied wines with intense flavors. The grapes become raisin-like in texture and develop complex aromas of dried fruits, spices, and sometimes even floral notes. This technique is commonly used in the production of Amarone and Recioto wines, which are known for their depth and complexity.

Ripasso, on the other hand, is a technique used to enhance the flavor and structure of Valpolicella wines. After the initial fermentation of the Valpolicella wine, the leftover grape skins from the Amarone or Recioto production are added to the Valpolicella wine. This process is known as “ripasso,” which means “re-passing” in Italian.

The addition of the grape skins from the dried grapes used in appassimento infuses the Valpolicella wine with additional flavors, tannins, and complexity. The wine is left in contact with the skins for a period of time, typically a few weeks or months, allowing for further extraction of flavor and color. This process results in a wine that is richer, more concentrated, and often exhibits hints of dried fruit and spice.

While appassimento and Ripasso are distinct winemaking techniques, they are often used together in the production of certain Valpolicella wines. This combination creates a unique style of wine that showcases both the concentrated flavors from the dried grapes and the added depth from the ripasso process.

In terms of taste, appassimento wines are typically fuller-bodied, with higher alcohol content, and showcase flavors of dried fruits, spices, and sometimes floral notes. The ripasso wines, on the other hand, are generally medium to full-bodied, with balanced tannins and a combination of fresh fruit flavors and the added complexity from the ripasso process.

Appassimento and Ripasso are two distinct winemaking techniques used in the production of wines from the Valpolicella region. Appassimento involves drying grapes to concentrate flavors, while Ripasso involves re-fermenting Valpolicella wine with the grape skins from appassimento wines. These techniques result in unique and complex wines that are a true reflection of the terroir and winemaking traditions of Valpolicella.