Regularly recognised as one of the truly great Italian red wines, Amarone wine is native to the Veneto region and has been popular on both a domestic and international level for many years. This popularity has been expanded with the birth of the digital age as more varieties of Amarone have become available to a wider audience.
It is certainly the most prestigious red wine to be produced in the Veneto region and many would claim that only the likes of Barolo and Chianti can match it in terms of quality and popularity amongst those who love a good bottle of red.
It is made using a number of grapes, including the Corvina, the Rondinella and a variety of other red wine grapes that have been pre-approved by the DOC, with whom it achieved official recognition back in 1990. Since then it has achieved the coveted DOCG label, marking it out as being of a superior quality to many other types of wine. This has been reflected in sales, as the wine regularly sells in the millions every year throughout the globe.
Produced primarily using grapes grown in Veneto’s Valpolicella Hills, Amarone comes from a region that boasts a long and prestigious history in creating great Italian wines. In fact, in addition to being located right next to the gorgeous Lake Garda, the Valpolicella Hills hold a special significance as the word Valpolicella was derived from the Latin ‘Val Polis Cellae’, which in modern day English literally translates to ‘Valley of Many Cellars’.
With such a famous name to live up to it is perhaps no surprise that the region is primarily known for both its wine and its picturesque beauty. In fact, the hills have quickly become a preferred tourist destination for true connoisseurs who want to experience Italian wine making in the more traditional sense. It has also gained a measure of fame amongst the Hollywood Elite, as famed couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were so taken by the hills that they purchased their very own villa in the region so that they could visit it when they saw fit, having originally discovered the hills while on location when filming.
For the more traditional wine tourist though, there is plenty to do in the region. The area plays host to a huge variety of local winemakers who may not have achieved international acclaim but will be more than happy to demonstrate what they do for a living and allow you to sample some of the wines they produce.
There are also a number of larger producers who have more structured tours that can be great fun for somebody who wants to see how wine is produced on a grander scale. A range of itineraries are usually available and many tourists tend to travel from one end of the region to another in an effort to discover more about the homeland of one of the best Italian red wines.
On top of all of that you also get the benefits of being in an area of stunning natural beauty, absorbing a culture that places great importance in the quality of good food and good company. The region is truly stunning, so it is perhaps no surprise that it has produced one of the most stunning red wines ever made in Italy.
Characteristics of Amarone
Now that we know a little bit more about its area of production it is time to focus on the Amarone wine itself, particularly in regards to its characteristics and exactly what it is about the wine that makes it so extremely popular throughout Italy and the rest of the world.
Primarily recognised as a dry red wine, with some saying that it purposefully made with a slightly more bitter taste to distinguish itself from some of the other red wines in the region. In fact, the name Amarone is derived from the Italian word ‘Amaro’, which means bitter. It also has a fairly high alcohol content, with most varieties easily exceeding 15% volume, while the legal minimum limit as per the DOC regulations is 14%.
Each type of Amarone has a taste all of its own, with common notes often being complemented by subtle differences that mark each variety out as a separate vintage. Usually you will detect the bitter taste that it is known for, with a slight hint of raisins in most cases. In many cases producers also give the wine something of a sweeter edge in an effort to complement the main bitterness, though this is not always the case.
Other common notes and aromas include those of tobacco, chocolate, fig and liquorice. These all combine to create the bitter taste the wine is known for and makes Amarone and excellent complement to stronger foods. Many Italians prefer to eat it with game or a particularly strong cheese.
Amarone generally has quite a lengthy production period to ensure that quality reaches the levels that are expected by consumers. Once the grapes are harvested, which usually occurs during the final weeks of September and will often continue through to the beginning of October, they will be dried out in a step that will often last for a number of months.
Once properly dried the grapes will be matured in oak barrels. This is where much of the time spent making the wine comes into play as it will not be released from those barrels for a minimum of five years to allow it to fully mature and develop into the Amarone that customers know and love.
Even following that lengthy production period, many argue that Amarone is worth aging upon purchase to truly get the most out of the wine. Though it can be enjoyed upon purchase with no problem at all, it is not uncommon to find connoisseurs who maintain a vintage for as much as a decade before opening it, marking Amarone out as a wine that can truly be savoured and preserved for those special occasions.