Weekend Wine: Tenuta Sant’Antonio’s Monti Garbi Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore

Tastes much more expensive than its $23 price

Recently, a reader asked me if there were any wines I always count on as a restaurant choice. My wife and I love a great Italian restaurant, so we need to have an idea of a few Italian wines we can always order with confidence.

One of my favorite Italian wines is Amarone, which comes from close to Venice. It is very expensive because the production techniques include spending months on a rack in a ventilated attic so that much of the grapes’ moisture evaporates. When they crush the grapes, they use the skins to impart even more flavor. The wine is not just expensive, but it is so powerful that folks who are new to it might find it a bit of a whopper. The good news for the Amarone winemakers is that the people who develop a love affair with their wine have sufficiently deep pockets that they can afford the daunting entry price.

Armando, Tiziano, Paolo, and Massimo are the four Castagnedi brothers who own Tenuta Sant’Antonio, and they make a sublime Amarone. But because it is expensive (north of $100 in restaurants, though you can find it in stores for half that) and full of overwhelming flavors, it can be hard to pick a dish to match. Luckily, Tenuta Sant’Antonio decided to use younger and less exalted grape juice from their Monti Garbi vineyards as the basis of their Ripasso. This juice doesn’t quite live up to the exalted demands of Amarone, but it is an ideal cornerstone for a Ripasso.

The next step is to let the Monti Garbi juice sit on the used skins from their Amarone. Those skins give the Ripasso a remarkable richness, one that completely belies its modest price. A nice side benefit is that most customers don’t know about Ripasso, so if you order it, the wine person at the restaurant will know that you are serious about your wine, and that can lead to other brilliant discoveries.

Many Italian winemakers are now making their own Ripasso. There are a couple of reasons I always look for Tenuta Sant’Antonio’s version. First, its retail price, which is very fair at $23. Second, it is an elegant and supremely well balanced wine that is versatile and works with a wide variety of roasts or a meaty sauced pasta. It even matches nicely with Texas barbecue or Tex-Mex. Another nice side benefit? The wine is widely available.

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Ripasso, Amarone, Castagnedi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Monti Garbi, Valpolicella


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