#newwinethisweek – “A” is for Amarone
What a blockbuster start to the year… if you’re having a wine-free January, or even trying to stick to lower alcohol wines, then unlucky because you have chosen Amarone to kick off #newwinethisweek!
Amarone is one of Italy’s truly iconic wines. From the Veneto region in Northeast Italy, Amarone is a rich, full-bodied, high- alcohol red wine that is made in a very special way. The full name for the wine is Amarone della Valpolicella, which roughly translates as “the bitter one from Valpolicella).
The grapes used to make this bombastic wine are Corvina (anywhere between 45% and 90%) and Rondinella (5% to 30%) and you will be hard pressed to find them growing anywhere else outside Veneto. The same grapes are used to make the fruit-forward, easy drinking wines of Valpolicella and Bardolino, but making Amarone is a pain-staking and lengthy process that produces intensely rich wines, the best of which compete with the finest wines of Barolo and Brunello as the greatest wines of Italy.
Most of the richest red wines come from hot climates; Valpolicella is a cool climate region, usually producing red wines with good levels of acid. The grapes for Amarone are left on the vine until mid-October to allow the grapes to fully ripen and concentrate the sugars. But that is still not enough; the grapes are then allowed to dry on straw mats to dry and shrivel, a process the Italians call appassimento. A well as concentrating the juices in the grapes, the process also increases the skin contact of the grapes, increasing the colour and tannin in the finished wine.
The length appassimento is usually around 120 days, during which time the grapes will lose up to 40% of their weight. The grapes are then crushed and go through a low temperature fermentation process, which can last up to 50 days, the finished wines are then put into barrels and aged. Most of the wines are not released until at least 5 years after the vintage, making Amarone a very costly wine to produce and usually a very expensive wine to buy.
My advice for this selection is don’t skimp on price. If you pay less that £10 you are not going to get a great wine; just remember the process this juice has gone through. I once had the opportunity to try a 1998 Quintarelli Amaraone and it was one of the 10 best wines I have ever tasted; it came with a price tag close to £400 (don’t worry Mum, it wasn’t me paying!) but also delivered aromas and flavours of cherry, fig, tar, chocolate, truffle, tar and flowers and hid it’s behemoth 16.5% very well indeed! Some names to look out for who produce Amarone at different price levels are Zenato, Tommassi, Tedeschi, Masi and Allegrini.
I’ve included a few readily available bottles below, but hand up, I haven’t tried any of them… yet! So give Amarone a go, even if it means giving up your January good intentions!
If you want a say in what “B” will bring then have your say at: