Amarone della Val Pollicella is one of the most unique examples of Italian red wine.
It’s rich and powerful flavour, combined with it’s higher-than-average alcohol volume, has made it a firm favourite amongst many who want something a little different from their Italian wine. And at Xtrawine, we love Amarone della Val Pollicella that we’ve dedicated multiple articles to it in this very blog.
But we also know that many people haven’t had the privilege of sampling this type of wine for themselves.
So, in this article, we want to give you everything that you need to know about Amarone della Valpollicella. And who knows? You might just find yourself browsing our catalogue to find a bottle of this most unique of Italian red wines.
How Long Has Amarone della Val Pollicella Existed?
For many, Amarone della Val Pollicella seems like a fairly recent wine. While it received DOC status back in 1968, it didn’t receive the coveted DOCG status until 2009, which was a decision that we feel was far overdue.
But Amarone della Val Pollicella is actually a much older wine than people realised.
It is believed that the wine originated from Ancient Rome, with the legend going that it was the result of a neglected barrel of Recioto wine being left alone so long that it over-fermented. The resulting wine offered dry, aromatic, and mellow notes that made it stand out from the wines of the day. It also happened to have a much higher alcohol content, which was preferred at the time. This unexpected joy led to the birth of a new production method and, in the process, resulted in the creation of the earliest examples of Amarone.
Where is Amarone Most Popular?
This is a difficult question to answer as the wine has achieved global popularity.
It’s beloved in its native country. However, the fact remains that six out of every 10 bottles of the wine get imported to other territories. It’s particularly loved in the UK, USA, Canada, and Germany, which combined make up the lion’s share of the wine’s import trade.
What Grapes Are Used in the Wine?
One of the things that makes Amarone so interesting is that it is a blend of several grapes native to the Valpolicella region. And what’s more, the blending guidelines laid out by the DOCG are flexible enough to allow producers to imbue all sorts of unique qualities into their wine.
The wine must contain the following:
- Between 45% and 95% of the Corvinone and Corvina grapes.
- Between 5% and 45% of the Rondinella grape.
- Up to 25% of any other grape native to Valpolicella.
- A maximum of 15% of any grape that isn’t native to the region.
So, we can see that there’s plenty of room for experimentation within the native grape guidelines alone. Some Amarone della Val Pollicella will contain 95% of the Corvinone and Corvina grapes, leaving very little room for other varieties. Others will go for a more even blend and the inclusion of non-native grapes is an optional wildcard that had led to many interesting variations on the typical Amarone della Val Pollicella formula.
How is the Wine Aged?
A typical Amarone della Val Pollicella will spend at least two years ageing in a wood barrel. However, the exact period will depend on the producer. Some are happy to age their wines for up to 10 years to really allow for the fermentation that produces the higher alcohol volume and interesting aromas.
The wine is usually aged in oak barrels, though some producers have been known to use cherry, chestnut, and even acacia barrels. Of course, the type of wood used also imbues different qualities in the wine, once again lending the enormous variety we see in Amarone della Val Pollicella.
What’s All of This I Hear About “Raisin Wine”?
The term “raisin wine” comes from how the grapes for Amarone get treated before they’re used.
With a typical wine, the grapes are pressed soon after they’re picked. But in the case of Amarone della Val Pollicella, the producers use a process called appassimento, which essentially leads to them drying the grapes before doing anything with them.
Typically, the grapes will be dried by 60% before they’re used to make the wine. This allows the concentration of sugars in the grape before the wine begins fermentation, which contributes both the Amarone della Val Pollicella’s high alcohol concentration and its distinct fruity flavours. It’s this process that makes the wine as rich as it is.
Is Amarone a Dessert Wine?
Amarone can be a dessert wine. Its certainly rich and sweet enough to complement most dessert dishes. However, we don’t want you to get the impression that the wine can only complement dessert.
Amarone della Val Pollicella can be equally at home when served alongside a main course, especially if you’re eating red meats with rich sauces. Our recommendation is to experiment with different food pairings rather than limiting yourself to only drinking the wine with sweeter dishes.
So…What Can I Pair With Amarone?
Besides sweet desserts and the red meats we mentioned above, there are many dishes that pair well with Amarone della Val Pollicella.
We’re particularly fond of pairing it with ripe cheeses and dark chocolate. It’s also excellent as a pairing for gamey meat and it’s versatile enough to pair with stews, which come with their own complex mixture of flavours.
An Italian Wine For All Tastes
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this article is that Amarone della Val Pollicella is a wine that is both more historic and more versatile than many realise. While it shuns many of the traditions of Italian red wine production, it does so in an effort to create a tasting experience that’s quite unlike anything else you will find.
And the true joy of the wine is how much it can vary from producer to producer. The ability to add non-native grapes allows producers to create wines that are both representative of their terroir while having a unique kick to them, which makes Amarone della Val Pollicella one of the most enjoyable wines to explore.