Monday, January 30, 2006

A Spiritual Trip to Italy

I’m not talking metaphysics here; I’m talking wine. Specifically, I’m talking about the Valpolicella wine region of northern Italy. Valpolicella is named for the region, not the grapes, which are of the corvina, molinara, and rondinella varieties.

Yes, we started a new batch of wine, and it better turn out good for the amount we spent on the kit. We got a kit because it supposedly contains juice from grapes grown and harvested properly for producing an Amarone-style wine. The growers hand pick only ripe grapes from clusters, then they allow them to dry in a nice cool barn loft to concentrate the juice. The result should be a particularly flavorful wine.

I wasn’t able to find a commercial Amarone to try myself, so I’ll have to wait the 6-8 weeks that the instructions say it will take for this wine to be ready. I did, however, find a ripasso wine from Valpolicella. A ripasso is made from grapes that aren’t so carefully selected as those going into Amarone, but it gets a bit of a lift from the Amarone process. After the wine gets pressed and goes through primary fermentation, it gets to “rest” on the pressed skins of grapes used to make Amarone.

I expect that someone got the ripasso idea from the technique of “second pressing”, which is adding water and possibly sugar to pressed grapes skins and pressing out a second batch of juice to make “second wine”. Someone must have figured that if you can make decent wine out of water by pressing it out of grape skins, you should be able to turn decent wine into exceptional wine. Whoever thought of it was a genius; the ripasso we had was really good, easily good enough to justify what I paid for it (more than twice what I usually pay for wine). The ripasso has raised my expectations for the Amarone.

On a related note, we racked the mead into a clean carboy over the weekend, getting it off of the lees (yeast sediment at the bottom) and adding some sassafrass tea (which my lovely lady considers a particularly good mead additive). The mead still has a bit of kerosene flavor, but it’s already drinkable and I expect that nasty character to age out pretty quickly.

On another related note, it seems that I will be teaching a class on wine-making at Winter Collegium in addition to the dance interpretation class that I announced previously.

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