Friday, 27 April 2012

Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2009)

Graziano Pra (the man behind the impressive range of Pra Valpolicella, of which this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is part) is something of a legend in Veneto, North East Italy. Famous first of all for crafting wonderfully expressive Soave from the Pra family vineyards that he inherited from his father in the early 1980s near to Monteforte d’Alpone, at the turn of the millennium he turned his hand to the production of red wine for the first time.

Having sought the right site for several years, Graziano Pra finally settled upon and purchased a 13 hectare hillside in the foothills of Monte Lessini, in the east of the Valpolicella zone of production. Never previously planted and located at 450 metres above sea level, this Pra “Morandina” site is exposed and has a poor soil, factors that result in low yields (i.e. low numbers of grapes produced per vine) and intense wines.

Despite the fact that the Pra Morandina site was only planted in 2001 and that the first Pra Valpolicella-based wines were released for the 2006 vintage, critical acclaim has nonetheless followed, with Pra’s 2006 Pra Amarone della Valpolicella being crowned 2011 IWR Red Wine of the Year, 2011 IWR Wine of the Year (Italy) and 2011 IWR Wine of the Year (Veneto).

This 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso was made by “re-passing” (“ripasso”) the “basic” 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore over the skins left over from the production of the 2009 Pra Amarone della Valpolicella, thereby kicking of a secondary fermentation that added structure, depth and alcohol (!) to the resultant ripasso-style wine. Following this secondary fermentation, this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso was then matured in a mixture of small barriques and larger Allier oak casks for 18 months prior to bottling and release 6 months further on.

In the glass, this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is an intense ruby red. Exhibiting a sight rustic discoloration towards the rim (a product of 18 months in oak) , this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso also shows a higher level of alcohol than the “basic” Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore, weighing in at 14.5% abv.

The aromas of this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso are pronounced and complex. Richer and sweeter in its fruit orientation than the “basic” Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore, this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso shows ripe black fruit such as cherries and dark plums, alongside subtle notes of spice and sweet vanilla.

Once in the mouth, this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is mouth-filling and deep. Rich and ripe dark fruit form the bulk of a long palate that shows complexity and nuance through a prickle of anise spice, sweet (oak-derived) vanilla influences and touches of dried fruit that hint at the air drying of the grapes used to make the base 2009 “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore and those grapes that this base wine was then passed over. This 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso could be described as a “halfway house” between the “basic” Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore and the Pra Amarone della Valpolicella, however the style of this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is such that it could easily be mistaken for an Amarone della Valplicella in a blind tasting.

With a more pronounced (but never unintegrated) tannin structure than the “base” Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore, this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso can pair with richer and heavier dishes as a result. Braised venison or poultry would work well.
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Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC (2009)

Score: 90/100 – This 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is an excellent example of the “ripasso” style of Valpolicella. Often Valpolicella Ripasso lacks integration and can be too overtly structured – both of these issues are avoided in the case of this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso. A benchmark wine for the style.

Value for Money: 7/10 – This 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso is priced at a higher level than much Valpolicella Ripasso at £18 per bottle. However, the inherent quality of this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso and its rarity will continue to make this 2009 Pra “Morandina” Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso an attractive proposition.
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