Pasta, pizza, seafood. Italy is famous for a lot of gustatory delights – and of course, a few wines to go with them. Prosecco needs no introduction, and whilst Barolo might, you’ll never forget it after trying a glass. Whether you agree with his tastes otherwise, Hannibal was a fan of a good Chianti, and Amarone wines are known the world over for their intense colours and complex flavours. Whilst you’d be hard-pressed (pun intended?) to find an Amarone for under £15, a quick trip to Morrisons will find you something of a similar vine (another pun, ho hum) for less than £10 – in the form of a Valpolicella Ripasso. Vegetarian and vegan-friendly, it’s part of the supermarket’s “The Best’ range, no less.
As Italian reds go, I found this to be truly superb. Like a shining beacon for plant-based wine enthusiasts, the bottle label is a giant ‘V’, and with a more than reasonable £9 price tag, there’s very little reason not to take a bottle home. Where wine is concerned, supermarkets actually do a very good job sometimes, and most are offering clearly-marked vegan wines alongside tasting notes and food pairings. It goes to show that you don’t have to be an expert in the field, or exclusively shop at a merchant’s to find good wine – many supermarkets have some truly stellar options, and whilst nothing beats the friendly atmosphere and overflowing knowledge available in a little wine shop, the convenience is certainly welcome on busy days. What it won’t help you with, however, is deciphering the tricky labels.
On the shelves, you’ll find Valpolicella Ripasso next to Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Recioto, and Amarone del Valpolicella – all have something in common, but are decidedly different wines, with unique characteristics. They all come from Valpolicella, a designated region in Veneto, Italy, which many will know as home to the cities of Verona and Venice. All wines from Valpolicella DOC must contain 45-95% Corvina grape, which produces light to medium-boded red wines with low tannins, high acidity, and a beautifully bright crimson colour. Ripasso means “repassed”; ideal, because Ripasso wines are fermented with grapes that have been used to make Amarone and Recioto wines. For these two styles, grapes are allowed to raisin before pressing, lending them deep , rich flavours with a bitter edge, hence the sour cherry and cacao flavours many drinkers pick up on. This is softer in a Valpolicella Ripasso, which will display sweet cherry, spice, and chocolate. The perfect mid-meal accompaniment, or friendly companion to sink into the armchair with, listening to the crackle of the fire and enjoying a good book.
Although it carries the black labels and neat calligraphy of the supermarket’s ‘The Best’ range, all of Morrisons’ wines come from somewhere. Whether obvious or not, you’ll find Cantina di Soave wines in 50 countries worldwide; the winery (well, collection of wineries) itself was awarded “Best Italian Producer of the Year 2018” in the International Wine & Spirits Competition. They’re actually celebrating their 120th Anniversary this year – go figure! – and are a fine expression of Veneto wines; including those from the Soave commune, the Valpolicella DOC region, and Durello, which is a local grape and a great alternative to Prosecco.
Morrisons also stock several others by the same producer, . For those wanting to play with the big kids, there’s a vegan Amarone on offer for a little jump in price; £15, but you categorically won’t find a cheaper Amarone- and if you do, you’d be wise to avoid it, since this is a wine that takes real time and skill. Those more interested in finding vegan white wines from Italy might want to try the Soave Classico, at just £6.25 a bottle, or even Morrisons own labelled Soave, at £4.35. Trying these two side by side would be a very interesting experiment into what a £2 increase can do for a bottle of wine made by the same producer, with the same grapes.
No-Meat Food Pairings for Valpolicella Ripasso
The Valpolicella Ripasso can be found here on the Morrisons website. Whilst the tasting notes herald burgers, steak, and meatball pasta (of course), this would match well with something with the same flavoursome, but elegant, flavour profile. The suggestion elicits a raised eyebrow, anyway. Surely wines (which are often a reflection, an ode even, to the area and the culture in which they are made) should be first tasted alongside a dish that is equally iconic of the country? A slow-cooked North Italian stew with beans, or a hearty minestrone, perhaps? There are suggestions abound online for pizza and tomato-based pasta, but…c’mon guys. Italy has more to offer than that. Especially as Italy used to be a peasant country, and enjoys many dishes without meat at all.
The sour cherry sweetness, balanced with the herbaceous pine, would work with fragrant savoury herbs, such as rosemary and sage. Especially when given extra depth with the dark richness of soy sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, or cacao powder. You can replicate sausage or steak flavours with herbs, and the texture and umami meatiness with mushrooms. Tofu or Tempeh could work too, as would chargrilled aubergine. Grilling or barbecuing would give them enough oompf to stand up to this big but elegant red- especially when balanced with soft, delicious pasta. Finding egg-free fresh pasta is a bit of a challenge- but, as it turns out, making your own vegan pasta is actually not that difficult, not to mention fun, and incredibly delicious.
And what about dessert? Turns out this silky Italian red wine is a perfect for melt-in-the-mouth vegan truffles!
Other Vegan Wines From Morrisons
Obviously, this list will change over time but currently, Morrisons have several vegan vinos on offer in their ‘The Best’ range; even the sparkling carry very reasonable prices. Watch this space for reviews!
Have you tried any vegan-friendly wines from Morrisons?