Tannin: Medium to high
Acidity: Medium to high
Age: Amarone is usually released 5 years after the vintage when it is ready to drink. Good examples can easily last another 10 years.
Other: Amarone is very high in alcohol, ranging from 14% to 17%.
Corvina (kor-VEE-nuh) is a very good quality grape from Italy’s Veneto region and is the main variety, along with Rondinella and Molinara, in the production of Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. The vast majority are made in the standard way, where the grapes are harvested and go through the normal fermentation and maturation process. These wines are light and fruity, and ideal for everyday drinking – see Corvina (Standard) in the Fruity style.
However, within the Valpolicella DOC a small quantity of wonderful wines, much bigger and more powerful, are made when the best grapes of the harvest are kept and semi-dried (or raisined) for a period of up to 4 months. This process, where the grapes were traditionally laid out on straw mats or today on wooden racks in drying rooms, greatly concentrates their sugars and flavors. After the drying period the grapes are pressed and fermented.
If fermentation is stopped early the wine will retain residual sugar and therefore be sweet. These sweet versions called Recioto della Valpolicella are Dessert wines and have succulent fruit flavors of stewed cherries combined with spices and licorice.
When fermentation is allowed to continue until all the sugar is converted to alcohol the resulting wines will be dry and are called Amarone della Valpolicella. The word Amaro means “bitter” and traditionally these wines lived up to their name but are more approachable today. Nonetheless, these are big, brooding, powerful wines with complex aromas of dark fruits, leather, tobacco and wood smoke, followed by flavors of black cherry, plums, damsons, chocolate and a bitter almond finish. They are some of the super stars of Italian wine today and are often placed on the same level as Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino – see Nebbiolo (Barolo) and Sangiovese (Classic) in the Powerful style.
Another wine which is derived from a by-product of the production of Amarone is Ripasso della Valpolicella. To make Ripasso wine standard Valpolicella is ‘re-passed’ over the lees (dead yeast cells and grape pulp left after fermentation) of Amarone resulting in a second fermentation, which adds complexity and richness. These full bodied wines are Smooth in style and not as big or intense as Amarone. Ripasso wines are often referred to as Valpolicella Superiore.
All of the above wines are made in accordance with Valpolicella DOC regulations, which require Corvina to make up 40% – 70% of the blend. For more on the production techniques see “Passito” in the glossary section.
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