Despite being grown in a cool climate region, which are associated with lighter bodied wines, this full-bodied example is exceptional. I first tasted Amarone in a classroom setting, and will never forget it. That boldness and depth of flavour was something that was so different to all the other wines I had tried in the past.
- Clarity: Clear
- Intensity: Deep
- Colour: Ruby
- Condition: Clean
- Intensity: Medium
- Development: Youthful
- Sweetness: Off-dry
- Acidity: High
- Tannin: Medium-
- Alcohol: High
- Body: Medium+
- Flavor Intensity: Pronounced
- Finish: Medium+
- Quality: Very Good
- Readiness/Cellaring: Can drink now, potential to cellar
- Identity: Italy / Valpolicella / Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara
- Price: Premium ($53~)
- Long, thick tears
- Aromas of blackcurrants, blackberries, dark cherries, cinnamon
- Flavours of molasses, dark chocolate, cola, prunes, dark honey
- Just a touch of sweetness, not cloying
- Smooth, fine-grained tannin
- Food match with cured meats, spicy sausage, cheeses
Amarone is typically a blend of the varietals Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. In this case, however, the varietals matter less than the techniques involved in crafting the wine. When ripe, the grapes are harvested and a portion of these are set aside and allowed to dry over a period of months. Similar to Botrytis-affected grapes, this has the effect of concentrating the acids and sugars within the berries, and in this case the tannin component will play a larger role as well.
This drying process (variously called passito, appassimento or rasinate [roughly, to dry and shrivel]) can cause the weight of the grapes to be reduced by as much as 40%, which represents a huge reduction in the final volume of wine produced. Therefore, Amarone is a style of wine that serves as a reminder that quantity isn’t everything – when you put in the effort and take great pains to reach a certain goal, sometimes the result is amazing.
There are two other styles of wine that are related to Amarone:
Recioto – Made in the same way as Amarone, except fermentation is stopped to retain some sugar, producing a markedly sweeter wine. In fact, Amarone was originally wine meant to become Recioto that had been left to ferment for too long.
Ripasso – After the production of Amarone and Recioto wine there will be leftover grape skins and residue, called pomace. Basic Valpolicella wine is added, to “re-pass” over the skins, and this extracts colour and flavour from the pomace. Ripasso is sometimes referred to as the “poor man’s Amarone”.
Amarone wines have very good potential for cellaring, so I felt a little regretful for drinking this one when still young, although the youthful character was pleasing.
This wine does go over into the Premium-priced category, but in a world where much emphasis is placed on high volumes of production, Amarone is a bold reminder of quality over quantity. Some would consider this well worth the price.
Read more: Essential #4 – The Wine Glasses