About 60 years ago, an old red wine reinvented itself in the Veronese region of northeast Italy. The old wine, first mentioned in Roman times, is the sweet Valpolicella della Recioto. The new wine is the dry Amarone della Valpolicella — called, simply, Amarone — full-bodied, velvety, sensual and imposing. Using grapes indigenous to the region, Corvino with smaller amounts of Rondinella and Molinara, Amarone is produced employing a modern version of an ancient method. It is what gives Amarone its singular character.
Most grapes are fermented right after harvest. Not Amarone’s. They are dried for three to four months under controlled conditions, a method called appassimento that dehydrates them, concentrating their sugar and flavors. Only then does the shriveled fruit undergo a long, slow fermentation. Recioto’s fermentation leaves some residual sugar, making it a sweet dessert wine. Amarone is fermented dry, resulting in a ripe, powerful wine with aromas of dried fruits and berries, a taste of spice, a whiff of anise or leather and an alcohol content of 15 percent. Amarone ages well; in fact, it demands some years before revealing its full character.
Currently, most wine shops are stocking the 2005 and 2006 vintages. The 2005s are full, deep and still hard; those of ‘06 are slightly lighter and fruitier and will reach their best drinking age sooner. Amarone ranges in price from $55 to $90.
At a recent tasting, I was impressed with the following 2006 Amarones: Masi’s smooth Costasera with its aroma of sweet dried berries; the well-structured Brigaldara; the well-balanced Tommasi; the rich, assertive Zenato; and Tedeschi’s outstanding 2006, as aromatic as a bowl of dried fruits.
The 2005s are indeed impressive. The Tedeschi, from its Monte Olmi vineyard, is a quintessential Amarone, from its luscious fruit flavors to its lingering finish. Venturini makes its Special Selection Campo Masua only in especially good vintages; full-bodied and stern, dried fruits again dominate the aroma, leaving a long, flavorful finish. Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2005, made from the single vineyard Campo del Gigli, is still young and tannic but showing depth of character and lovely fruit flavors. Begali’s fine, promising 2005 comes from the single vineyard Monte Ca Branca. Also noteworthy are the 2005s of Nicolis, Allegrini, Musella and Speri.
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