One of the most interesting recent happenings in wine was the out-of-nowhere arrival of Amarone. Suddenly we had a new full-bodied red which could be enjoyed without all the traditional fuss over cellaring and other wine formalities. Anyone with a little extra cash could buy Amarone and feel like a king. (Short on cash? No problem — read on.)
Amarone is produced in the Valpolicella region of Italy (around the Romeo & Juliet city of Verona) and gets its richness from the process of partially drying the grapes. The official and lovely word for this is appassimento. Apparently the Romans came up with the drying idea to satisfy the need for robust wine to partner the food of the day.
Also, they discovered that high alcohol wine travelled well. Italians have always been creative.
Amarone almost overflows with aromas and taste sensations. You can experience summer fruits flavours, woodsy fall feelings, and winter fireside glow all at once.
Not bad, eh?
Amarone is not cheap, but it is one of the best values in fancy rich reds. And its yummy, generous and heartwarming character makes it more likeable than traditional serious, high-priced reds. Something to consider for a holiday treat, or as a gift.
But one of the reasons I like Amarone is for its offspring, called Ripasso. It’s half as good, but sells for a third of the price.
Valpolicella Ripasso is wine that has been enriched by refermenting it on the lees of Amarone. Hence its name — a “repassed” wine. Ripasso is something to consider for hearty winter meals. Or times by a log fire.
Masi 2001 Valpolicella Amarone ‘Costasera’, Italy