Amarone Wine, Valpolicella

The best Amarone of 2023? We consult the critics

Best Amarone Wine

At last count there were around 350 different producers of Amarone, many of whom produce more than one type, either in different styles or from different plots of land or whatever else you might think of. Added into this confusion, various preferences, choices and regulatory demands mean they don’t even release those wines at the same time – unlike regular wine, something a bit more special like Amarone might not be released until many years after the vintage, especially in the case of riserva labels.

None of which makes judging any year’s Amarone releases very easy! How possibly to compare hundreds of different wines from different parts of the region, made in different styles from harvests in different years? It would take some time, indeed some dedication, to get the thing done and done thoroughly. But who has that time?

Answer: the critics! The people who spend their working lives tasting, jotting, researching, comparing, and finally rating as many wines as they can. Many specialise in a country or region, and will have their own way of scoring wines, from rankings to 100-point scales. By looking at what various different outlets say we can build up a more coherent picture of the year in Amarone, see which wines really stood out from the crowd – and give ourselves an experts’-eye view in what to look for from an Amarone release.

James Suckling

One of the most important American wine (and cigar!) critics of the his generation, while Suckling certainly has regard for the Bordeaux beloved of his famed contemporary Robert Parker, he is also particularly well known as an advocate of Italian wine. Though better known for his championing of Piedmont and Tuscany (where he lives for part of the year), Suckling always finds space for Amarone in his end-of-year best-ofs. Jamessuckling.com is co-curated by a team of writers that includes other MWs (accredited Masters of Wine).

5. Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘Cantina Privata Boscaini Mazzano’ 2015 – From a single vineyard, only made in particularly good vintages, one of the very best of Masi’s ‘cru’ concept wines. ‘Pithy and firm. Cool of aura. Nettle and pine and that hallmark bitter cherry nobility. Yet it is the finish, a shimmer of tannic steel like the glint of a barrel, that makes this. A buffer against the teeming fruit, compressing the wine into a savoury sheath with nary a glimpse of sweetness.’ (Ned Goodwin MW)

4. Romano Dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Monte Lodoletta’ 2017 – The current release of one of the legendary winemaker’s most important Amarones. A wine of real considerable heft and concentration, reflective of grapes that have been dried for a pretty massive 70-80 days. ‘A wine that shape-shifts and beguiles, as much it wrestles with the senses. Excellent.’ (NG)

3. Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2013 – The newest vintage of one of the core classics from among the region’s most celebrated wineries, the result of a really substantial 99 days in the drying room and 8 years’ barrel ageing, ‘Full-bodied with a liqueur-like bead of fruit that’s riding abundant but well-integrated tannins through the long, long finish.’ (JS)

2. Zymē Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘La Mattonara’ Riserva 2009 – Zymē’s flagship Amarone, featuring the experimentally-minded winery’s signature blend (including the rare oseleta grape), three months natural ‘natural’ drying (which is to say without a dehumidifier), and fully ten years in tonneaux – the medium size of barrel – made of Slavonian oak. ‘You wouldn’t believe this was in it’s 14th year, which is proof of the durability of Amarone, but more so of the excellence of this wine. A compact bead of currant and date runs untarnished through the wine, supported by abundant tannins that are well sunk in. The finish is very long.’ (JS)

1. Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ‘Sergio Zenato’ Riserva 2017 – Suckling’s favourite release of the year comes from Valpolicella stalwarts Zenato, the Sergio Zenato Riserva current release from 2017, a wine renowned not only for its intensity but also for its impressive array of complex tertiary aromas – tea, forest floor, mushrooms and so on. ‘Full-bodied, dense and focused with fine, well-integrated tannins, plenty of fruit flavor and an endless finish. A joy to drink even now, but this will age gracefully for many a year.’ (JS)

Amarone della Valpolicella DOP Classico “La Mattonara” 2009

3 in stock

Original price was: €300,00.Current price is: €270,00.
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico “Mazzano” 2015

1 in stock

190,00
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2013

2 in stock

124,00
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva “Sergio Zenato” 2007

2 in stock

191,00
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG “Monte Lodoletta” 2017

1 in stock

Original price was: €432,00.Current price is: €398,00.
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Falstaff

A German magazine of food and travel, its reputation for Italian coverage has grown over the years to become one of the most important voices in the tastemaking trade.

5. Tenuta Sant’Antonio Famigilia Castagnedi ‘Lilium Est’ Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2012 – Pride and joy of the Castagnedi family at Tenuta Sant’Antonio in Mezzane di Sotto, a complex and intense wine aged 3 years in Bordeaux-style barriques and at least 4 in bottle. ‘It presents ripe notes of red fruit flesh, jammy figs, followed by warm tones of tobacco, coffee and spices such as clove and pepper. The palate is dense, full and enveloping with pronounced tannins and a long, captivating finish.‘ (Othmar Kiem, Simon Staffler)

4. Tedeschi ‘La Fabriseria’ Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2015 – First produced in 1983, it’s not every year that ‘La Fabriseria’ gets made; only in the very best vintages will the very best territories under the Tedeschi family name in Fumane and Sant’Ambrogio be set aside for this particular label. ‘Very rich and intense bouquet with well-defined impressions, notes of cherry, currant, coffee, resin and a pleasant spicy pepper. The palate is full-bodied and enveloping, dense, with slightly grippy tannins.’

3. Tedeschi ‘Maternigo’ Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2016 – But it’s not even Falstaff’s favourite from Tedeschi, with the Riserva made exclusively from the winery’s Maternigo Estate. The wine is aged for 4 years in Slavonian oak and a year in the cellar before release. ‘On the nose it is generous and clear, notes of ripe, lush cherry, red peach, rose hip and wild berry mousse, in the aftertaste there are fine savoury components. On the palate, full-bodied and dense, opens richly with dark berry fruit components, juicy tannin envelops the fine texture, finishes long with fine drive on elderberry cordial.’

2. ‘Tedeschi ‘Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2016 – But even that wasn’t Falstaff’s favourite Tedeschi wine this year – this was. And you can see why, as this extraordinary Amarone Riserva, one of the first single-vineyard wines of its type in Valpolicella, a real work of art. ‘Pleasant herbal and fruity nose with woody and floral notes of roses and geraniums and darker toasted and tobacco notes. The palate is firm, broad and full-bodied. Spicy and savoury tannins. A great drinking pleasure.’

1. Allegrini ‘Fieramonte’ Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2015 – But Falstaff’s Amarone of the year goes to one of Allegrini’s most important releases, the dense and scintillating single-hill ‘Fieramonte’. Intense ruby red with purple reflections. The nose is intense and structured, elite. ‘It presents ripe notes of red fruit flesh, jammy figs, followed by warm tones of tobacco, coffee and spices such as clove and pepper. The palate is dense, full and enveloping with pronounced tannins and a long, captivating finish.’

Amarone della Valpolicella Docg Classico Riserva “La Fabriseria” 2015

2 in stock

Original price was: €280,00.Current price is: €237,00.
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico Riserva “Fieramonte” 2015

2 in stock

340,00
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Amarone della Valpolicella Docg Riserva “Lilium Est” 2008

Out of stock

181,00

Gambero Rosso

In France, there’s Michelin; in Italy, there’s Gambero Rosso. Restaurants across the Bel Paese crave those three forks (or slices, for pizza places!) that are the highest honour the guide bestows. And as with food, so with wine, with glasses, naturally, replacing the forks as the measure of excellence in the eyestalks of the Gambero. Last year, twelve Amarone received all three glasses from the guide, of which these were possibly the best five.

5. Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2013 – James Suckling’s no. 5 also makes GR’s list of the best! An exceptionally pure and dense concentration of fruit with highly modern power married to traditional tertiary characteristics.

4. Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Cascina San Vincenzo’ 2018 – From the innovative and culturally-engaged Famiglia Pasqua, an extraordinary single-vineyard Amarone showcasing the very best of of the Valpantena zone! Certified ‘Bio’ (in-keeping with the azienda’s sustainability ethos), the wine spends 18-20 months in French-oak barriques before bottling. This is a modern Amarone in two distinct senses: first, its purity of fruit, intensely focused and backed up by the structure of small-barrel maturation; secondly, however, it doesn’t fall into the trap of overdoing this berryish power, retaining genuine freshness to balance it all out. Stunning stuff.

3. Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone ‘Campo dei Gigli’ 2018 – Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Falstaff’s own no. 5 Winery, finds its way into the guide’s graces as well, the Castagnedi family’s immense, chewy, statuesque wine continuing to find plaudits across the critical community.

2. Zeni 1870 Amarone della Valpolicella ‘Barriques’ 2017 – In the heart of Valpolicella classica, Zeni 1870, among the oldest long-term holders of land under vine in the region, make four different Amaroni, of which this – as the name suggests – is the offering that emphasises most the use of French oak barriques. The wine goes into the barrels for 1-2 years, followed (somewhat unusually) by a little extra time in stainless steel prior to bottling. The result is a spectacular, full-bodied, cocoa-and-tobacco sort of wine with a searingly fresh throughline of acidity giving the stuff a big lift.

1. Monte Zovo ‘Famiglia Cottini’ Amarone della Valpolicella 2019 – From the Cottini family’s Tregnago estate right on the borderline between Illasi, Mezzane di Sotto, and Monte Lessini. Another wine that showcases Gambero Rosso’s favour towards barriques-ageing styles, with the ‘Cottini’ spending 24 months in French oak before blending and bottling. A wine of great intensity, great concentration and yet great poise, as good a food-pairing Amarone as it is a meditation Amarone.

Amarone della Valpolicella Docg “Campo dei Gigli” 2017

6 in stock

72,00
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Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Classico 2013

2 in stock

124,00
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Of course, these are just some of the best critics and critical organisations out there, not to mention just a few of the real top Amarone wines on the market. However, you can see certain trends here – barriques are in and not going away anytime soon, but the vital importance of freshness and acidity retention that we’ve seen elsewhere in the wine world is also crucially of the moment in Valpolicella. Food pairability – of obvious importance to Gambero Rosso – remains something of a hallmark of top-level Italian wine in any case, and while Amarone isn’t always known for its culinary match-ups we can see its growing relevance even for this most massive and big-shouldered of wine styles. In short, Amarone remains a wine apart, influenced by fashions but never quite subject to them, always something of a comet in the oenological sky.

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