Amarone, the quintessence of the terroirs of the Valpolicella, is distinguished by its unique character and remarkable aging 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 commercialized. 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 flavor. 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 flavor 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 or Amarone della Valpolicella Classico appellations tend to be characterized by an intense red color, 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 flavors. These wines also tend to have excellent ageing potential, often designed to be kept for more than a decade.
Focus on 3 of our Favorites from Amarone della Valpolicella
Stefano Accordini : Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico “Acinatico” 2013
The Stefano Accordini : Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico “Acinatico” 2013 is produced from only the best fruit hand-harvested in the last week of September from the Bessole and Cavalo vineyards. The grapes are left to dry for 120 days and then aged in oak barriques. At the tasting, this fabulous wine displays a deep, garnet red color. The aromatic bouquet gives off hints of dried fruits and vanilla. On the palate, the Stefano Accordino Acinatico 2013 presents fantastic structure, proving to be as complex, elegant and velvety as what we would expect from an Amarone Classico.
The Giuseppe Quintarelli : Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2004 results from a very careful selection of grapes during harvest. After the picking, the grapes are left in wooden boxes or on mats, arranged in a way to allow appassimento (drying) to occur naturally. Noble rot begins to appear in November and develops in January. The grapes are pressed at the end of January and, following 20 days of maceration, undergo alcoholic fermentation with indigenous yeast. The wine is racked and aged in Slavonian oak barrels for a period of 7 years.
At the tasting this wine is dark and mysterious, providing on the palate flavors of black fruit, smoke, licorice and tobacco. The finish of the wine is remarkable, big and voluptuous.
The Marion: Amarone Della Valpolicella 2012 is produced from grapes harvest in September and left on bamboo tables and wooden plateaux to dry until mid December / early January. The grapes are pressed in stainless steel, then undergoing fermentation for 40-50 days. The wine is made with natural yeasts and is punched down regularly, then aged in 350-liter Slavonian oak barrels for around 3 years.
The Marion: Amarone Della Valpolicella 2012 is an elegant, full-bodied wine, made of a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina and Corvinona. The wine is resplendent with aromas of cherries, dried prunes, stewed plum and herbs with notes of chocolate and coffee. On the palate, this wine is silky in texture, with the fruit expertly balancing the tannins. The finish offers spice, black pepper and licorice.