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Articles are property of Brenda Francis and are not to be reproduced in any way without written consent from Brenda Francis. Dried grapes revive an old friend If you've been drinking wine since the seventies or eighties, you'll remember the wildly popular days of Soave and Valpolicella. Both wines are produced in the Italian province of Veneto. During this era, Veneto's production grew to meet the demand from the thirsty American market. While Valpolicella and Soave were very popular, the growth resulted in ordinary wines lacking depth or character. Millions of bottles of simple wines are now destined for our shores every year from Veneto. While Veneto is a bulk wine superpower, there are a few producers making very respectable wines. Amarone (ah-mah-ROH-neh), the flagship of Veneto, is made by drying the finest grapes in a cool, ventilated room for several months. The grapes develop extremely concentrated flavors, tannins, and acidity. The first pressing is called Amarone when it is fermented completely dry, but if there is residual sugar after fermentation then it is called recioto. Amarone has a lofty price and comes with yet a hidden cost--it needs time in a wine cellar to mellow out its tannins. Those that have the means enjoy it at its very best. The use of the name Amarone is restricted to the first pressing, but resourceful winemakers found a way to enhance their table wines with Amarone style. Fermented Amarone grape solids, called pumice, are added to fermenting Valpolicella. This process is called ripasso. Ripasso is Valpolicella in a ruby silk gown. Ripassos are explosive with fruit flavors. Reminiscent of a dried summer garden, they are rich with wild cherries, plums, raisins, licorice, tobacco, and spice. Ripassos have an approachable balance which encourages drinking them young. They are nicknamed 'baby Amarone.' Ripassos are worth seeking out, but don't dismiss the other quality wines from Veneto. The Classico and Classico Superior regions of Valpolicella, Soave, and Bardolino, as well as Lugana produce exceptional wines. Chiaretto, a refreshing rosť and Prosecco, a delightful, inexpensive sparkling wine, both come from Veneto as well. A wine may be a ripasso, but not be labeled as such, which makes small production Valpolicella a promising purchase. Soave from the Classico region can be a wonderful expression of the garganega grape. Lugana is another area that produces refreshing whites from the grape trebbiano di Soave, a better quality version of trebbiano di Toscana. Veneto produces the most bottles of wine in all of Italy, which is not a tribute to its talent or resources. However, within the millions of cookie-cutter wines there are some great expressions of climate, soil, grape, and winemaking. Ripassos are an incredible find, especially for those that like full bodied, muscular reds. Allegrini La Grola $18 Remo Farino Ripasso $14 Cesari Mara Ripasso $11 Zenato Ripassa $20 Acinatico Ripasso $22 Gini Soave $14 Pieropan Soave $16 Anselmi San Vincenzo $13 Zenato Lugana $12 Mazzi Valpolicella $20 Cesari Il Bosco Amarone $55