Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Wine Review: Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2008)

Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2008) Review:
Price: £15 per bottle
Availability: Independent merchants, limited UK availability

Founded in 1936 by Gerardo Cesari, Cesari Vinicola certainly doesn’t have the longest history of the producers clustered around Verona, North East Italy. Some producers (such as Serego Alighieri) have been producing wine since the mid 1300s. However, in it’s (comparatively) short history, Cesari have built themselves a reputation for quality and consistency, something which culminated in Cesari being selected as “Italian Producer of the Year” in 2004 and again in 2006 by the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition, recognising Cesari’s sustained exceptional performance. Numerous awards for Cesari’s individual wines have also been collected.

However, as is the case with many wineries in Verona, much of the attention directed at Cesari has been the product of it’s range of Amarone della Valpolicella wines. The most celebrated of which are the single vineyard Cesari "Il Bosco" Amarone della Valpolicella and the Cesari “Bosan” Amarone della Valpolicella. The planting of international varieties such as Merlot and Chardonnay (and a possible expansion in Brasil) has also further served to overshadow some of Cesari’s more traditional Veronese offerings, thereby leading some buyers to ignore these more traditional wines. Doing that though, may just be a mistake.

Sitting above Cesari’s “entry level” Valpolicella Classico (a young and fruity Valpolicella that is low in alcohol but still vibrant and fresh) are Cesari’s Valpolicella Ripasso wines. Made by passing that young and fruity Cesari Valpolicella over the spent skins and stalks of the previous year’s Cesari Amarone production (thereby kicking off a secondary fermentation that adds richness and alcohol) this process yields two Cesari Valpolicella Ripasso wines. First, the Cesari Valpolicella Ripasso “Bosan” (made by passing the Valpolicella over the skins left over from the production of the single vineyard “Bosan” Amarone della Valpolicella) and this, the Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso.

Made by passing that young and fruity Valpolicella (the mainstay of nearly all Veronese wineries) over the skins left over from the “standard” (multi-vineyard) Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso ought to offer up a wonderful blend of the vibrancy and fragrance supplied by the young Cesari Valpolicella and the richness and structure supplied by the noble dregs of Cesari’s Amarone della Valpolicella. 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara, this Cesari “Mara” (the name of a maternal grandmother in Italian, in case you were wondering) Valpolicella Ripasso sees it’s secondary fermentation end in the March after harvest, at which point it is passed into Slavonian and French oak for 12 months. After which 6 months resting in bottle occurs before release.

Bottled in a heavy Burgundy-style (low shouldered and thickly lipped) bottle, this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso is a handsome-looking wine. A thick “Cesari” embossed foil holds captive a cork of good quality also stencilled with “Cesari – Mara”. The fact that this, the 2008 vintage of the Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso, is the 25th vintage bottled of the Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso is celebrated on the bottle in the form of a red and gold medallion at the top of the label.

In the glass, this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso is a deep, arterial blood red. Intense when viewed from above, this “Mara” Ripasso fades to a rim which is lighter, less intense and marked by the year in oak that this wine has seen, appearing as it does slightly brown. An alcoholic content of 13.5% is 1.5% up on Cesari’s non-repassed Valpolicella but 1.5% below Cesari’s Amarone della Valpolicella offerings.

The nose is initially marked by pungent sour cherry. Not immediately the most enticing aroma, this initial sourness fades and the aromas of this Cesari “Mara” Ripasso become more reminiscent of bonfire smoke and there is a underlying sweet meatiness that is suggestive of char-grilled pork. A waft of ground coffee and a hint of sweet vanilla round off the nose. A little closed by comparison to some Ripasso, the intensity of “Classico” zone Valpolicella is missing in this Cesari "Mara", although the bouquet of this Cesari “Mara” Ripasso remains an characteful example of a non-Classico zone Valpolciella Ripasso.

In the mouth, this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Ripasso is medium bodied, but longer than average. Red fruit characteristics predominate with slightly under-ripe cherry and raspberry leading. Thicker plum fills the middle of the palate with a finish that dries with a moderate tannin influence. A good streak of acidity runs through the structure of the wine, leaving this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella balanced and teeing up a finish of dried fruit (raisins and candied orange) that fades elegantly. A perfect match for cured meats, or alternatively heartier grilled or stewed game would also make an excellent match.

A little untamed at times, this Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is nevertheless elegant and excellent when it matters. Lacking the overt similarities to Amarone della Valpolicella of some Valpolicella Ripasso (namely heavy rasining and opulent fruit), it adopts a more sleek and less fruit-led style. Structured so as to go well with food, those looking for a fruit-driven Ripasso for drinking on it’s own may look elsewhere.

Cesari “Mara” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2008)

Score: 85/100 – Finely structured, sleek and balanced.

Value for Money: 7/10 – Fairly priced in the context of its competition.

Other Valpolicella Ripasso reviewed:

Montresor “Capitel Della Crosara” Valpolicella Classico Ripasso DOC (2008)
Montresor is one of the larger Veronese wineries and is currently undergoing a process of renewal. This “Capitel Della Crossara” Valpolicella Ripasso shows that the Montresor family’s wines are heading in the right direction, with smooth fruit to forefront.

Tedeschi “Capitel San Rocco” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2008)
Sometimes living somewhat in the shadow the Tedeschi family's excellent Amarone della Valpolicella, this "Capitel San Rocco" Valpolicella Ripasso is an excellent wine in its own right, with a meaty and structured style.

Bertani “Villa Novare” Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore (2007)
Another classic wine from a classic producer, this "Villa Novare" Valpolicella Riapsso is the distilation of more than 150 years winemaking knowledge, coupled with fruit from some of the finest sites near to Verona. Impressively elegant.