Castellani 2003 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” San Michele “Ripasso” (Veneto) – Dense and concentrated, with a good deal of ripe structure and a dried-fruit darkness at its core. Licorice over strawberry, perhaps a bit blacker at heart than a Valpolicella (even a ripasso) should be, but then that may be the vintage. Add this to the tiny handful of appealing 2003 reds from Western Europe. (2/08)
dal Forno 2000 Valpolicella “Superiore” (Veneto) – Ultra-dense, dark, and chewy. Nuts, roasted violet-tinged fruit tending towards the ultraviolet. Stunning or too much? It’s hard to say. (2/07)
Secco-Bertani 2003 Valpolicella Valpantena “Ripasso” (Veneto) – Dead fruit on the nose. The palate is flat, sour, and tannic. Yuck. (2/07)
Righetti 2004 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” Ripasso “Campolieti” (Veneto) – Strawberry and anise seed, but also a touch of bubblegum; I’m served this blind, and waver back and forth between Valpolicella and grenache for a while, finally settling on the former due to balanced alcohol. It’s good, if somewhat slick, and lacks the concentrated, paste-like consistency of most modern ripassos…whether that’s a good or bad thing I can’t quite decide. (1/08)
Zenato 2003 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Tannic, yes, but there’s plenty of chewy, grippy purple fruit despite the tongue-drying, and even a bit of acidity lurking somewhere in the background. I still wouldn’t call it balanced, but it’s a reasonable success given that it only tastes a little bit like someone was trying to make a “super-Venetian” out of corvina. (8/07)
Quintarelli 1994 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” (Veneto) – Smoky, showing midpalate fatness and a texture that billows between leather and satin. There’s quartz at the core. Concentrated, beautiful and long. I’m not sure there’s much Valpolicella character here anymore, however. (6/07)
Allegrini 2001 Veronese “Palazzo della Torre” (Veneto) – Big and obvious, with highly-structured skins and char, but very little that’s appealing. (6/07)
Allegrini 2004 Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Raw, whip-slash fruit, angry and unaccommodating, showing a fierce, acid-soured midpalate and greenish tannin scars on the finish. This used to be a pleasant little wine, but it appears to have undergone a stay at Hotel Abu Ghraib. (5/07)
Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon (Ain) – Spritzy and more mineral-driven than usual (mostly chalk, perhaps a bit of gravel), with less exuberant strawberry and a dry, papery finish. I wonder if this bottle might be ever so slightly off. Bad cork? (6/06)
Gamay and poulsard (at least theoretically; there were two different cuvées of the previous release and if that’s the case here, then this could possibly be 100% gamay), naturally sparkling, etc., etc. I think this might be one of the more notated wines on the various wine non-mainstream fora, and what was said at the beginning still holds true to this day: soda pop for adults. Alcohol: 7.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner/LDM.
Zenato 2002 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Restrained, violet-tinged rhubarb and olive with bitter strawberry and a fine dusting of drying tannin. There are good elements here, but there seems to be some sort of internal struggle going on with this wine, for they emerge and retreat seemingly at random. A little overworked in the cellar, I think, and it fades a bit with food, but it’s decent enough as a slightly angry cocktail wine. (6/06)
80% corvina, 10% rondinella, 10% sangiovese. While this isn’t done in the popular ripasso style, with all the jammy, prune-like fruit that the technique portends, neither is it done in the traditional, high-acid, best-served chilled style that has almost completely disappeared as a wine for export to the States. It tries to find a middle ground, but in the process I think it loses some of what makes Valpolicella interesting. Alcohol: 13.5%. Closure: cork. Importer: Locascio/Winebow. Web: http://www.zenato.it/.
Torbreck 2003 “Cuvée Juveniles” (Barossa Valley) – Big, full-bodied, and strongly-flavored, with dark plum and charred blackberry larded with double-smoked bacon. The fruit is on full display here, and while it’s a little ponderous without strongly-flavored food as a foil, it’s pretty difficult to dislike the high-decibel enthusiasm of this thermonuclear fruit device. (6/06)
60% grenache, 20% shiraz (syrah), 20% mataro (mourvèdre), done in a style that’s both accessible and…according to the winemaker…ageable. I wonder if there’s sufficient structure to support long-term aging (and even if there is, whether the lack of acid will result in this wine asymptotically turning to dark soy, as many older Barossa wines do), but there’s certainly no lack of concentration. Alcohol: 14%. Closure: screwcap. Importer: Australian Wine Collection. Web: http://www.torbreck.com/.