Amarone 101: everything you wanted to know (but were too afraid to ask)
Amarone may be a famous wine, but it is also a complex and mysterious one, and the subject of much mystified enquiry and confused faces. Fortunately, the internet has provided us with many of your most urgent and vexed questions, and we will do our best to answer them here. So it is: everything you wanted to know about Amarone (but were too afraid to ask anyone except the internet).
What is Amarone della Valpolicella?
So, let’s start off with a big obvious one – what the hell is this stuff, anyway? Well, it’s a red produced in the Veneto region of the north of Italy, made from grapes which have undergone a special drying process to increase the body, alcohol and flavour concentration of the resultant wine. It is, justly, considered a star of both its region and the whole of Italy, and is one of the world’s most prized big reds.
Is Amarone a dessert wine?
Without wanting to tell you when to drink whatever you want – no, it is not a dessert wine. However, the modern Amarone della Valpolicella was derived from a historic sweet wine that is still made in the region today: Recioto della Valpolicella.
Where is Amarone grown in Italy?
As stated above, Amarone is not really grown, so much as made by that peculiar process. The grapes themselves are grown in Valpolicella, an area north of Verona and east of Lake Garda in the Veneto, in the north-western province of Veneto.
How much is a bottle of Amarone wine?
Usually, a fair amount! Amarone isn’t cheap to make, and expensive to make right, and this is reflected in the prices. You can expect to start at about €30 at the lower end, with prestige botttles comfortably commanding prices in the hundreds.
Why is Amarone so expensive?
Well, first of all the process is expensive and risky. Specialist equipment is required to execute the drying procedure properly, and all manner of things can go wrong during it. Not to mention that Amarone can only be made with the very best fruit, which is costly to farm and costlier to buy. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – the fact that the wine is made from juice squeezed from dried grapes means essentially more grapes used per bottle. In the end, given the immense production costs involved, it’s sometimes surprising that Amarone isn’t more expensive than it is!
Does Amarone need to breathe?
Generally breathing would be beneficial, yes. Amarone is a big, special-occasion wine that it doesn’t hurt to aerate a bit to release the more hidden aromas. However, it isn’t a 100% necessity – some Amarone wines will be older or more muted or tannic than others, but even with those, pouring, swirling and sipping slowly will often be sufficient.
What is a good Amarone wine?
So many brands, so little time! And with such range too, from the younger, bolder ones to the more subtle, ethereal aged styles, from the bracing and grippy to the softer and gentler. There are so many to choose from – but perhaps here is a good place to start looking!
What is Ripasso?
Another method employed for making red wine, this one almost unique to Valpolicella! The Amarone process leaves a lot of leftovers – grape skins, stems etc – and, keen to waste nothing, producers in Valpolicella will take some especially good regular wine and ‘repass’ it (i.e. macerate) over them. This gives the wine more body, more structure, more concentration, more oomph. For more, check out our page on Valpolicella Ripasso!
When should I drink Amarone?
RIGHT NOW. Unless you’re reading this at 9am, in which case you should probably wait a bit.
Okay seriously – Amarone can be drunk young but, given the right style, it can age for years and years, even decades. Check the individual bottle and the individual producer for advice on when its peak should be.
What do you drink Amarone with?
The usual advice is to pair Amarone della Valpolicella with seriously rich food – slow-cooked beef stew, ragù genovese, that sort of thing. However, it may well be that Amarone is at its best as a sipping wine, a meditation wine, to be treated almost as a digestivo (or, to avoid overconsumption of alcohol, an aperitivo), a longer, slower, more intensive drinking experience.
Is Amarone full bodied?
Y-E-S. Sometimes elegantly, sometimes powerfully, and occasionally (especially when young) eye-poppingly. But with alcohol levels which legally cannot go below 14%, Amarone is by necessity as big as they come.
How do they make Amarone wine?
As mentioned, first the grapes are dried for a good long time, then fermented for a really long time to maximise all that alcoholic content. For more information, click here.
What grape makes Amarone?
Amarone della Valpolicella, like all the wines of the region, is generally a blend, of which by far the most important is the grape corvina, responsible for the characteristic bitter cherries flavour, as well as the majority of tertiary flavours such as smoke and leafiness. Rondinella and molinara are also usually present, generally adding acidity and perfume, and corvinone (a grape similar to corvina) is allowed to substitute the main grape to a certain degree. It is, however, corvina, the undisputed star of the region, on which the wine’s reputation rests.
Who invented Amarone?
Surely nobody could have invented this most classic, most antique of wines, passed down from generation to generation, each drop imbued with the wisdom of the ancients?
Well, actually, they could have and indeed did, and more’s the point remarkably recently. Recioto is ancient, sure, sweet wine derived from dried grapes being among the oldest vinifying techniques, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that, as tastes changed towards the dry end of the spectrum, a man called Adelino Lucchese at Cantina Negrar had the bright idea to not throw out fully-fermented Recioto, but instead try and make it drinkable. The rest is history.
What does appassimento mean?
It is simply the name of the drying process. Wines made from it are known as passito, sweet or dry (not to be confused with ripasso, of course!).
What is Amarone similar to?
Nothing really. There are wines here and there made using the same method, but the combination of grapes, terrain, assemblage, terroir and so on makes Amarone della Valpolicella essentially unique.