February is the month of love, and there is no other wine that signifies love quite like Amarone. Wines from Valpolicella are about romance, history, and culture. It is home to the most romantic love story ever told, Romeo and Juliet. Amarone Della Valpolicella is a special wine, made with heart and soul.
Last year I had the opportunity to travel to the glorious city of Verona for the Valpolicella Education Program and Anteprima Amarone. It was an opportunity to explore and immerse myself in some of the world’s most delicious wines. I had the opportunity to taste 54 Amarones from the glorious 2016 vintage at Anteprima Amarone. You will further hear the passion in my voice for Valpolicella wines, as I am officially the Ambassador for Valpolicella Wines.
Verona For Lovers
At the base of Valpolicella lies the city of Verona, known throughout the world for its two famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Set at the foot of the Lessini Mountains on the River Adige, Verona is a fairytale setting with cobblestone streets, ancient ruins, and historic castles – making Verona a magical city for lovers. During opera season, performances take place in its historic and majestic Roman amphitheater right in the center of town.
The city of Verona unites the love of Romeo & Juliet with its deeply entrenched wine culture. Verona is at the forefront of Italy’s wine scene, so much so, that two major wine events are held in Verona; Vinitaly and Anteprima Amarone.
Amarone wine is produced in the hills and valleys of Valpolicella. A rich and beautiful region, the name Valpolicella has Greek and Latin origins meaning “valley of many cellars”. The breathtaking landscape is hilly with soft slopes covered with vineyards, olive trees, and cherry trees. Three distinct valleys run north to south in the Classico area, Negrar, Marano, and Fumane, each with unique panoramas, altitudes, soils, microclimates, and exposure. Grapes are grown on a variety of altitudes, with parcels of land that are on hills, valleys, and plains. This variation delivers a variety of styles that are unique and mesmerizing on the palate.
There are four distinct styles of Valpolicella wines(Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG, and Recioto Della Valpolicella DOCG). Each style offers its own personality and uniqueness. It is a region entirely dedicated to producing only the finest red wines from Italy.
The wines of Valpolicella are the pride of Italy and Amarone stands out amongst the best wines of Valpolicella. At the top of the pyramid is Amarone Della Valpolicella, the most celebrated wine of the region. Amarone is a blend of local indigenous grapes varieties; Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, and Molinara.
History & The Making Of Amarone Della Valpolicella
To understand Amarone, one must understand a little bit of the history and its’ relationship to Recioto. Recioto is a hedonistically sweet dessert wine, made from grapes that are dried on mats. This drying process concentrates the flavors. The resulting wines are decadent, rich, and sweet.
Amarone stems from an evolution of Recioto. The first Amarone was produced in 1938 but its origins date back 2000 years. Before the Romans, the Greek’s first made wines in Valpolicella. The Greeks and the Romans liked their wines sweet and powerful and so developed the appassimento style of winemaking and Recioto was made.
Then later in the 5th century it took on the name Acinatico and over time Acinatico became Recioto. Legend has it that Amarone was produced accidentally by a winemaker that had forgotten a barrel of Recioto. Unknowingly, the wine was left to ferment much longer than actually intended. This lead to the formation and discovery of a strong and dry wine, Amarone. Thus a King was born.
Amarone is ‘The King of Valpolicella’. The wines are deliciously concentrated, seductive, and velvety in texture. With a unique process of winemaking, Amarone is made from grapes that have been dried for 100-120 days. The drying process increases the fruit and sugar of the grapes. The wines are aged 2-4 years in oak barrels and develop notes of dry fruits, cherry cola, tobacco, and spice. These magical wines are full-bodied, intense, and concentrated. Amarone is a highly unique wine that requires indigenous grapes, intense artisan labor, and longevity to produce.
Six Amarone Della Valpolicella Wines To Try Now
The Buglioni Winery is located in Sant’Ambrogio with vines in the Classico zone of Valpolicella with vineyards that are 150 meters above sea level. Il Lussurioso means lustful, displaying a lighthearted nature to their wine production. The color displays a deep and intense ruby hue with aromas of cherries, eucalyptus, and cocoa. It is a beautifully supple wine with nice acidity and great minerality.
The Pasqua family is well-known in Verona. They founded the winery in 1925 and are now in the third generation with Alessandro and Riccardo at the helm. The winery is in Valpantena, located in the valley just east of Verona. This is a deeply colored wine, with a garnet rim. There are intense aromas of black cherries, plum, and dried flowers. This velvety wine has great acidity and minerality with lots of fruit and spice.
Domìni Veneti spreads the concept of wine as culture, art, and history, starting from its solid connection with the territory. Domini Veneti Amarone is from the Negrar area of Valpolicella, which is the birthplace of Amarone. Their vineyards span in altitude from 150-400 meters above sea level. Fragrant aromas of black cherries, plum, and vanilla fill the glass. The palate has a nice texture with notes of plum, vanilla, chocolate, and spice. This Amarone is well-structured with elegance and balance.
Nestled in the valley of Mezzane since 1883, Massimago has a solid history in the Valpolicella region. Massimago is a term derived from Latin “Maximum Agium”, meaning maximum wellness. This corresponds to the winery’s visual of bringing wellness and health to their clients through their wine relais. The Massimago Amarone has earthy aromas with a bouquet of fruit and tobacco. It is expressive on the palate with savory notes and hints of raisins, dark cherries, tobacco, and mint. A rich full-bodied wine with a complex structure.
For over a century, Sartori is a leading name in fine wines from the Veneto region. I had the opportunity to dine with Andrea Sartori on my last visit to Valpolicella. Andrea is charming and dynamic. He is the great-grandson of Pietro Sartori, who founded the Sartori di Verona winery in 1898. In the glass, Corte Bra exudes notes of violets, pepper, and black cherries. This Amarone is well balanced and graceful with notes of plum, cherries, and cinnamon on the palate. Sartori Corte Bra is a quintessential Amarone with lovely minerality and freshness.
Marco Speri is the fifth generation of one of the most important winemaking families in Valpolicella. His father, Benedetto, perfected some of the first Amarones. In 2008, Marco created his own brand, Secondo Marco, to make wines according to his own vision. On the palate, there are appealing notes of black cherries, currant, spice, herbs, and a touch of smokiness. The tannins are firm and the acidity is bright. With 10 years of age, this wine is a prime example of how beautifully an Amarone can age.
The Valpolicella Annual Conference 2021
This year due to the current international situation, the 2021 edition of Anteprima Amarone has been postponed to 2022. This led to a new format in which there will be the first totally digital and live event organized by the wine appellation, The Valpolicella Annual Conference will be held on February 26th and 27th 2021. I am thrilled to be attending this year and will report back on the wines, the 2017 vintage, their sustainability initiatives, and more.