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ITALIAN WINES By Michael Mace (reviews)

 

 

I have been trying a few new wines (for me) lately in an effort to break free from my old but always reliable standby, Santa Rita Reserva, an excellent Cab for the price ($12.20 and available at virtually any LCBO). The Wine Spectator, by the way, gives this full bodied "tinto" a score of 89 which is an unusually high mark for a wine of that price.

   But still I felt the need to branch out and be a little more daring in my selection which is what led me to Vintages to poke around their lower priced offerings and if truth be told to listen in on what words of wisdom the staff might have to offer to buyers on some of their recent arrivals. I don't usually join in these conversations since I am always convinced that whatever the wine under discussion, I will soon be way over my head in the oeno-bafflegab. What is a "cheeky little wine" anyway? So I just stand close by, try not to look too obvious and listen. Which is what I did when I heard about Valpolicella Ripasso for the first time. It was a new one to me and having been bitten rather badly in the past by some grotty Valpolicellas, I had some doubts. But this one, I can assure you, is different. Its main claim to fame is that it is double fermented. The first fermentation is just the regular Valpolicella process but then it undergoes a second fermentation in the skins and seeds of grapes which have been used to make those wonderful Amarone wines that we cannot afford. A couple of weeks in this environment and then into the bottle for some rest and you have the makings of a rich and dark red wine that tastes like an Amarone but costs less than half the price. And to make matters even better, it is available at your regular LCBO so you don't have to worry about tracking half way across the city to a full scale Vintages. I tried the cheapest of their listings, the Cesari Mara Ripasso di Valpolicella at $14.95 and found it delicious. I will warn you that like Amarone, this wine is decidedly fruity and heavy but the flavour is remarkable. If you get hooked, the LCBO lists no less than ten of these wines although most of them are only available at stores with at least a Vintages section. I should also add that I recently went to the LCBO nearest my home and found that the Cesari Mara was not in stock but they had another label so I bought it and will try it out in the very near future. My Wine Bible recommends Masi Campo Fiorin and it also seems to be widely available at stores with Vintages for $16.95.

   Since this is an Italian wine, I thought I would leave you with a saying for the day which comes from those old days of high school Latin lit, was written by Horace and is good advice to us all - "Nunc est bibendum" - Now is the time to drink!

Michael Mace