Appellations The WineKnitter This Month Vol. 26 No. 08 Wine

Amarone, A Notable Wine!

An intensely flavored wine, worthy of attention.

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We have officially arrived at the “dog days of summer.” What does that mean? The origin of this phrase is related to the stars, not dogs wilting in the summer heat! Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. The ancient Romans and Greeks believed that when the Dog Star, Sirius, appeared in the sky and occupied the same region as the sun, it created the hottest days of the year. The Romans called it “dies caniculares” or “days of the dog star.” 

In the hope of conjuring up a crisp fall day during the unbearable heat of these “dog days,” I’ve decided to look ahead to autumn and suggest a red wine worthy of attention, Amarone, an intensely flavored wine.

The territories surrounding Verona, located in the Veneto region of Italy, are famous for producing wines such as Amarone, Bardolino, and Soave. 

This area boasts five DOCG designations that include Amarone della Valpolicella, Bardolino Superiore, Recioto della Valpolicella, Recioto di Soave, and Soave Superiore.  Amarone is made from the Valpolicella wine divided into three sub-zones; Classico, Valpantena, and Est, which is an extended zone bordering  Soave. 

Amarone is defined by its winemaking technique called appassimento – a   drying of the grapes to concentrate the sugars and flavors.   After the grapes are handpicked, special drying rooms are used where the grapes are dried long and slowly on bamboo racks or straw mats for about three months. The grapes lose approximately 30% to 40% of their weight resulting in the need to use more grapes per bottle. Amarone winemaking is labor-intensive and costly, thus demanding a high price on the market.

The following grapes are permitted, as per DOCG Amarone Production Rules:

Corvina
Between 45% to 95% 

Rondinella
Between 5% to 30% 

Molinara
It was compulsory to use this grape until modifications to the rules were adopted in 2003. Now it’s an optional grape.

In the last 20 years, winegrowers introduced these grapes:

Corvinone
This grape can substitute Corvina up to the amount of 50%.

Rules of Valpolicella permit the use of other grapes up to a contribution of 25% split in the following way:

Red (but not aromatic) grapes, to a maximum of 15% (max. 10% for each variety)

Other Italian indigenous grapes, to a maximum of 10%

Aging must be a minimum of two years in wood.

The 2015 growing season was a stellar year for Amarone producers. It was a long, warm season with tiny amounts of regular rainfall that resulted in healthy and concentrated bunches of grapes on the vine. Due to these ideal climate conditions, 2015 presented as one of the finest vintages for Amarone in 30 years. And according to Olga Bussinello, director of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Valpolicella, “with the 2015 vintage, Amarone has reached its full elegance and maturity of aromatic style and taste.”   

Here is a beautiful example of a 2015 Amarone from Pasqua Vigneti é Cantine, a family-run business in Verona.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2015 

This wine is a blend of 65% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone, and 5% Negrara handpicked from several different vineyards in the Valpantena viticultural zone. After drying, the grapes are pressed and fermented in steel tanks for 25-30 days. The wine is then aged in French oak barrels for 18-22 months, with an additional four months in the bottle.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Nose: An enticing bouquet of dark berries, cherry, baking spice, and pepper emanate from this dark red wine. 
Palate: The palate offers sumptuous flavors of plum, blackberry, dark cherry, espresso, dark chocolate, and silky tannins. Cherry, vanilla, and pepper linger on a long and satisfying finish. This is an elegant and expressive wine that is nicely balanced between alcohol and acidity. 
Alcohol: 15%
SRP:  $50

Food pairings: This wine will pair well with many types of cuisine such as meat, duck, lamb, hearty stews, seared tuna, and pasta. 

It is worth buying if you can find a 2015 or 2016 Amarone. If not available, explore other vintages of Amarone. As a rule, good vintage years can be stored for 15 years or more, and lesser years are best consumed within ten years. Amarone is rich and elegant, and your palate will thank you!

Until next time…

Cheers!
Penny

Feature photo is courtesy of Pasqua Vigneti é Cantine,

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Penny is a wine, spirits, food, and travel writer. Her sensory examination and evaluation of wine and food are noteworthy. Penny has a popular website called The WineKnitter that takes you with her to discover wine/spirits, travel, food, and culture worldwide. She began her serious foray into the world of wine in the early 1980s, where she was part of three very successful family-owned restaurants in NYC and "cut her teeth,” so to speak, with wines such as Petrus, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion, Cristal, etc. Penny has an extensive presence on many social media sites, and her education is ongoing with wine seminars, wine tastings, and culinary delights from around the world. She studied at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, completed WSET Level 2 Certification with Distinction, and is continuing with Level 3, advanced certification in wine. Penny is a member of The Wine Media Guild.

1 comment on “Amarone, A Notable Wine!

  1. Rosemary

    Fabulous article Penny!

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