Amarone wine is a deliciously rich red wine that originates from Valpolicella, which is in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. Known for having a very strong and powerful flavour and having a high alcohol percentage.
Here is a brief beginner’s guide to Amarone wine; from the history, accidental creation and the taste you can expect from a typical bottle of this wine.
Amarone through the Ages
It is believed that the creation of Amarone wine dates back as far as Ancient Rome. Amarone was the ideal fit for the Roman’s taste for highly alcoholic Italian wine.
The creation of Amarone wine was apparently completely accidental – there was a barrel of Recioto that was left and over-fermented, and when the winemaker recovered the barrel, the dry, aromatic and mellow wine inside was an unexpected triumph. It was in this moment that Amarone wine was born and instantly loved.
Over the first decade in the new millennium, the number of bottles of Amarone produced annually tripled – and production now averages above the 18 million mark. However, Amarone’s traditional role as vino da meditazione (a wine to be sipped when discussing the finer things in life) was questioned. Due to the high sugar levels in Amarone, it is difficult to match with food. Amarone had to find a new place at the table in order to keep up with consumer’s changing lifestyles.
Some producers dug in their heels and remained faithful to the time-honoured ways. Whilst others went to the drawing board and rediscovered long-forgotten grape varieties, investigated using different sized barrels in the fermentation process, the wood types used – all of this in aid of reshaping the wine’s identity for the consumer.
The major upshot of these activities has meant that Amarone wine today has a surprisingly wide range of aromas and flavours. Three styles currently dominate production.
- Smaller batches of the finest fruit are fermented separately and are often given extra wood ageing; this premium version is capable of lasting for up to 20 years or more in bottle.
- A simpler version, usually with less wood ageing showcases Amarone wine’s friendlier style. Many connoisseurs believe that Amarone is best drunk before its 10th birthday, when the wine is still all about softness, roundness and harmony.
- Finally there is the more modernist interpretation; this style of Amarone embraces a much more concentrated, longer-lived and less oxidative style of wine.
Amarone wine is considered to be a premium product, and so there are only a few permitted grape varieties that can be used in production. The main grapes being Corvinone, Corvina and Rondinella – plus some lesser known grapes.
Corvina grapes determine the aromas and flavours of Amarone, with some emphasis on Corvinone grapes as well. The elegance and perfume of Amarone comes from the beautiful Corvina grapes, whilst the deep colour and tobacco-esk aromas come from Corvinone.
To ferment properly, Amarone wine is kept in wooden barrels for a minimum of two years; though they can remain there for up to nine or ten years in rare instances. The barrels used can vary from French and Slavonian oak to chestnut, cherry and even acacia.
Newer barrels that are smaller in size are usually made from oak – these are commonly used and have a distinct effect on the texture and aroma.