Amarone Wine: A Journey into the Flavors of Enological Emotion

Vino Amarone
Vino Amarone Fratelli Vogadori

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 della Valpolicella VS Recioto della Valpolicella

To explain the characteristics of Amarone it is necessary to first understand its differences with Recioto. Both wines are made using the same grapes: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and Negrara. The best bunches are selected and placed on racks or crates in well-ventilated rooms for about 3-4 months (the rooms are called fruttai). This Appassimento phase allows the grapes to lose about 40 percent of their weight, concentrating sugars, acids and aromas. This natural magic creates a rich and concentrated must, the valuable base for Amarone.

Cassettina in appassimento
Cassettine con l’uva dell’Amarone in appassimento 2020

After raisining, fermentation follows, a longer and more delicate process than in other wines. Fermentation occurs slowly due to the high concentration of sugars, giving the wine its complex structure and robust alcohol profile.

The Fermentation

The difference between Amarone and Recioto is all played out during the fermentation stage. In fact, in Amarone all the sugar part, concentrated during the drying process, is transformed into alcohol. This results in a structured, firm and tannic wine.

In Recioto, on the other hand, the fermentation phase is interrupted in the middle in order to obtain a dessert wine with a lower alcohol part than Amarone and with a very important sugar part.

The Marriage Between Wood and Time: Barrel and Bottle Aging

After fermentation, the Amarone ages in wooden barrels, often oak, for at least two years. This period of rest allows the tannins to soften and the different aromas to integrate harmoniously. Some producers choose to extend this period to obtain even more complex and structured wines.

Barrique Amarone

Next, the Amarone continues its aging in the bottle. This crucial stage allows the wine to further develop its complexity, reaching maturity before reaching the market. It is common to find Amarone aged for at least 5-10 years, but some examples can withstand the passage of time for much longer.

Amarone: eighty years of history concentrated in a glass of wine

Amarone has a relatively recent history: it has been produced in Valpolicella for about eighty years. It has been around for much less time than Recioto della Valpolicella, but it has been a resounding success from the start.

Amarone, Recioto, Amarone Forlago
Amarone, Recioto, Amarone Forlago

The name comes from the word “bitter,” adopted to distinguish it from Recioto della Valpolicella, which is a dessert wine. Amarone was born almost by accident, by mistake you might say. An unintentional mistake occurred during the production of Recioto. Remember that Amarone is produced in the same area as Recioto, with the same grapes and the same production techniques. Despite this, the result is a totally different wine.

Let’s take a look at how it came about!

The name is coined in 1936 in the Cantina Sociale Valpolicella. Cellar master Adelino Lucchese found a forgotten recioto barrel during fermentation. Yeasts had turned all the sugar part into the alcohol part, obtaining an alcoholic and bitter wine. Lucchese once tasted the contents of the cask exclaimed, “This is not a Amaro, it is an Amarone.” An expression that immediately became the symbol and name of this fantastic wine and was immediately used on the label.

At first, however, this was considered a very serious mistake, as Recioto was considered more prestigious than Amarone. It took about 80 years for Amarone to get its value understood and to establish itself on the national and international scene as one of the best red raisin wines of all time.

The first label and sales document date back to 1938. Amarone was marketed, however, starting in 1953 and was immediately a great success. In 1968 the first specification was approved and Amarone was granted DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status. Today this wine is increasingly the focus of attention of wine lovers, connoisseurs and trade journalists who recognize and appreciate its great distinctive characteristics.

Amarone della Valpolicella: pairing and tasting

Amarone e Monte veronese formaggio Dop

Amarone is a wine that lends itself to bold food pairings. Its robust structure and complex flavor profile make it ideal for accompanying rich, flavorful dishes. Red meats, aged cheeses and traditional Italian dishes such as ossobuco find their perfect companion in this wine.

But Amarone does not stop there. Its versatility also extends to pairings with dark chocolate and dried fruit desserts. This wine is truly an eclectic companion for all convivial occasions.

It is also considereda meditation wine thanks to the strong flavors and intense aromas it exudes.

To express its potential to the fullest, however, decanting for a few hours is recommended. In this way the wine gets air and expresses itself at its best during tasting.

We produce two Amarones: the Amarone Grazie is excellent meditation wine, while the traditional Amarone pairs perfectly with a selection of aged cheeses ( Monte Veronese, Grana Padano, and Parmigiano Reggiano). It is also excellent with red meat dishes (lamb, wild boar, game, veal), while in Verona it is typical with Risotto all’Amarone and with horse meat.

Here are some frequently asked questions:

How much does a bottle cost?

The cost of a bottle can vary greatly: the vintage, the producer, the selection can raise the price by a lot. A quality bottle can cost 30 to 50 euros if purchased directly from the winery.

How long before it needs to be opened?

It is really important to oxygenate the wine before tasting: it is an important bottle and we recommend opening it at least two hours beforehand. As soon as it is opened, the wine is closed: by oxygenating it, it opens, discovering aromas and pleasantness.

Why is it called Amarone?

The name comes from the word “bitter” in order to distinguish it from the sweet Recioto and to identify its characteristic as a dry and structured wine (read above for more details!).

What is the best Amarone?

Definitely the Grazie selection, so difficult to produce but in the end we get an incredible meditation wine. Of course we are biased in this answer! 🙂