Verona is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities and that is saying a lot. It’s the home of Romeo e Giulietta (Juliette) and the city is flooded with the wine trade for Vinitaly every year in the spring. It’s the capital and heart of the Veneto wine region. In the hills and valleys just north of the city lies the Valpolicella wine zone, home to some of Italy’s most unique wines.
Valpolicella, the basic wine of the zone, can range from very ordinary to very good, a bargain for its quality. The difference is usually the vineyards. The traditional or classico zone is more on hills and to the north of the Valpolicella zone. The rocky hills are more difficult to work but stress the vines and yield more intense fruit. The mass-produced level usually comes from vineyards on the plains farther south where the soil is more fertile. These vineyards were added to the Valpolicella appellation in the 20th century when the wines became more popular. Amarone rarely comes from these vineyards. With its increase in popularity, Amarone was awarded D.O.C.G. status in 2009 which tightened the requirements for production.
The grape varieties are the same as for basic Valpolicella; Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara with more Corvina normally. Corvina gives great depth and color but lower yields. The grapes are harvested in the fall and the best bunches are selected for Amarone. These bunches are then dried on mats further reducing quantity but intensifying depth and flavors. The drying, or appassimento process, usually takes about four months ending early the next year after harvest. Fermentation begins then and can take over a month due to the lower water content of the grapes. The wine is aged in barrels, the typical barriques of the Bordeaux type, usually for five years before release. The final wine will have a raisiny character with relatively high alcohol. 14% is the minimum required by the appellation laws.
Producers often make a ripasso by adding the leftover grape solids or pomace from the fermentation of the Amarone to barrels of Valpolicella giving them some of the flavor and intensity of Amarone at a lower cost.
These are some of the wines we currently offer!
The Nicolis family have been making top Amarone for decades and their Amarone is one of the best values. Deep in color and extract, this is a top-quality example of the style of Amarone. $53.99
Ambrosan is a single vineyard on a gentle slope in San Pietro in Cariano. The rocky soil imparts more mineral notes and greater intensity. $63.99
From the single vineyard, Seccal, this wine is aged in barrel on the lees of the Amarone and Recioto giving the wine much of the character of Amarone. $22.99
Bertsani is one of the oldest and most respected Amarone houses. Founded in 1857, the first Amarone was made in 1958. Reviews are consistently high in the press. $115.99
Founded in 1821, Zonin is one of the oldest, family-run estates in the Veneto. Their Amarone is often more elegant in style with a little less alcohol. $59.99
The ripasso from Zonin has a high percentage of Corvina, 70%, for added depth. This is one of the best values in ripasso. $17.99
Brad Lewis, Contributing Writer