Notes & queries
Smoked foods; appassimento vs ripasso; brett
Each month our experts answer readers’ wine queries and share their knowledge Email: email@example.com. Post: The Editor, Decanter, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU, UK
Where there’s smoke…
What wines would you serve with smoked food – like kedgeree or smoked meats? Judy H, Sheffield Fiona Beckett replies: Unfortunately there’s no one size fits all answer to this. It depends on the degree of smoke and the temperature of the finished dish. There’s a world of difference between a cold slice of delicately smoked salmon and a robustly barbecued piece of brisket. In general I’d go for a white wine with a whisper of sweetness, or a fruity red – Gamay or Pinot Noir work well with smoked duck and chicken for instance.
With kedgeree it’s more about the rice and perhaps the time of day. A dry sparkling wine such as Cava is a good option if you’re serving it for brunch. For more suggestions, visit my website www.matchingfoodandwine.com
Vexed in Veneto
What is the difference between ripasso and appassimento? Olivia Bolton, Newcastle Michael Garner replies: Both terms are common in the hills of Valpolicella north of Verona, though ripasso has much the more specific meaning. The word refers to the winemaking technique whereby a young Valpolicella is refermented on the lees of either Recioto or Amarone following their first racking.
The technique has its roots in the feudal, mezzadria system (sharecropping or métayage), when nothing of any value was ever discarded. So the young Valpolicella would be given a boost by reworking those sugar-rich lees.
Ripasso is now used to identify a category of wine made in this way and has its own official denomination. Appassimento refers to the process of drying grapes to make wine – it’s carried out in Valpolicella on a much wider scale than anywhere else. Grapes are dried for a period of at least a couple of months and often as many as six, before being pressed and made into either Amarone or the region’s original sweet wine Recioto della Valpolicella.
These two wines therefore depend on the appassimento process for their singular style. In brief, ripasso is refermented on the lees of a wine made via the appassimento process.
Benefits of brett?
Could you please explain when brett is a good thing in a wine and also when it is a bad thing? Jim Stokes, New Zealand Justin Howard-Sneyd MW replies: Brett is the abbreviation of a spoilage yeast family called brettanomyces, of which there are at least four strains ( B. lambicus being important in making lambic beers). As the yeast metabolises sugars left in the wine, or on the barrel, it produces aromas such as 4-ethylphenol (which smells of bandaids/plasters), 4-ethylguaiacol (cloves and smoked bacon) and isovaleric acid (leather and cheese).
The extent to which having notes of brett
in wine is desirable is a matter of personal opinion, rather than a fact. While many (often New World) winemakers view any hint of brett characteristics as evidence of spoilage, others with a more traditional heritage accept – and appreciate – low levels as adding complexity and personality in the wine.
If the wine is filtered so as to remove the brett yeast completely, then no further aromas will develop, and the wine can be stable; however, unfiltered wines with brett can rapidly evolve and lose their fruit.
Above: if you’re serving kedgeree for brunch, Cava is one option that will pair with the smoked fish