Amarone, the quintessence of the terroirs of the Valpolicella, is distinguished by its unique character and remarkable ageing potential. Following a late harvest, carried out manually, the berries are dried on bamboo racks (traditionally called Arele) for a period of around 100 days. The dried grapes are then pressed, the must fermented and the wine aged for at least 2 years in oak barrels before being commercialised. The result? Unique and emblematic wines, complex and concentrated, while also perfectly maintaining the integrity of the local fruit.
The Amarone Style
The emblematic amarone style of the Valpolicella region was originally developed by the winemakers of Veneto as a way to amplify the aromatics, sugars and resulting alcohol in their wines. After harvest they would lay the grapes out to dry, thereby removing excess water and concentrating the flavour. Traditionally, the fruit was lain out on straw mats. Nowadays, the same procedure (known as appassimento in Italian) is carried out on steel pallets, for around 100 days under very strict temperature and humidity regulations. After the grapes are dried, they are gently pressed, and the must fermented. The higher sugar content in the grapes results in wine with a higher potential alcohol level, normally 15 to 16% by volume. The wine is aged for at least two years in oak barriques (or the more traditional large botti) before hitting the market.
The dried grape skins that remain as a by-product of the amarone style are saved to add complexity (by way of tannins and aromatic compounds) to other Valpolicella wines. The latter undergo second fermentation together with these skins, creating Valpolicella Ripasso.
Grape Varieties Used
The three main varieties of Valpolicella – Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara – are used to produce wines that are very light in body. The light nature of these grape varieties is compounded further by the growing conditions of the region, which are often too cool for the grapes to achieve the desired sugar content. The amarone style was developed as a way to enhance and concentrate the flavour of wines produced from these grape varietals. Modern amarone wines are made using local Corvina and its sub-variety, Corvinone, along with Rondinella and Oseletta.
History of the Appellation
While the earliest amarone wines were considered errors caused by leaving Recioto della Valpolicella wines to ferment for too long, this style eventually became very popular and respected in the area. Originally the wine belonged to the appellation DOC Recioto Amarone. But in 1990, in order to preserve the heritage of Amarone, the wine received its own appellation, DOC Amarone, to distinguish it from Recioto. The DOC later became a DOCG in 2010. In the case of such a truly unique wine, the appellation refers not to the region where it is made (Valpolicella, which is on its own a DOC appellation), but to the wine itself. These wines are made according to a very strict set of rules – about varietal composition, production territory, viticultural practices, drying, labelling and bottling – laid out by the DOCG Amarone.
An Amarone della Valpolicella wine receives the exclusive “Classico” specification when the grapes are grown in a specific area of Valpolicella, between the municipalities of Fumane, Marano di Valpolicella, Negrar, San Pietro in Cariano and Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella. These wines belong in their own appellation, that of Amarone della Valpolicella Classico.
The Classic Amarone Profile
The wines of the Amarone della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella Classico appellations tend to be characterised by an intense red colour, gradually turning garnet with age. The aromatic bouquet offers plenty of dried fruits, along with spices and tobacco. On the palate, Amarone wines tend to be very rich, smooth and warm, revealing sweet fruit flavours. These wines also tend to have excellent ageing potential, often designed to be kept for more than a decade.
Focus on 3 of our Favourites from Amarone della Valpolicella
Bertani : Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008
The Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 displays an intense ruby red colour with touches of garnet. The nose reveals intensity and complexity, with notes of plum and cherry, along with dried fruit, tea leaves, spices and licorice. On the palate this wine proves to be velvety soft, enveloping yet austere. Flavours of red fruit and notes of vanilla emerge, along with a beautiful balance between acidity and tannin. The finish is very elegant, clean and persistent.
Gerardo Cesari: Bosan 2006
The 2006 Bosan of Gerardo Cesari from the DOC Amarone della Valpolicella is a subtle and strong wine. It shows off an inky, slightly black-tinted and very dense red colour with slight blue reflections. The nose is abundant, rich with macerated black fruits blended with spices, and blue cedar balsamic lingering in the background. The attack is precise with a very clear acidity, which brings freshness and a straightforward nature to this wine. The tannic structure is ample with a spicy finish, providing intensity to this very pleasant cuvee. Significant ageing potential.
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron 2011
The 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron is a dark, inky black wine, deeply layered and very sophisticated. The aromatic bouquet presents on the nose notes of dried blackberries, mahogany, Spanish cedar and barbecue smoke, all delivered over a carefully measured intensity. The mouthfeel is firm and thick, with slightly astringent tannins at the end. This wine provides an excellent finish, which is simultaneously syrupy and savoury.