Amarone della Valpolicella

What is Amarone?

Amarone della Valpolicella, or Amarone for short, is created in the Venitian region of Italy. Originally there was only one legal region, or DOC, for the Valpolicella name. These wines are made with the Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Two sub-groups emerged, though - recioto, which is a sweet dessert wine, and amarone, which is a dry red wine with great body.

Both of these wines are made with grapes that have been dried on racks, bringing out their flavors. In 1991 these two were granted their own DOCs. The land area encompassed by these three DOCs is the same, but the types of wine are quite different.

Amarone is the fourth biggest seller in Italy, behind Chianti, Asti, and Soave. This fine wine has flavors of licorice, tobacco and fig, and goes well with game and ripe cheese. Hannibal of Silence of the Lambs fame , of course, had his with fava beans. While some styles can be very bitter (that's where the name comes from), new styles are more fruity.

Amarone can be drunk young, while still a ruby purple, but they also age magnificently to a dark garnet for thirty years or more. A typical drinking age is 10 years. Amarone should be served around 60 F.

What are some good Amarone?

Here are some tasty, reasonably priced amarones I've had over the past few months.

1994 Capitel de Roari Amarone della Valpolicella
We opened this bottle over a meal of angel hair pasta with basil sauce. The color was interesting, a deep raspberry. The aroma was delicious, of tobacco and fig and other fruits. Then the taste! Again, tobacco, complex, with perhaps carmel or butterscotch or something in there. Long finish. Quite a treat.

1990 Villa Girardi Amarone dell Valpolicella
At 14.5% alcohol, this dried-grape-wine is a dark garnet color and a rich, fruity flavor - plum is strong. This one's slight bite of tannin is smoothed by the other fruits in its flavor.

1990 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
We tasted this at the Nantucket Wine Festival. Very smooth feel, full, with berry flavors - raspberry, blackberry. Quite smooth tannins too. Long, delicious finish.

Images courtesy of Riedel

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