Amarone della Valpolicella is an Italian enological jewel, known and appreciated around the world. This extraordinary wine has been the subject of fascination and study for decades, yet its history is shrouded in a cloak of serendipity and fortunate discoveries.
A Fortuitous 'Mistake': The Origins of Amarone
Valpolicella is a region historically associated with the production of Recioto, a sweet wine made from dried grapes of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella varieties. Traditionally, Recioto was considered the 'wine of festivities,' served only on special occasions. However, in the past, due to the absence of modern stabilization and filtration methods, alcoholic fermentation would spontaneously restart in some barrels, transforming that precious sweet liquid into a dry and alcoholic wine, described as 'bitter' ('amaro') in the local dialect. Thus was born Amarone, also known as 'Recioto Scapà'—the Recioto that 'got away.' Although Amarone was almost accidentally born as a 'happy mistake' in the fermentation process of Recioto, the wine has since undergone a refined evolution. What was once considered a flaw has been transformed, through sophisticated production methods, into one of Italy's most remarkable enological expressions.
The Emergence of a New Style
Despite its accidental roots, Amarone has been elevated to a genuine form of wine art over time. Its rise to global fame truly began in the post-war era, when more advanced winemaking techniques allowed for the better exploitation of this wine and its terroir. The Bolla family, a historic winery of the region, is credited with bottling and commercializing Amarone for the first time, starting with the 1950 vintage. Since then, this wine has conquered the world, even earning the DOC status in 1968 and the DOCG in 2010, recognitions that have further elevated its status and quality.
A Unique Production Process
Creating Amarone is an art that demands time and expertise, even in larger productions it remains a highly artisanal process. Grapes are left to dry in fruit drying rooms for a period of 100-120 days (now in plastic crates for hygiene reasons), concentrating their sugars and polyphenols. This is followed by a slow and meticulous winter fermentation that yields a dry wine with high alcohol content.
The maturation process, on the other hand, takes place in both French oak barriques and Slavonian oak casks, depending on the producer's needs and the desired flavor profile. This process contributes to the development of an extraordinary complexity of scents and flavors, making the wine elegant, smooth, and balanced, allowing it to mature and evolve for decades.
Characteristics and Pairings
From a sensory perspective, Amarone is a triumph of sensations. The color is an intense, penetrating red, which alone invites tasting. On the nose, sumptuous aromas of ripe fruit and preserved cherries emerge, perfectly integrated with intense spicy notes that evoke cinnamon, licorice, and roasted coffee. This complex and enveloping olfactory panorama prepares the palate for an equally intense gustatory experience. On the palate, Amarone reveals its full power and warmth, balanced by refined and rounded tannins that contribute to the overall balance of the wine.
Varietà di Uve
Corvina: This is the backbone of the blend, imparting structure, aromas, and softness to the wine.
Corvinone: Characterized by spicy notes of sour cherry, it adds aromatic complexity and structure.
Rondinella: Weather-resistant, it contributes color and flavor.
Molinara: A complementary variety, it provides freshness and savoriness.
Today, Amarone is not just an oenological and commercial triumph; it's also a high-end wine. Its cost reflects not only the quality of the grapes used and the mastery in winemaking but also practical factors like low vineyard yields and significant product loss due to the drying process. Its distinctive style is loved not just in Italy but globally. New trends are seeing a reduction in residual sugar, similar to other commercially born wines that followed, such as Ripasso. We will delve deeper into these new categories in detail in the future, but before we explore other nuances of Valpolicella, we want to introduce you to five unmissable labels. These Amarone and Recioto wines represent Valpolicella and will guide you on a unique sensory journey:
This classic Amarone from Farina is a Valpolicella treasure, the result of meticulous winemaking that begins with grape drying and culminates in 18 months of wood aging. On the palate, it reveals a warm and balanced structure, with nuances of cherry, black cherry, and balsamic notes. With its significant structure, it's the ideal companion for robust dishes like game and meat stews, as well as aged cheeses. It's also an excellent choice for after-dinner meditation wine.
A sophisticated blend of Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes, carefully dried, delivers a wine with velvety body and irresistible robustness. But don't just stop at its vigor; this Amarone also shines for its extraordinary complexity, where refined spices dance in harmony with an ethereal bouquet of ripe plum and cocoa. It's a journey for demanding palates, from the first to the last sip. Ideal with game and aged cheeses, but like many Amarones, it's also excellent on its own.
Born from the lush vineyards of the Tregnago Estate in the high Val d’Illasi, this wine is a symphony of traditional Veronese grapes masterfully blended. The nose is intoxicated by a broad and rich aromatic profile, where preserved cherries and ripe fruit blend with spicy notes of cinnamon, licorice, and roasted coffee. On the palate, it's a true triumph of power and warmth, underlined by refined tannins and a persistence that proves unforgettable. This wine is not just an accompaniment but a protagonist.
Vinified following ancient traditions, this wine initially rests in stainless steel and then matures further in the bottle, achieving a perfect balance of taste. On the nose, you'll be greeted by intoxicating scents of violets and wild roses, evolving into more delicious notes of raspberries, red currants, and black cherry jam. On the palate, its velvety sweetness creates a pleasing and smooth gustatory experience, never cloying. Perfect as a dessert wine, this Recioto is the ideal pairing for dry pastries and chocolate. A glass of this wine is not just a simple sip but a sensory journey through the hills of Negrar.
With its intense red color embellished by violet reflections, this excellent Recioto from Monte Zovo promises and delivers a sensory adventure. On the nose, it reveals a cornucopia of scents: syrupy fruit, sour cherries, dark cherries, framed by accents of sweet spices like chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. On the palate, the experience is anything but ordinary: a smooth, velvety, and extremely balanced taste, matured in oak tonneaux for 12 months and refined in the bottle for another 10 months. Though classic as a dessert wine to accompany dry pastries and rustic sweets, its intriguing character makes it a perfect candidate for bold pairings with blue cheeses. A symphony of flavors and scents that make every sip unforgettable.