Le Ragose (Negrar di Valpolicella)

Le Ragose has been on our radar for many years. We have enjoyed their Valpolicella Superiore and Amarone many times at Enoteca della Valpolicella in Fumane. It was time to visit. Little did we know that they were at the top of a hill with clutch-melting gradients and narrow lanes. How did they get all their tanks and botti up there? That’s a lot of clutches to replace. Meanwhile, the wines are delicious. Thanks for the warm welcome to Marta Galli and her father Paolo.
In 1969 Marta’s grandparents, Arnaldo and Marta, bought 30 hectares of land, at the highest point in the appellation (DOCG), running from 250 to 400m above sea level. In 1969 there were 18 growers in the area, today there are 400!
The history of Amarone is much shorter than Recioto, its associated dessert wine. The first bottle of Amarone was made in 1938 but it wasn’t until 1953 that it became a recognised style. Recioto, on the other hand, can trace its history back to the 2nd century BC, when it was first mentioned as Retica, a full-flavoured red wine from the hills north of Verona. The rumoured invention of Amarone may have been a forgotten barrel of sweet Recioto which continued to ferment until dry.
Amarone uses the Appassimento method. At Le Ragose this involves harvesting ripe grapes in September and laying the bunches directly in crates. The crates are then kept in a well-ventilated drying room called fruttaio for around 120 days, in which time they lose up to 50% of their volume, concentrating the sugars, which explains the high alcohol levels of the finished wines. In January the grapes are pressed and fermented with wild yeasts for 20-30 days. The wine is then aged in traditional big Slavonian oak botti (casks) for 7-8 years. the results are impressive: beautiful nose, balanced, rich, deep. Prototypical Amarone.
At the other end, the Valpolicella Classico is bright and breezy, fragrant and light. The Ripasso is the result of classic Ripasso technique: the Valpolicella harvested in September/October is refermented in January on the lees of the Amarone. It absorbs 10-20% of the Amarone and produces a wine with some of the components of Amarone but with a lighter, fresher mouthfeel. Delicious.
The Valpolicella Classico Superiore Le Sassine also benefits from Amarone but in a different way. Le Sassine grapes have a partial Appassimento (the drying of the grapes) of 2-3 weeks. Fabulous wine.