On Amarone and Friends

Amarone – The mere thought of this unique, wonderful wine causes me to smile.

Amarone – The northeastern Italian wine (Veneto), whose wine makers use unique production methods to create this world-class delight.

Amarone – Whose full-bodied, dry, raisin flavor delivers its own intensity that I adore. No wonder I could not pass up attending an Amarone and Friends tasting in early March.

Produced in the northern Italian region of Valpolicella, Amarone is from three grapes: Corvina (70-80%), Rondinella, and Moninara or Oseleta. After harvesting the grapes, in early October, winemakers dry a portion of the grapes over straw mats for four months to concentrate the flavors before pressing.

Dried grapes typically produce sweet wines, but Amarone is the only full-bodied dry wine produced this way. The problem is that Amarones are not cheap as the low-end are priced at $25-30 – hence a reason to consider the “friends.” And if you want an Amarone, buy above the bottom.

On this night, we tried six different wines, but only one Amarone. Variations around these questions:

  • How long were the grapes dried?
  • How much of the wine is composed of “dried” juice?
  • Did the wine undergo a second fermentation in the presence of the remaining “dried” skins?
  • Instead of Oseleta or Moninara, did the winemaker use Barbera or Sangiovese?

We tasted six wonderful wines, yet ranged in price ($14-48). The bang-for-the-buck wines:

  • Zenato Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006 ($14)
  • Allegrini Palazzo Della Torre IFT Veneto 2006 ($19) – This has been one favorites!
  • Musella Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso ($20),

The higher-priced wines:

  • Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2006 ($28)
  • Musella Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 ($35)
  • Nino Negri Valtellina Sfursat 2004 ($48)

A side note: The last wine is from the neighboring province of Lombardi. Nino Negri uses grapes varieties from its west (Piedmonte) and production techniques from its east (Veneto).

So to Jay and one of the best tastings I’ve ever attended – Salute! … and enjoy this segment from Wine Spectator.

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