Learn More About Appassimento Wine

 Stacks of Appassimento Drying Racks

Stacks of Appassimento Drying Racks

A friend of mine recently recommended a wine that he really liked. When he showed me the wine's label I saw that it was an Italian Appassimento. That's a wine that I was not previously familiar with, so I took a look on-line and found a brief description of it. Soon thereafter, I went on the hunt for the wine so that I could give it a try. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it in any of my local stores, so he graciously brought me a bottle to try.

Simply put, Appassimento wines are made from grapes that have been dried before being pressed. The grapes are harvested and laid out on racks in large temperature controlled drying rooms for up to six months. After drying, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented.

 Appassimento (Dried) Grapes

Appassimento (Dried) Grapes

But, since the dried grapes lose up to 50% of their water during the drying process, the result of the press (i.e., the resulting must) is quite rich and concentrated. And, high in sugar. But, typically, the high sugar content simply results in high alcohol wines (15-16% ABV) when fermentation is completed. These wines are then generally barrel aged for one to two years before being bottled. The resulting wines are full-bodied, concentrated in dark fruit flavors and, not surprisingly, have just a hint of raisin flavor to them.

The Appassimento process is used traditionally in Italian wine regions to make the popular Amarone, Recioto, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Sforzato wines. The best known, Amarone Valpolicella, is the high-end of wines from Valpolicella and commands the highest prices.

While you can find inexpensive Appassimento wines (and the one I tried was well under $20), the process simply makes it more expensive.  First, you have to add a large, temperature controlled drying facility. Then, you have the labor involved in laying out all the grapes on the drying racks and stacking them. Finally, when it comes time to make the wine, it takes a lot more dried grapes to make a bottle of Appassimento than to make other wines. So, the cost of a bottle of Amarone Valpolicella can easily be the $50 - $80 price range.

So, keep your eyes out for an Appassimento and give it a try! Cheers!


Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week

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2016 Matsu El Pícaro Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo) $14

From the D.O. Toro in Spain, this 100% Tinta de Toro is grown in 50 to 70 year old vineyards and manually harvested.

It is fermented in concrete with natural yeasts.

Matsu pays homage on their labels to those that have been working the vineyards. And this "El Pícaro" translates as swindler, rascal, or scoundrel.  But, I don't suspect there is any correlation.

This is a delicious medium-bodied Tempranillo with wonderful juicy fruit flavor of sour cherry, some moderate acidity, light herbal notes, a bit of spiciness and an easy finish. The concrete vessels truly do allow the fruit flavors to be the star in this wine without the addition of flavors typically associated with oak.

This is a nice one.  And, as always in the Behind the Cork™ - Wine of the Week feature, it's a great value! Keep your eye out for this scoundrel - El Pícaro. He'll treat you nicely! Cheers!


Disclosure of Wine Sample Submission: I received this wine at no cost for review. The opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

Sample provided by Rebekah Polster 401 West Communications and supplied by Vintae (www.vintae.com) 

Try A Different Wine for a Change

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I just took a week-long trip to the east coast. Not a wine-focused trip. But, nonetheless, I did pick up a couple bottles to enjoy in the evenings. Being a Californian, it's really easy to immediately look on the shelves for a nice California wine.  But, this time I decided to try a different wine for a change.

Being on the east coast, and a bit closer to Europe (well, nearly halfway there!), I decided to pick one bottle of wine from France and one from Italy. While it can seem really tough to pick out French and Italian wines, I came at it from a simple approach. I simply looked for wines any wines that were in my typical price range. 

I started with the French wines.  I spotted several upper-shelf wines that fit the price range. But, then I spotted a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Knowing that great red blends come from this region, I picked up the bottle.

Then, I turned my attention to the Italian wines.  Again, scanning the upper shelves, I spotted several bottles of Chianti.  And, seeing a 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva (and spotting the Black Rooster), I picked it up. (And, yes, the 'Riserva' truly distinguishes it from the more common Chianti.)

In both cases, I was very pleased with each bottle of wine.  The Châteauneuf-du-Pape (a blend of up to 13 varietals) was rich and flavorful while the Chianti had wonderful bright cherry flavor.

I could have gone with a couple of bottles of go-to wine from California, but I'm really glad I tried something a bit different. And, you should too. It's a fun way to get exposed to some different flavors. And, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised with your choices.


A Three-Strikes Evening of Wines Gone Bad

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During a recent special occasion, I decided to pull out some older wines to share. Not really old, but from 2010, 2009 and 2007. All were reds - a couple Barberas (a favorite of mine) and a Zinfandel.

These weren't amazing bottles to begin with or terribly expensive, but they were good enough that I had put them away in my wine refrigerator in a dark spot. So, the storage shouldn't have been an issue.

But, as the title of this blog indicates, it didn't go well.  The corks all extracted well, with no obvious signs of trouble.

The 2010 Barbera's flavor had changed dramatically. What had been a smooth and well-rounded wine had become an off-flavored fruity wine. Again, it was somewhat drinkable, but nothing like when originally purchased. Strike one!

The 2009 Barbera, from a different winery, was heavily oxidized, brownish in color and nutty in flavor. Not drinkable. Strike two!

The 2007 Zinfandel was no longer anything like the Zinfandel it once was. Its flavors were very off and the bottle was quickly put aside.  Strike three!

Fortunately, my wine refrigerator is well stocked and I was able to pull out a great bottle of Cabernet for the occasion.

The moral of the story - don't assume that your wines will hold up with age. If you like the way a wine tastes,  drink it soon. Putting away wines for several years will change them. A few for the better, but often times the change is for the worse.