Italian Wine ABC: A is for Amarone
Continuing along our journey through the magic and mystery that is Italian wine (a country with around 2,000 native grape varietals is certainly a Sherlock Holmes-style maze!), we now take you to the heavyweight from Verona, the one and only Amarone. This wine is made from three grapes native to the region, namely Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The majority grape is Corvina, and it usually contains between 50%-70%, with a minimum of 40% by law. Amarone was assigned DOC status in December 1990. On 4 December 2009, Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella were promoted to the status of DOCG. Total production for sale (including Recioto) in 2008 was 8.57 million bottles. The name Amarone, in Italian, literally means “the Great Bitter”; this was originally to distinguish it from the Recioto produced in the same region, which is sweeter in taste.
Grapes are harvestred ripe in the first two weeks of October, by carefully choosing bunches having fruits not too close to each other, to let the air flow. Grapes are allowed to dry, traditionally on straw mats. This process is called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian. This concentrates the remaining sugars and flavours and is similar to the production of French Vin de Paille. The pomace left over from pressing off the Amarone is used in the production of Ripasso Valpolicellas.
Modern Amarone is now produced in special drying chambers under controlled conditions. This approach minimizes the amount of handling of the grapes and helps prevent the onset of Botrytis. In Amarone, the quality of the grape skin is a primary concern as that component brings the tannins, color and intensity of flavor to the wine. The process of dessication not only concentrates the juices within the grape but also increases the skin contact of the grapes.
The final result is a very ripe, raisiny, full-bodied wine with very little acid. Alcohol content easily surpasses 15% (the legal minimum is 14%) and the resulting wine is rarely released until five years after the vintage, even though this is not a legal requirement. bunches, which can cause moldy flavors in the wine. Vini Italiani stocks various Amarone wines, from the entry-level, approachable Amarone Classico 2007 from Le Salette to the mid-range Amarone della Valpolicella Classica 2003 from Bertani, and up to powerhouse from Giuseppe Quintarelli, a 1990 Amarone that is to die for. it is the perfect wine to celebrate a very special occasion, be it an engagement, anniversary, birthday or even a promotion.
The Amarone Classico 2007 from Le Salette has typical aromas of dark cherries, raisins, spice with hints of chocolate. The palate shows freshness, powerful fruit and sweetness with the classic notes of bitterness. It has a firm structure with long length, and can be paired with many meaty dishes. We would suggest beef, game and stews such as steak, lamb, veal, rabbit, wild boar and deer. It also marries well with wild poultry, pheasant but also duck breast and fois gras. Lest we forget pasta with truffle sauce, aged cheeses – this wine is a hard worker, and keeps up with many heavy, heavenly dishes on the table!