Friday, November 20, 2009

Dancing the Passo Doble

Back from vacation and settling into every day life again, I thought a little exotica from the wine world might help keep that vacation spirit alive.

233. 2006 Masi Topungato Passo Doble (Argentina)

I've mentioned previously that I'm particularly intrigued by ripasso wines (partially because they're like a little brother wine of Amarone and I can't afford to drink Amarone except on a once in a blue moon basis). This Passo Doble is a most interesting take on ripasso wines - and I love the play in the name, like a second pass.

Masi is the well known producer of Amarone and Valpolicella wines in the Veneto region of North-East Italy. In the 1960's, Masi created created the ripasso technique, which they refer to as a double fermentation. It was a means of creating a fuller Valpolicella styled wine without going the whole route of drying grapes as with Amarone wines. Originally Masi would ferment young wines on the drained but unpressed skins and lees of grapes used in making their Amarone.

They've altered the method somewhat nowadays and this version of a ripasso wine sees the original wine fermented for an abbreviated time and then semi-dried grapes are added, together with additional yeasts, to start a second fermentation. The result is concentrated flavours and sugars which lead to a fuller and richer wine with higher alcohol levels.

This wine is a result of Masi's move into Argentina in the 1990's when they acquired an estate in the Topungato Valley in Mendoza. They use Argentina's best known grape, Malbec, but they blend it with juice from the Corvina grape (which forms about a third of the wine) and a bit of Merlot. Neither Malbec, nor Merlot, could be used in Masi's Venetian wines, but Corvina is one of the three primary varietals used for Valpolicella and Amarone.

It is the Corvina grape that sees the appassimento technique of partial drying, such that about a third of the water in the fruit has evaporated when the grapes are added whole to the young, fermented wine.

Sandro Boscaini, from Masi, has been quoted as saying that Passo Doble is a "wine with an Argentinean soul and Venetian style."

In some ways, the romance of this bottle makes me want to just love it - particularly when watching Dancing With The Stars - but it doesn't quite live up to my desires. It's a very full sip, with lots of fruit and tannin; yet, I can't say I needed to open another bottle immediately. I will buy it down the road to try it again, but that time might be a little ways away.

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