Amarone della Valpolicella hits the G-spot

POSTED ON 09/02/2010

If you know your Italian wines (but don’t worry if you don’t: a recent survey found that even 70% had no idea where amarone was from), you'll know that amarone is the third and perhaps least well-known of Italy’s triumvirate of great reds: Chianti Classico/ Supertuscan and Barolo / Barbaresco being the other two.

Looking towards the Valpol hills from VeronaLooking towards the Valpol hills from Verona

Anyone who's ever had a good amarone, or knows of its reputation, might be surprised to learn that it has only just been accorded DOCG status. DOCG, the controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin, is the highest accolade of Italian wine within the country's labyrinthine legislation, and while chianti classico and barolo have had it for some time, the honour has only just been accorded to amarone, basically because of political infighting delaying the granting of such elevated status.

This it was that on Saturday 30 January a panel of the consorzio, meeting in Salone Margherita Ente Fiere Verona to announce the tasting of 66 wines from the 2006 vintage of amarone, declared with some pride that 2009 will be remembered for two important events: the designation of the docg status for amarone and the award of ‘Best Italian wine producing region for 2009’ by the American magazine ‘Wine Enthusiast’.

In the vineyardsIn the vineyards

For the statistically minded, there are 6,237 hectares of vines planted in Valpolicella and 1,637 vineyards producing grapes for amarone, with 395 air-drying sheds.
The economics speak for themselves. The price of grapes was 1.95 a kilo a decade ago and 1.6 euros a kilo in 2009. The number of bottles sold a decade ago was 2.3 million and 8.78 million last year.

With production quadrupling in a decade while but the cost of the supply of grapes remained static, amarone producers have cashed in big-time. So it’s significant that the region has taken the unusual step of cutting the quantity of grapes normally set aside for the production of amarone by 30%. The aim is to safeguard the risk of overproduction and a collapse in the market for this popular wine.

Dehydration: know the feelingDehydration: know the feeling

2006, only just being released now because of the ageing requirements, was a very good vintage. Despite heavy rains at the beginning of June and then again in August, late June and July experienced a heat wave. Sun, dry weather and breezes in the late-ripening stages of September and October were just what the doctor ordered, helping to create concentrated wines (from 236,000 tonnes of grapes) full of ripe, rich fruit and freshness. Pressing of the air-fried grapes began on 15 December and continued until the end of January. Recioto grapes were kept until February.

Is amarone a wine of meditation or a food wine? Traditionally with its high strength and concentration and slightly bitter fresh twist on the finish, it's been a wine of thought and conversation - a wine producers identify with in particular as a wine of feeling. It was also less consistent than it is today often with a degree of oxidation thanks to lack of care in the drying process.

Is it a food wine? Is the Pope a Catholic?Is it a food wine? Is the Pope a Catholic?

But with the pressure on amarone producers to get their act together today, it has been given a kick up the posterior thanks to investment in improving technology such as purpose built air-drying facilities and better oak. The result is it’s become better adapted as a wine to go with food, assisted by the general trend to richer, full-bodied, powerful reds. Of course traditional and modern styles will always have their supporters and opponents. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the fruit that counts and the good news is that a growing number of amarone producers are making a good fist of improving their raw material.

left hung out to dry: John Salvi MW models the latest in amarone wearleft hung out to dry: John Salvi MW models the latest in amarone wear

Amarone 2006 Tasting Verona 30th January 2010

These notes and scores are provisional as some of the wines are as yet unfinished and not yet in bottle. The tasting was of the 66 wines in the consorzio. A number of the best-known producers such as Allegrini, Masi, Serego Alighieri, Dal Forno, Bussola, Viviani and Quintarelli didn’t participate in the tasting. Wines ranged from 14.5% to 17% alcohol. I have tried to include alcohol levels and full names where possible but the information supplied was incomplete.

The tasting: it's dark in hereThe tasting: it's dark in here

1. Accordini Igino Le Bessole. 15%.

Dense youthful ruby, good fresh vibrant floral aromas; very attractive, vivid juicy dark berry fruit quality, intense, rich, ripe blackberry flavours, lovely supple tannins and vibrant acidity; beautifully done, with fine, dry tannic backbone perhaps more ripasso than amarone but an amarone version of dolcetto, if that's possible. 91

2. Aldegheri.

Deep colour, quite oaky slightly subdued aromas, soft, supple tannins, pleasant enough red fruits, a slight bitter twist to it, lacks some depth of fruit and flavour, but fair. 87

3. Aldrighetti

Deepish colour,slightly 'sicky', lactic nose, not very pleasant, simple cherryish fruit, quite supple and juicy but a tad hollow and lacking in fruit and weight, and so rather overpowered by alcohol. 85

4. Bixio Produttori, Amarone Bixio.

Good colour, sweetish blackcurranty aromas, quite attractively supple and juicy blackcurrant fruit shaded by oak, overall nicely balanced with good fresh acidity, and very approachable, if lacking that extra dimension of fruit. 88

5. Boscaini Carlo, San Giorgio.

Deepish youthful dark colour, good fresh mulberry-like aromatic quality, very nice ripe mulberry fruit quality, full-flavoured with nicely applied oak, juicy fresh acidity and no particular alcohol feel to it, drying finish ; overall nicely balanced. 89+

6. Buglioni.

Quite strong smoky oak aromas, very much a modern style, approachably sweetly ripe fruit tinged with smoky oak, nice succulent tannins and juiciness, good fresh acidity, firm tannins, almost an amarone-meets-Rioja. 89+

7. F.Lli Fabiano, Nicola Fabiano. 14.5%

Good colour, sweetish mulberry dark aromas, attractive dark berry fruitiness, nice supple tannins, good fresh twist of acidity and well-crafted sub-threshhold oak and dry, slightly astringent finish; powerful, yes, but nicely balanced overall with good structure for ageing. 90

8. Gnirega, Pietro Clementi. 16%.

Mid-ruby, rather obvious vanill oak on the nose subduing the fruitiness which comes across as strawberry jam-like and slightly hot; ditto strawberry jam sweetness on the palate with rather obvious oak an drying tannins; quite commercial / international in style. 87

9. Guerrieri-Rizzardi, Calcarole.

Deepish dark colour, good dark fruits aromatic quality, quite sweet on the palate, not quite recioto sweet but rather distractingly sweet for my palate, with quite firm tannins, but the balance is rather sweet and sour with a fair whack of vanilla oak. 88

10.I Scriani.

Deep colour, showing quite brownish oak and / or evolution at the rim, quite good spicy / smoky oak and mulberry fruit quality, attractively juicy and approachable ripe dark berry / mulberry fruit quality with nice supple , although present, tannins and lively balancing acidity, overall well-crafted approachable style, if lacking an extra dimension of complexity. 89

11. Latium.

Dark colour, quite oaky on the nose, with some spicy red fruits characters; good rich red fruits concentration on the palate, nice succulent tannins and balancing acidity, an attractive, modern, drinkable style that's almost ready now but with deceptive backbone suggesting that it and should continue to evolve nicely for 5 years or so. 90

12 Le Marognole.

Deep colour, quite floral, sweet and spicy aromatic quality; a tad baked; good ripe red fruits intensity and spiciness, succulent tannins and fresh red fruits on the palate framed by lively acidity and finishing with good backbone a nice sophisticated dryness and none of the obvious oak seen in the more obvious international styles. 92

13. Manara. 15%.

Mid ruby garnet, slight;ly subdued nose, quite dry and dark chocolatey fruit, dark berry fruits, some attractive richness there, very supple tannins and nice dryness on the finish, good overall balance, just lacking a touch of vibrancy here, but quite satisfying overall. 88

14. Marchesi Fumanelli.

Good vivid youthful colour, quite strong, pungent even new oak aromas, almost New World malbec in style; nice stylish oak veneer over good vibrant cranberry and mulberry fruitiness that's very supple and juicy with very nice fresh acidity; a good modern approachable style with a twist of dry tannins on the finish a nod to the traditionalists. 90

15. Monte Zovo. 17%.

Quite evolved almost garnet in colour, smoky berry fruits on the nose, quite sweet and rich dark fruits, very powerful fruit in the monster Zin mode with rather rasping tannins and an alcohol burn of which California Zin enthusiasts would be proud. 87

16. Monteci. 16.5%.

Deep colour, quite spicily oaked on the nose, interesting, quite complex; sweet cinnamon notes; quite concentrated dark fruits marked by highish acidity and supple tannins; but fruit rather dominated by the alcohol burn on the finish, which dominates. 88

17. Nicolas Angelo e Figli.

Good dense, vivid ruby colour, vibrant fresh dark berry fruit aromatic quality; very invitingly sensual; lively vivid red berry / mulberry fruit quality, very fresh and juicy, lovely succulent tannins and juicy freshness; I really like the texture and balance on this amarone, enhanced as it is by a stylish touch of spicy oak with the backbone to age; overall classy modern style. 92

18. San Rustico. 15.5%.

Apt name I think; quite a traditional aromatic character, some spice and slightly baked aromas; sweet fruit on the palate, some nice richness, dark fruits, better than on then nose, quite traditional in style, nicely succulent with no obvious oak, good acidity and rather nice dry tannins that demand food, possibly mature cheese. 88

19. Sartori. 14.5%.

Unusual nose, lightly spicy red berry fruits freshness, with a savoury note attached; slightly farmyardy and rustic; sweetish fruit on the palate, rather simple and hollow, perfectly drinkable and relatively approachable, if lacking somewhat in depth. 86

20. Terre di Leone.

Lots of smoky vanillin oak on the nose, attractively ripe cherryish fruit quality, nicely textured and succulent, finishing quite dry and with a powerful alcoholic kick. 88

21. Tezza. 16.5%.

Good colour,spicy oak but allied to a strong radio malt and baked, rice pudding aroma, powerful, spicy, scented dark fruits quality, with lots of sweet dark berry fruits and equally plenty of firm, chunky tannins and hefty alcohol, resulting in a traditional style that's both sweet and dry but also powerful. More vino da meditazione than wine to drink with food. 88+

22. Velentina Cubi. Morar.

Lightly spicy aromatic character, quite nicely fresh and juicy style, touches of dark chocflate and dry tannins behind some quite attractive fruit framed by chunky dry tannins; and a rather chewy texture. 88

23. Vigneti Villabella. 15%.

Dark colour, good vivid nose, very nice richness and concentration of dark berry fruit flavours framed by quite firm, dryish tannins and good lively balancing acidity, with underyling dark chocolatey notes, all providing a satisfying richness of flavour and silky texture in a beautifully balanced framework that should age well for a good five years plus. 92+

24. Zenato.

Dark colour, aromatic, well-crafted sweet dark fruits with quite firm, chunky tannins and dry aftertaste, powerful. 88

25. Accordini Stefano. 16%

Deep colour, dried dark fruits, good rich dark fruits flavours, quite traditional in style, nicely rounded and supple with no evident new oak characters; powerful but with good acidity and freshness; and finishing deceptively dry and chunky. 90+

26. Albino Armani. 14.5%.

Bright red fruits characters, very fresh, vivid, approachable and juicy red fruits flavours, relatively light and moderate in alcohol, with a nice balancing acidity and suppleness, makes this a good food wine style. 88

27. Antolini Pierpaolo e Stefano, Moropio. 16.5%.

Good colour, sweet and spicy red fruits aromatic quality, a tad baked perhaps but good ripe, opulent dark red berry fruits quality, nicely succulent and approachable despite its evident power; with the tannins and acidity bringing backbone and firmness to the finish; well-crafted, powerful and classic. 90+

28. Arduini Luciano. 15.5%.

Good deep youthful colour, very nice vivid, ripe rich mulberry and loganberry fruit quality, vibrant juicy fruity and fresh, this is a beautifully balanced amarone that has power and richness of red berry fruits, a subtle spicy underlayer of oak, and a lovely vivid juicy fruit quality with good backbone; modern yes, but none the worse for that. 94

29. Benedetti Soc Agr. Corte Antica. 16%.

Dark colour, fine red berry fruit freshness, good richly concentrated and opulent dark berry fruits, framed by supple lightly spicy oak, with a very attractive, vivid red berry fruits character and fine overall balance of dark red fruits flavours and textured ripeness; nicely balanced and finishing dry and firm with the potential to age well. 90+

30 Bolla. 15.5%.

Quite attractive juicy fruit quality, commercial style, pleasant enough with supple tannins and good acidity if comparatively light and lacking in depth, but elegant. 88

31. Ca' La Bionda. 16%.

Sweet dark and spicy aromatic, with some herbal undertones, good rich dark kirsch-cherry-sweet fruit tinged with spice, very nicely concentrated, ripe and spicy that's powerful but has the richness of fruit to carry the alcohol; very well-crafted and intense, lovely juicy ripe tannins, firm backbone of chunky, muscular tannins and fresh acidity. 91

32. Ca'Rugate. 14.5%.

Deep colour, vivid aromatic red fruits quality, nicely juicy and fresh, very approachably juicy sweet brambly fruit quality with just enough dry tannic grip to make this an interesting food wine. 89

33. Cantina di Soave. Rocca Sveva. 14.5%.

Deep colour, well-made, good dark cherry fruit richness, nice touch of spicy oak, quite firm tannins, almost chunky, but well-made. 89

34. Cantina Sociale della Valpantena. Torre del Falasco. 15%.

Good colour, well-crafted, quite firm and extracted dry red berry fruits, liquorice spicy with good concentration and nice sweet fruit quality tempered by redcurranty fruit acidity and juicy tannins, overall very well-balanced and rather seductive. 89

35. Cantina Valpolicella Negrar. Domini Veneti. 15.5%.

Deep saturated colour, cooked rice pudding oxidation, hefty and baked, rather chunky and dry, sacrificing freshness for a traditional, chunky, extracted style that needs something robust, an aged cheese, or wild boar, to tame it. 86

36. Castellani Michele e Figli. Campo Casalin i Castei. 15.5%.

Deep colour, smoky oaky and baked, quite clumsy and rustic with very chunky tannins. 85.

37. Bertani Villa Arvedi. 15%.

Pleasant, sweetish red fruits, decent, quite powerfully alcoholic, nice raspberry jam-like fruit, albeit lacking vibrancy. 86

38. Cesari. 14.5%.

Deep colour, good vivid red berry fruits quality, quite dry and chunky on the finish, a tad hollow in the middle; with firm chunky dry tannins on the finish and a twist of astringency. 87

39. Corte Campagnola. Gli Archi. 16%.

Good colour, very ripe, sweet spicy aromas, powerful sweet red berry fruits richness, firm tannins, twist of astringency; quite sweet and jammy overall with a chunky tannic backbone. 89

40. Corte Sant' Alda. 15.5%.

Deep dark youthful colour, spicy and aromatic, good dense vivid dark fruits quality, quite firm and extracted dry tannins, powerful dark fruits; intense fruit quality, chunky dry tannins on the finish; just lacks a bit of charm for me. 89+

41. Dal Bosco Giulietta. 16.5%.

Distinctive aromatic quality, almost herbal and grassy, as if there were some cabernet franc, tempering the richness; good vivid and distinctive fruit character, red fruits moderated by a herbal undertone, nice supple tannins and good fresh acidity behind a powerfully structured wine. 91+

42. F.Lli Farina. 15%.

Odd nose, rather blunt , decent fruit quality, pleasantly commercial ,albeit a tad simple. 86

43. Tedeschi. 16%.

Good colour, savoury fresh red berry aromas, quite firm, extracted fruit character with fresh acidity and twist of astringency; quite hard work at this stage but may mellow. Needs food for sure. 88

44. Fraccaroli Domenico. 15.5%.

New oak and red berry jam on the nose, botrytis? relatively light red berry fruit, slight donut in the middle and lacking in fruit, chunky finish. 86

45. Gamba. Campedel. 15.5%.

Deep dense colour, good intense fresh dark berry fruit aromas, quite oaky with vivid rich and concentrated dark berry fruits, loganberry and blackberry, fine supple tannins and fresh acidity in a modern, nicely oaked, well-crafted framework of fine tannins and fresh balancing acidity, very well made and balanced with fine backbone for ageing. 91+

46. Giuseppe Campagnola, Vigneti Vallata di Marano. 15%.

Deep colour, quite richly concentrated dark berry fruits flavours framed by good fresh acidity and fine supple tannins, very well crafted and juicy almost approachable fruit quality with slight twist of fresh astringency on the finish. 91+

47. Le Tobele.

Slightly smoky aromas, extracted and quite astringent fruit quality, too bitter and chunky for its own good. 85

48. Monte Dall'Ora. 15.5%.

Baked, desiccated coconutty aromas, rather sweet jammy baked red fruits quality, chunky tannins. 85

49. Monte del Fra' Lena di Mezzo. 15%.

Pleasant approachable fruit of slightly baked and hard and lacking in essential vibrant fruit characters, light and savoury and a tad hollow. 86.

50. Musella Reserva. 16%

Deep colour, sweetly aromatic, good dark fruits quality to the fruit here which is rich but quite extracted, with a firm tannic backbone and good fresh acidity, nicely vibrant and juicy with modern veneer of spicy oak; seductive international style, but also very well crafted and attractively balanced, if a tad chunky and albeit pretty powerful and intense with the backbone for ageing. 89+

51. Novaia, Corte Vaona. 15%.

Deep youthful colour, slightly peppery and spicy, cinnamony with an almost syrah like character on the nose, quite firmly extracted and chunky, needs food badly, very robust and chewy. 87

52. Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine. Terre di Cariano – Cecilia Beretta. 15.5%.

Deep colour, attractive nose, good approachable dark berry fruits quality with fine tannins and a twist of astringency, very well-crafted, a tad anodyne perhaps and even lacking a bit in soul but very drinkably moreish. 90

53. Recchia F.Lli. Ca' Bertoldi. 15.5%.

Good deep colour, aromatic, nicely juicy vivid dark berry fruits quality, nicely framed and rounded out by sub-threshhold oak, good vivid juicy acidity and personality here; a modern, approachable, attractive style although with firm backbone for ageing. 89+

54. Roccolo Grassi. 16.8%.

Deep dense colour, intense dark berry fruit nose, very good intense dark rich concentrated berry fruit flavours with very supple tannins and fine blade of balancing acidity; fine veneer of stylish oak and cleverly made in the modern, international vein; very substantial and concentrated. 91+

55. Rubinelli Vajol. 16%.

Quite jammy and warm, spicy re fruits flavours, quite extracted and dry on the finish with a rather hollow middle albeit some quit attractive peppery fruit, but overall just a tad too jammy for its own good. 86

56. Santi. 16%

Deep colour, nice fresh blackberry fruit quality, juicy and approachable with nice pepper and spicy qualities, well-made, good approachable juicy dark berry fruits, subtle oak and good balancing acidity, slightly chunky dry finish.. 90

57. Speri. 15%.

Dark colour, good juicy and rich blackberry fruit flavours tinged with spiciness, quite firm and demonstrative style with firm tannin and good fresh acidity, overall well balanced and well crafted, quite classic in fact, with a fine firm, dry finish to it. Very well done. 91

58. Tenuta Sant'Antonio. 16%. Camp dei Gigli.

Dense dark colour, good intense black fruits nose, rather hefty, firm and extracted on the palate, very chunky and chewy, hard to love this style with its hefty extraction, but I may be being hard on it given its youth and could well come round. 87?

59. Tenute Galtarossa. 16%.

Mid ruby, rather hollow middle, light on fruit, and astringent on the finish. 85.

60. Tinazzi. 15%.

Good spicy dark fruits nose, smoky bacon, very attractive spicy blackberry fruit flavours, nice supple tannins, good juicy acidity, quite chunky dry black fruits finish. Good. 90

61. Tommasi Viticolotori. 15%.

Quite baked sweet fruits on the nose, nice dark fruits richness, good supple tannins and juicy acidity, nicely rounded out textural quality, a slight refreshing twist of stringency and chunky dry aftertaste. 89

62. Trabucchi.

Deep dense colour, lovely dark loganberry and blackberry fruit quality, very rich and juicy fruit flavours, fine, succulent tannins and fresh acidity, rich but not sweet, firm but not overly tannic, finely balanced and intense with a silky succulence and a firm backbone behind it with an overall beautifully crafted quality to it. 93+

63. Venturini Massimino & Figli. 16%.

Good colour, fine fresh and vivid red fruits quality, lovely succulence and texture with a quite dry finish and twist of astringency, well-done, but still vigorous and youthful with firm dry finish; needs time. 90+

64. Vogadori F. Lli. 16%.

Baked, fruitless, ott, on the way down, unacceptable. 82

65. Zecchini. Calandra. 15%.

Good deep rich colour, attractive fresh dark fruits nose, modern style, good ripe. sweet blackberry fruit tinged with delicate oak spice and supple juicy tannins, overall very nicely balanced and although powerful, has a very nice juicy dry, blackberry fruit lusciousness tempered by fine savoury acidity. 93

66. Zeni F.Lli.

Dark colour, quite sweet and baked, firm and chunky tannins, rather old-fashioned style of baked black fruits, sweet fruit and firm chunky tannins, a wine for the traditional brigade or prune or chocolate lover. 87

Tasting, tasting, tastingTasting, tasting, tasting

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