A friend is sitting his Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) exam tomorrow in Sydney. Some last minute practice of WSET style 'structured tasting' across four lots of wine might have helped or hindered. The tasting was 'double-blind' so no idea of what wines were in the overall set, let alone a particular bracket.
It was an interesting tasting, even if disconcerting. A bracket of four Spanish and Portuguese reds looked more Italian than Iberian. Then a bracket that turned out to be all Italian had the group thinking Spain and France. A delicate-fruit, jagged tannin Nebbiolo d'Alba looked like a Village red Burgundy or further down that tree, the tannins worked too hard for the fruit. A Brunello (2005 Banfi) looked Medoc-like in leafy flavour, oak and tannin (looked more sangiovese the more air it got). The fourth wine in the bracket, a Dolcetto d'Alba made with carbonic maceration technique, reminded us of carbonic maceration wines made from Monastrell in Spain or a good Beaujolais, more than Piedmont.
This Valpolicella Ripasso wine from Speri was a standout in the sneaky-Italians bracket. I thought of Spain first and foremost, due to the weight of dry extract the wine carries, which reminded me of Ribera or Priorat, and skin tannin like that of top-notch tempranillo. That inky, tarry extract flavour combines with deep, even fruit in the Speri wine, before the bittersweet and fine tannins finish it all off. Such good fruit in this, yet with a great sense of shape about it. Sure-footed wine.
Open three days now and still fine drinking. It gets a 15 day referment of the Valpolicella on the Amarone marc, before 12 months in oak. There is no sense of oak intrusion in this at all.
You should be able to find this at about $40, a bit less if keen. Sealed with a cork and 13.5% alcohol. A reminder of how good ripasso styles can be - combining some of the fresh fruit of Valpolicella with the depth & tannic interest of Amarone. Has gone well with lasagne but also by itself, sipped, with a book or film in front of the fire.