Amarone: the wine born by a mistake in the Recioto fermentation
Amarone is a DOCG dry red wine, DOCG means Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita. It is a really well know wine that has been able to impose itself above any other Valpolicella product during the last eighty years. Amarone can only be produced in the area called Valpolicella, a specific area located in the north of Verona, near Lake Garda.
The disciplinary establishes quality and percentages of vines which are allowed to use produce it:
Corvina (or cruina) from 45% to 95%
Corvinone which can replace Corvina up to a maximum of 50%
Rondinella from 5% to 30%
Other non-aromatic red grape varieties of Verona province up to a maximum of 15% with a limit of 10% for each individual grape variety
Other indigenous Italian red grape varieties, also from Verona province, for a maximum of 10%.
Molinara is no longer a mandatory grape variety, but it is often used in the production of Amarone anyway.
Amarone: eighty years of history concentrated in a glass of wine
The beginning of the Amarone history is relatively recent. This wine has been produced in Valpolicella for about eighty years and although it has been produced for much less time than, for example, Recioto della Valpolicella, it has immediately met with resounding success.
The name derives from the word “amaro” , which in Italian means “bitter”, used to distinguish it from Recioto della Valpolicella, a wine with a much sweeter taste. Amarone was born almost by chance, you can say by mistake. An unintentional mistake occurred during the production of the Recioto. Amarone is produced in the same area as Recioto, it has the same blend and the same production techniques. Despite this, the result is a very different wine, a structured and full-bodied dry passito.
The name was coined in 1936 in the Cantina Sociale Valpolicella. The foreman Adelino Lucchese found a recioto barrel forgotten in the cellar. He decided to taste its contents and, the fine palate and the exceptional nose, immediately made him understand that he had a ruby-colored liquid gold on his hands. Once tasted Lucchese exclaimed: “This is not an Amaro, it is an Amarone”. An expression that immediately became the symbol and name of this fantastic wine and which was immediately used on the label.
The first label and the first sales document date back to 1938. Amarone was marketed, however, starting from 1953 and immediately achieved great success. The first disciplinary was approved in 1968 and the DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) is recognized for Amarone. Today this wine is increasingly at the center of the attention of enthusiasts, connoisseurs and industry journalists who recognize and appreciate its great distinctive features.
Amarone della Valpolicella VS Recioto della Valpolicella
To explain the characteristics and peculiarities of Amarone it is necessary to understand the differences iwith Recioto. Both wines are obtained using the same dried grapes:
Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and Negrara. The grapes are harvested by hand in September and left to dry naturally in special wooden boxes.
During this step, the water contained in the berries naturally evaporates, letting the sugars concentrate. The grapes dry from September to January when it is time to press them. At this stage the sugar concentrations are at the highest levels and this allows to obtain a more structured wine with an higher alcohol content: perfect wine for special occasions.
The technique just described is called “Appassimento“. This is a particular technique that involves the reduction and / or complete elimination of the water contained in the berries. A method that works in a completely natural way on the dehydration of the grape. The water evaporates and allows the sugars contained in the grape to accumulate throughout the drying period. The grapes are then subjected to over-ripening in order to concentrate sugars, organic acids, mineral salts and perfumes in the berries. From the drying the wines that are produced take the name of “passiti”, as it is for the Amarone, a dry red passito.
However, a perfect wine derives from a perfect blend. Everything starts and part of the cultivation and from the vineyard. Only the best grapes must be selected to give life to Amarone. If the bunch is selected correctly, then the subsequent phases of withering, fermentation and aging are easier.
The difference between Amarone and Recioto is all played out during the fermentation phase. In fact, all the sugary part of the Amarone, concentrated during the drying, is transformed into alcohol. In this way the result is a structured, decisive and tannic wine.
In recioto, on the other hand, the fermentation phase is interrupted in the middle in order to obtain a dessert wine, but always with a very important sugar part.
The mistake that made history!
The birth of Amarone was an oversight. An involuntary mistake, but in the end very welcome. It happened that a cellarman forgot a barrel of Recioto that was fermenting. In this way the wine continued to ferment, turning all the sugar into alcohol. Consequently, Recioto has been transformed into an increasingly dry and increasingly alcoholic wine. As the fermentation progresses, the sugary part decreases, while the alcoholic part increases. When the barrel was found and its contents were tasted, the surprise and discovery were truly sensational. Amarone was born, a wine that would change the fate of the entire Valpolicella!
At first, however, this mistake was considered a very serious mistake, as Recioto was considered more prestigious than Amarone. It took about 80 years for Amarone to be able to make its value understood and to establish itself on the national and international scene as one of the best dry red wines of all time.
Amarone della Valpolicella: pairings and tasting
Amarone is a wine that requires few presentations. Its fame precedes it and has made it unique on the palate of many enthusiasts. It is so unique that it does not always need specific combinations to be best tasted. It is in fact considered a meditation wine, which even alone, gives its best, thanks to the strong flavors and intense aromas it emanates.
To best express your potential, decanting for a few hours is however recommended. In this way the wine gets air and expresses itself at its best during the tasting.
Amarone Forlago is therefore considered an excellent meditation wine, while traditional Amarone goes perfectly with a selection of aged cheeses (Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano and Monte Veronese). Also excellent with red meat dishes (lamb, wild boar, game, veal), while in Verona the Risotto with Amarone and with horse meat is typical.
Here Tommaso’s opinion on the Amarone harvest 2018 (it is in italian):
Work on going in the cellar with the Amarone, it a pity you cannot smell the flavours!
Here are some frequently asked questions about Amarone:
How much does a bottle cost?
The cost of a bottle can vary widely: the vintage, the producer, the selection can increase a lot the price. A good quality bottle can cost from 30 to 50 euros if you buy directly from the producer.
How long have you to open a bottle before to drink?
It is really important to oxygenate this wine: it is an important bottle and we recommend opening it at least two hours before.
Why is it called Amarone?
The name derives from the word “amaro” to distinguish it from the sweet Recioto and to identify its characteristic of dry and structured wine (read above for more details!).
Which one is the best Amarone?
Of course the Forlago selection, so difficult to produce but at the end we get an incredible meditation wine. Obviously in this answer we are biased! 🙂