Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva Vertical Wine Tasting

There is a wine shop and tasting room I visit with my wife quite frequently in Atwater Village, CA called 55° Wine. They specialize in mainly Italian, Spanish and Portuguese wines but occasionally throw out some fascinating French and American wines as well. Their store is something beautiful to behold for a die-hard Italian wine lover, and their weekly flights are nothing short of eye-opening. I’ve discovered and learned so much about wines from the boot there that I am honestly shocked I haven’t written about them sooner.

Oh wait, now I remember why: Really awesome Italian wines tend to cost a tad more than US $20. Ah, the plight of the poor wino.

Anyhoo, each week they have four separate wine flights for tasting. They usually break down as follows: One all-white flight, one all red flight, one bubbly flight (or something else off the beaten path like rose, etc.), and one that I like to call the FASCINATING flight. Obviously the Fascinating Flight tends to be the most pricey, but on a weeknight back in early August I decided to splurge (my wife would usually get the white), and boy did I choose the right week to splurge.

The flight I had was called “Gaglioppo Through the Years,” and it was a vertical tasting of Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva vintages 1996, 1995 and 1993. Now, for someone as “into” wine as myself, I would prefer to say that this was not the oldest wine I’ve had in my six years of interest.

But it was. And it was awesome.

Now, I know this is a site for under-$20 wines, but we have occasionally (ok, once) written about wines that did not meet our price threshold simply because they were worth sharing with our readers. I’m not expecting everyone to run out and spend over $50 on a bottle of Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” (which is around what these three cost), but at least you will know about what is out there and some might learn about a grape and a wine they have never heard of before. It’s something new. So let’s share that.

First, a little history on the wine itself:

The Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” is made from the Gaglioppo grape in Calabria, Italy. That’s the toe of the boot. Gaglioppo is one of the oldest grapes on the planet and was previously thought to be of Greek origin, but it was later discovered to be a native Italian varietal. A 2008 study showed that Gaglioppo DNA was closely related to Sangiovese, a grape I’m sure most of you have heard of since it is used to make Chianti as well as around ten other wines. The study concluded that Gaglioppo is a hybrid between Sangiovese and an as-yet-unidentified varietal. Gaglioppo is used to make 90% of the wine that comes from Calabria. Most Calabrian wines are made and then sent off to Northern Italy to be used in blending. The wine they keep tends to be of high alcohol content.

The Ippolito winery is actually the oldest cantina in the Zona Calabria. It was begun in 1845 and still makes the exact same kinds of wines as it did over 100 years ago. Some vintages soar, while others simply maintain. The one constant is the care and quality put into the wines, not to mention the superior cellaring strength (that means they age very well and for a very long time).

Now, onto the wines:

Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva 1996

The potency of this vintage hits you right off. Since I had no other vintage to compare it to, at the time I felt it was by far the strongest in terms of nose and alcohol. In hindsight however, it just tasted younger than the others. A blast of oily cherry hits you right off, followed by a musty metallic note. The color of the wine is still solid, but closer to the edge you can see that it thins out slightly. Younger wines tend to have a rim of water when you tilt them in the light, but my experience with young means 5-6 years. Nothing like this. The wine was structured oddly, with different flavors of leathery fruit bouncing back and forth. Leathery cherry, dates and caramel. The alcohol provides the final kick to the face. This was not what you would call a “bright” wine, but rather studied, serious and very very terse.

$37.99 at LinerandElsen.com, though you have to order by phone.

Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva 1995

While similar to the 06 vintage, this one did not have the attack of the first. The nose was much more subdued, with fruit taking a backseat and giving way to the less edible qualities on the nose. Leather, ash and a bit of resin. The flavor profile on this is as solid as a rock. No dancing around here. Prunes, rich black cherry and the full mouth feel of a fruit bomb Syrah, but with less juiciness. The style of the Gaglioppo is here with a vengeance as the tannins kick in to batter your tongue before letting the velvet softness of the fruit play on. Delicious soil flavors come along with a finish that can only be described as “mushroomy”.

$33.00 at Vinopolis Wine Shop.

Ippolito “Ripe del Falco” Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore Riserva 1993

This was the most unbelievable of the bunch. The discrepancy between this vintage and one from just two years later is remarkable. The color is rust with flecks of black, like a pan sauce after broiling a steak. Copper pennies and motor oil hit your nose, followed by old leather. Not the supple, cared for, oily kind. I’m talking left-out-in-the-desert-heat-to-blister-and-flake leather flavors. With good reason, too as Calabria is one of the hottest areas of Italy. When it comes to the fruit of the 93, think dried. Plums, prunes, dates, apricots (yes), cherries, and black olives. You know those super-cured black olives you can buy in bulk in some stores? The kind that are so wrinkled and concentrated that they look dreadful, but whose flavor you can never get out of your mind? That’s this wine. This thing even tastes wrinkled. The alcohol has aged off somewhat, making you able to taste a spectacular finish that leaves your tannic-dry tongue smacking for more. Too bad it’s like $50 a bottle.

Haven’t been able to find this one online.

Obviously you could enjoy any of these with food, except perhaps the 93, but I’m not going to presume to know what specific dishes might be best. I’ll just say rich red meats with sauces. If you decide to pick up any of these, save them for a special occasion, and make sure you drink them with something you cooked yourself for someone special. Don’t take them to a restaurant.

All of these wines are available (unless they’ve run out) at 55° Wine:

3111 Glendale Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90039

(323) 662-5556

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