by Arnie Millan
Amarone delle Valpolicella is one of Italy’s – and the world’s – greatest and most unusual wines. It is a wine of remarkable richness and complexity, but few people know about it or how it’s made. Amarone delle Valpolicella is an Italian DOCG, the highest level of appellation (Appellation Blog).
This is how the book Vino Italiano describes older Amarone from great vintages like 1983, “The aromas of these wines – a melding of cherry syrup, coffee, leather, almonds, tar, spice, and so much else – are matched only by Barolos and Barbarescos from similarly great years. The difference comes in the texture: In an older Amarone the glycerine richness created by appassimento (the drying process) continues to show through, coating the palate like a nectar.” - Vino Italiano © 2005 by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch
Amarone is a type of wine made from a blend of local red grapes including Corvina (45% to 95% of the blend), Corvinone (up to 50%) - these two grapes are unrelated despite their similar names - and Rondinella (5% to 30% of the blend). A limited amount of other local grapes, including Oseleta, may be added to the blend.
Amarone regulations stipulate minimum vine density, maximum yield, and vine training systems (only pergola or double pergola). Fertilization and irrigation are prohibited (except for drought emergencies). Vineyards located on rich soils, situated on the plain or at valley floor are excluded from the Amarone appellation. The regulations also detail, by municipality, the regions eligible for Amarone and Classico designations.
Amarone is made from grapes that are usually harvested in September. The grapes are than dried for a period of at least 100 days and then fermentation begins in January or February, depending on the harvest date. Amarone regulations require that the finished wine have no less than 14% alcohol but alcohol content can range as high as 16.5% to 17%!
The finished wine must be aged for a minimum of two years and Riservas require four years.
Color: deep red, possible garnet shades with ageing.
Nose: typical, intense.
Palate: full bodied, smooth, warm.
Here are some outstanding Amarone:
“A slightly more accessible wine from a terrific vintage, the Cesari 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico has lifted or volatile aromas of dried cherry skin and red apple. This wine is released with an ample 280,000 frost-coated bottles produced. The blend is 75% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella and 5% of two unknown grapes called Rossignola and Negrara. There is some heaviness to the bouquet with baked fruit and dark spice.” 91 points Parker’s Wine Advocate
“Zesty, vibrant and exotic, the 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico makes a serious impression with its unique bouquet of dried roses, lime zest, cherry sauce, plums and a dusting of crushed violet candies. It’s silky and pliant in texture, motivated by juicy acids, with a mix of ripe strawberry, pomegranate and cranberry sauce, as balsamic spices and hints of almond come forward toward the close. There is so much going on here, as the 2016 resonates on wild berry fruit and sweet inner florals. This may be a more opulent expression of the vintage, but it’s built to last, and sure to win a lot of fans.” 94 points Vinous
The Allegrini 2017 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico shows dark fruit and spice that all point to the hot and dry conditions of this vintage. The wine is balanced with a good amount of dark fruit intensity but no overtly jammy or baked fruit. That dense fruit wraps thickly over the palate, supported by backend aromas of charred spice and campfire embers. This is a blend of 45% Corvina Veronese, 45% Corvinone, 5% Rondinella and 5% Oseleta with 120 days of appassimento. 100,000 bottles were made. 94 points Wine Advocate