Amarone della Valpolicella is a blended, dried-grape wine made in a dry style. Amarone represents a unique winemaking tradition in the Veneto region. The wine was awarded D.O.C. status in December 1990.
Amarone is made primarily from Corvina (40% – 70%), Rondinella (20% - 40%), Molinara (5% – 25%) Corvina 40-70%, Rondinella 20-40%, Molinara 5-25% grapes. Rossignola, Negrara Trentina, Barbera and/or Sangiovese (max 15%) and other reds (max 5%) are also allowed. The soils are volcanic tufo (consolidated volcanic ash) throughout most of the Classico zone.
Before the pressing, the grapes are dried on straw mats. The winemaker then vinifies each variety separately before tasting and blending according to vintage characteristics to evoke the estate's style. Then the Amarone must be aged a minimum of 24 months in barriques made from either French or Slovenian oak.
The final result is a very ripe, raisiny, big-bodied wine with very little acid. Alcohol content easily surpasses 15% (the legal minimum is 14%) and the resulting wine is rarely released until five years after the vintage, even though this is not a legal requirement. The labor intensive process poses significant risk for the development of various wine faults. Wet and rainy weather during harvest time can cause the grapes to rot before drying out which then requires winemakers to be diligent in removing rotted bunches or moldy flavors in the wine will be accentuated
Amarone is a remarkably powerful and long-lived wine and has been known to age for upwards of 40 and 50 years if made properly and cellared well. It is traditionally paired with hearty stews (in particular the famous pastissada, a horse-meal stew, a specialty of Verona).
The word Amarone comes from the Italian amaro or "bitter." The first known reference to the wine as "Amarone" dates back to the 1930s (Amarone appears on an invoice for wine sent to a purchaser in Udine in Friuli by the Cantina Sociale della Valpolicella). Before its appearance, Recioto, made similarly to Amarone but in a sweet style, was the top wine of Valpolicella.
The term recioto comes from recia, Venetian dialect for "ear" (orecchia in Italian): the grapes used to make Recioto are taken from the "ears" of the vine, in other words, the top bunches that enjoy the best exposure and become ripe sooner than the others. For Recioto, fermentation is stopped so that much of the sugar remains and a sweet wine is created.
Legend has it that an absent-minded winemaker in Valpolicella neglected his Recioto's fermentation, forgetting to stop it (in the olden days, winemakers stopped fermentation by opening the cellar doors and allowing cool air to enter). When he realized what had happened, fermentation had completed, all of the sugar had been consumed by the yeast, and a dry wine had been created. Thus was born what was called a first called recioto scapa' in Venetian dialect (recioto scappato in Italian): the recioto that "got away." The name Amarone stuck after people who tasted it would say that the wine was "bitter!", "Amaròn!" in Venetian dialect or Amarone in Italian.
Amarone was popularized during Italy's period of industrialization in the 1920s and 30s. Italian tastes began to change and Italian winemaking styles began to emulate the drier style of Bordeaux and Burgundy where vintners had been making dry wines for centuries. Most Italian wine was vinified as sweet wine until that time because the wine was easier to conserve. Count Camillo Cavour in Barolo and Baron Bettino Ricasoli in Chianti (united Italy's first two prime ministers, both winemakers!) were among the first to begin making wines inspired by the dry French style as early as the mid-nineteenth century.
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