The story goes that the famous Amarone producer Quintarelli was asked a few years ago who was the next big thing in Valpolicella and he replied "Tomasso Bussola". Bussola's wines are rightly famous in Italy and are superb examples of the best you can get from Valpolicella and Amarone. the Gambero Rosso also described him as "the greatest Recioto producer of them all". Recioto della Valpolicella, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this little-known joy, is a sweet version of Amarone. A glass of Recioto with some dark chocolate and you are on a fast-track to heaven!
We now have 5 Amarones in the shop, which is probably about 3 more than we actually need, but they are all good in their own way. Bussola Amarone BG made number 5 this week, after a prolonged absence. Amarone is a very sexy style of wine, but I don't think it goes well with food - I agree with the Italians that it is a "vino de meditazione" to be drunk after dinner, preferably with a hunk of cheese (parmesan goes well).
If you like Amarone, but find it too strong and heavy with dinner, what do you drink? Ripasso, of course. This is a style of wine, halfway between Valpolicella and Amarone, which has many of the characteristics of Amarone, but isn't as heavy or as alcoholic (Bussola's 2004 Amarone is 16.5%). Ripasso is made by adding Valpolicella to the Amarone barrels after the Amarone has been racked off; the wine undergoes a second fermentation in barrel, adding a degree or so of alcohol, more body, more fruit, more everything, basically. The result is a supercharged Valpolicella or a lighter Amarone, depending on how you look at it. However you look at it, the results can be very attractive. The best version, in my humble opinion, is Bussola Valpolicella Superiore TB. We had it in Hartley's last night and it was stonking - rich, full-bodied velvetty texture and loads of dark cherry fruit and chocolate and all sorts going on.....it's expensive of course, but you're worth it!