Amarone: The Great Northern Italian wine

2018/02/09 - Written by Marco Giovanetti
Amarone: The Great Northern Italian wine
Amarone: The Great Northern Italian wine
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Most Italian  wine lovers  who have been exposed to Amarone probably consider it to be one of Italy’s classical  wine styles. It is perhaps the most distinctive and most  flavorful,  one of a kind in a country of strongly idiosyncratic wine  tradition.

This prestigious red wine was born in the hills of Valpolicella  in the Verona area, close to the big picturesque lake of Garda. The region boasts an ancient  wine making tradition dating back to Roman Times. For instance the name "Valpolicella" comes from latin val polis cellar, meaning valley of many cellars .

How would you describe its taste?. An amarone has an irresistible bitterish and raisiny flavor at the same time. This is due to the concentrated sugars the grapes pick up during the drying process. Its flavors are delicious as well reminiscent of  licorice, tobacco, chocolate and fig. That means that Amarone is a wine that goes well with strong flavored food, like game or robust pasta dishes.

My grandfather used to say that you would start a meal with a Barolo and end it with an Amarone. I personally keep it for the cheese course. For a memorable experience, enjoy a glass of young Amarone with a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gorgonzola cheese. For an older Amarone, it shines best alone or with bittersweet dark chocolate.

Le Famiglie Storiche

I recently was invited to a seminar hosted by the Amarone Families and the Magnani Montaruli foundation. The association was founded in 2009 and counts 13 historical producers from the Valpolicella. These are Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Masi, Musella, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Torre D’Orti, Venturini and Zenato. All members are family owned.

The family mission statement is to favor a classical expression of Amarone and to protect one of Italy’s historical wine regions: Valpolicella. The Amarone Families follow a strict set of self-imposed rules regarding the farming of the grapes and the production of the wines, from the position of the vineyards on which the fruit is grown and the techniques with which the vines are farmed, to the way in which the drying of the fruit is undertaken and how the wine itself if crafted. The families emphasize that traditional winemaking techniques are important but also research and innovation.

The seminar was an amazing opportunity to taste some older Amarones going back as far as 1988. Many producers in Valpolicella proudly state that you can forget their Amarones in the cellar. It is true that Amarone is one of the longest ageing wines in the world, but not all the Amarones are the same, and their ageing time can vary greatly.

Generally speaking, after 10 years of cellaring in bottle, an Amarone will change its taste to something satiny and velvety, developing more distinct and complex aromas of dark chocolate, tobacco, coffee and leather. Beyond a decade , Amarone develops a palette of tertiary aromas such as caramel, coffee or autumn leaves. An older Amarone could be difficult to grasp if you are not used to enjoying long aged wines. So, It is important to take into consideration all these factors when deciding how long you want to leave a bottle of Amarone in your cellar.

Top Picks of the Seminar:

Torre d’Orti-Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2010

(Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta)

Impressive nose bringing to mind strawberry coulis, fig jam. cacao and balsamic condiment. On the mouth, it is round, structured with firm tannins. Long and aromatic with flavors bringing to mind porcini mushrooms and black hummus. Aging Potential: 15 years

Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2005

(80% Corvina Veronese, 15 % Rondinella, 5% Oseleta)

Musk scented red fruit with particular nuance of Montreal steak spice. Dry red fruits. Montreal steak spice. On the mouth, it  is rich and velvety with bright fruit aromas and cashmere tannins. Very elegant with a long aftertaste. Aging Potential: Enjoyable now but could improve for another decade

Musella Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Riserva 2006

(Corvina and Corvinone 70%, Rondinella 20%, Oseleta 10%)

Very noble nose typical of an aged Amarone.  Inviting nuances of dry prunes and cedar complemented by spices such as cinnamon, cacao and clou de girofle. On the mouth sweet tasting and creamy bringing to mind flavors of cherry and raspberry jam. Fine and elegant with an aftertaste that brings to mind coffee, paprika and wet autumn leaves.  Aging Potential: Enjoyable now but will continue its development for another two decades.

Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2001

(Corvina 30%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 30%, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella, Croatina, Forselina 10%)

A monumental Amarone.  Glorious nose bringing to mind Jamaican blue mountain coffee, Chinese five spice and rhubarb infused with licorice. On the mouth, structured and very long with firm almost meaty tannins. Incense and mineral scented with a balsamic condiment aftertaste. Aging Potential: Easily will last another three decades.

Speri Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano 1988

(Corvina Veronese, Corvinone 70%, Rondinella 25%, Molinara 5%)

The oldest wine of the tasting made me feel like I am in Amarone heaven. A fine bouquet bringing to mind leather, macerated brandy black fruit and Turkish coffee. Very complex animal nuances as well. On the mouth, this Amarone displays the perfect elegance. An harmonious balance between richness and acidity. Complex flavors bring to mind toasted bread and sandalwood. Very long. Perfect tannins expression with a spicy and smoky aftertaste. Aging Potential: Enjoy now but will continue its evolution for another decade or so

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