Antolini wine by Howie Sayers with a request for a review; we met up briefly in London before taking our respective trains home and Howie explained how he has now gone from working in technical lab design to importing wine as his major activity.
His interest is mainly in Italian wines - especially the areas of Piemonte, Sicily, Friuli and Puglia - and he also organises vineyard tours.
In my experience, Italian wines can be a bit of a minefield - some superb, many disappointing - so it is especially useful to find a merchant who knows the area and can do the hard work of sorting the oenological wheat from the vinous chaff, so to speak.
This Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2008 is from Antolini, based between Verona and Lake Garda.
It is ripasso, meaning that a portion the grapes is dried out and the wine is re-fermented ("ripasso") with these intensified, dried grapes.
Dark purple in the glass, with four years' age there is some paleness around the rim.
The nose is concentrated with aromas of dark cherry and plum fruit, a touch of menthol, spice and tarry earthiness.
The palate is perfumey and ripe, with more cherry fruit and hints of something darker, like coffee, soy and cocoa as well as some eucalyptus; there is a sour rasp and a streak of bitterness that lasts onto the finish.
It would match perfectly with roast rosemary lamb - for the more culinarily ambitious Italophile, Howie suggests herb crusted loin of lamb with red Sicilian spinach, cavalo nero, celeriac dauphinoise & parsnip crisps.
Chris Kissak reviews this wine (and others from Antolini) on his WineDoctor blog here:.
I'm quite reassured by his tasting note, as the key elements he draws out ("warm fruit on the nose, with a little tobacco leaf. Nice texture at first, yielding to a more bitter grip through the middle, the sharp cherry fruit sitting with a little smooth dark chocolate") are very similar to what I found.
His score of 14/20, however, seems rather low to me.
Chris also adds some useful technical information in his review about the wine: it is, apparently, a blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, but after the primary fermentation the wine is mixed with the Recioto marc in the spring the following year to induce an enriching second fermentation.
Howie Sayers on Twitter - https://twitter.com/#!/atProfumodiVino
Antolini - http://www.antolinivini.it/index.htm