Posts tagged ‘molinara’
Few wines produced anywhere in the world have captured wine consumers’ imaginations as has Amarone. Rich and powerful, this is a red wine that is appealing upon release, but offers an entirely different sensation when consumed a decade or more after the vintage.
Amarone is produced in the Valpolicella zone, just north and west of the city of Verona in the Veneto region. In fact, Amarone is a Valpolicella – the full name is Amarone della Valpoicella (if it is produced from grapes grown in the Classico zone, then the word Classico is attached as a suffix).
As it is a Valpolicella, it is made from the same varieties as that wine. There are three major ones: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Most examples of a Valpolicella or Amarone are primarily Corvina and Rondinella, as Molinara has become less and less important in most bottlings. There are other varieties as well, such as Corvinone (a clone of Corvina), Oseleta and Rossignola; regulations also allow for small percentages of Sangiovese to be included in the blend, though this is rare.
What makes an Amarone different from a Valpolicella? Basically it is the production method. Grapes destined for an Amarone are harvested earlier than those for a regular Valpolicella (usually 7-10 days early) and are then put in plastic boxes or on straw or bamboo mats in special temperature controlled rooms to dry. This drying period lasts 3-4 months and during this time, the grapes lose as much as 40% of their natural water content. This causes the grapes to shrivel in size and by the end of the drying period, they look more like raisins than grapes. This process of making Amarone by naturally drying the grapes is known as appassimento.
After that, the grapes are then fermented and then aged in barrels. Here, a winemaker has a choice. Traditionally, producers used only large wooden casks known as botti grandi to age their wines. But over the past two decades, many producers of Amarone, as is the case with several other famous Italian red wines, have opted to age their wines in small oak barrels, usually French barriques.
The difference is striking, as the wines aged in large casks offer more red cherry, dried herb and cedar notes, while the barrique-aged versions tend to display more black fruits along with the vanilla and toasty notes of the small oak barrels. The debate rages on whether the wines aged in small barrels can age as long as the traditionally made wines, but it will take many more years to answer that question. To sample the difference between a Amarone aged in large casks versus one aged in small barrels, try a bottling from Bertani (traditional) and Allegrini (modern); both producers are highly respected.
One of the natural by-products of the appassimento process is that Amarone will have a slightly higher percentage of alcohol; this occurs during the months of drying. Thus look for most Amarones to have 14.5% or 15% alcohol. Naturally, a wine like this needs very rich food, so pair Amarone with game birds, stews or roasts.
While it’s fine to serve these wines young (the 2006 bottlings of Amarone are on the market currently in 2009), you will enjoy your Amarone much more if you age the wine for a few years. This may be difficult for many consumers as a newly released bottlings offers ripe cherry fruit and a light raisiny quality along with an illusion of “sweetness.” This is a dry wine, so the sweet edge comes from the glycerine of the sugars in the dried grapes. This sensation is what gives Amarone such an unusual flavor and makes this such a popular wine.
If you can get by that young flavor sensation, you will find a wine offering greater complexities at 5-7 years of age (or older). The young fruit and sweetness are diminshed and what comes across are dried herbs and fruit with round, elegant tannins. The wine loses its brashness and becomes more finesseful. So at 7-10 years of age, instead of pairing an Amarone with robust foods, try matching it with duck breast or grilled chicken. There are other possibilities of course, but it is striking how different an older Amarone tastes than a newly released version.
Here is a short list of some of the finest producers of Amarone:
- Igino Accordini
- Stefano Accordini
- Ca’ La Bionda
- Corte Sant’Alda
- Dal Forno
- Santa Sofia
- Tenuta Sant’Antonio
- Tenute Galtarossa
- Villa Monteleone
There is also a sweet wine made in the appassimento process produced from the same grapes that is fermented so that some residual sugar remains. This is a recioto (full name Recioto della Valpolicella) and is made by most Amarone producers. This is the traditional wine made for more than 2000 years; in fact it was not until the 1950s that Amarone as we know it today was first produced. Today the dry wines (Amarone) are the norm, while the historically famous sweet recioto is not seen as much currently. This is a shame, as the recioto is absolutely delicious with raspberry and black plum fruit and moderate sweetness. It can be enjoyed on its own or is ideal with a blue cheese (Gorgonzola) or with a raspberry or chocolate dessert (yes, Recioto della Valpolicella is a wonderful wine with chocolate!).
One final note on Amarone. As it is a time consuming and costly process to make the wine, Amarone will be expensive. Look for most bottlings on retail shelves in America to cost between $50 and $80, with a few nearing $100.
Ancient variety of Calabria; black cherry fruit and firm tannins. A few producers, most notably Librandi are working with this grape.
One of Italy’s most widely planted white varieties, this found in several regions, including Tuscany, Lazio, Sicily, Umbria and Basilicata. There are several clones and subvarieties of Malvasia. Generally produces a lighter, high acid white, but it can also be used for sweet wines, as in Malvasia di Lipari in Sicily.
Red subvariety of Malvasia found in Tuscany and Pugila. Generally used in blends for acidity (Salice Salentino in Puglia, e.g.)
White variety of Calabria, used often to produce dessert wines. Notes of pear and honey.
Red variety of Tuscany used in Chianti and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Deep color and good acidity. Almost always used as part of a blend.
Red variety of Trentino. Deep color and moderate tannins. Marzemino wine is mentioned in Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni.
One of the principal red varieties used in the Valpolicella district. Brisk acidity and firm tannins are the key trademarks of the variety.
Red variety found in Sardinia with light color and tannins. Bottled on its own as a stand-alone variety and also used in blends.
The leading red variety of the Abruzzo region – Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – is the best-known example – the variety is also found in Marche and a few other regions. Deep color and plenty of spice – often notes of tobacco.
White variety found in several regions of Italy, perhaps best known in Piemonte for Moscato d’Asti (frizzante) and Asti Spumante (bollicine). Gorgeous aromatics of peach, apricot and honey.Usually fermented with a bit of residual sugar to make a lightly sweet wine. There are also excellent examples of Moscato found in Sicily, most notably in Pantelleria and Noto.
One of the most important subvarieties of Moscao, this is found in Alto Adige, where it is usually fermented dry.
Red subvariety of Moscato found in Alto Adige. Gorgeous aromas of rose petals, raspberry and strawberry. Wines are lightly sweet.
Found in several regions, from Trentino to Sicily (yes, a few producers in sunny Sicily work with this variety!), this has aromatics of pear, peach and apple and is usually made in a lightly sweet style.
The great red variety of Piemonte and one of Italy’s most important red varieties. The only grape used in the production of Barolo and Barbaresco, Nebbiolo has aromas and flavors of currant, red cherry, orange peel and tar. Quite tannic, so most wines made from Nebbiolo age quite well. Also found in the neighboring region of Lombardia, where it is planted in the Valtellina district and known there as Chiavennasca.
Important red variety of Puglia, literally meaning “black bitter.” Principal grape used in Salice Salentino; also bottled on its own. Deep color, big spice and firm tannins.
Red variety that is the lesser component (20%) of the Etna Rosso red of Sicily.
Red variety that is the principal component (80%) of Etna Rosso. Deeper color and more body that Nerello Cappuccio.
Arguably the most important red variety of Sicily, Nero d’Avola has flavors of marascino cherry with deep color, moderate acidity and tannins. Good examples of Nero d’Avola can be made at various levels; the more full-bodied examples offer more spice.
Red variety found in small plantings in the Valpolicella district. Masi is the leading proponent of this variety, which has more tannins than most of the other red varieties used in the production of Amarone.
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