Ripasso di… Niagara?

Well, it certainly isn’t the rolling hills, the gondolas in historic canals or the Renaissance castles, but it seems there is something in common between the Veneto region of northern Italy and the Niagara region of southern Ontario. That something is a process called appasimento, dating all the way back to Roman times. Used to create amarone and ripasso della Valpolicella, among other wines, it consists in drying grapes to concentrate sugars and flavors, and thus, to produce more potent wines.

An article in the March/April 2008 issue of Vines Magazine, a somewhat uneven but very interesting Canadian publication, reveals that two wineries from the Niagara region are experimenting with appasimento to add richer components to various cuvées or to produce amarone-style wines that can stand on their own. Angelo Pavan, at Cave Spring Cellars, apparently has a dozen barrels of 2007 cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon made from the partially-dried grapes that may well become a bottling on its own. Len Crispino, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and owner of a 40-acre vineyard in Vineland, has also been “raisining” grapes, in collaboration with winemaker Andre Lipinski and with the Vineland Research and Innovation Center, a research he started because of his fascination with the wines of Giuseppe Quintarelli.

It’s a very interesting direction, especially when I read that Crispino and Lipinski are looking for ways to make the wines more concentrated and flavorful, but to avoid an overly sweet style. If the approach was used strictly to make the wines more… oh, I don’t know… Californian, I’m not sure I’d be as enthusiastic. I’m also wondering how that approach would work with hybrid varietals like seyval: for a cold-climate winemaking region like Quebec, that could be something fascinating to look at.

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