Notes & queries

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

Smoked foods; ap­pas­si­mento vs ri­passo; brett

Each month our ex­perts an­swer read­ers’ wine queries and share their knowl­edge Email: edi­tor@de­canter.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

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