Over the years, the Italian wine industry has produced some of the most amazing red wines that the world has ever seen. We have the classics, such as Barolo and Chianti, which have been recognised for centuries for their immense quality. Then you have other great reds, including the great Super Tuscans, such as Tignanello. The fact is that the Italian wine industry offers all of the choice that you could need when it comes to red wine.
So this week we’re going to shine a spotlight on another famous type of red. Amarone has developed its reputation a little slower than some of the behemoths of the industry, but those in the know recognise it as one of the smoothest and most complex examples of Italian red wine.
This is all despite the fact that the wine is less than a hundred years old. Compared to some of its more famous counterparts, this makes it practically a baby. Of course, it also makes it all the more impressive that Amarone has been able to develop such a stellar reputation in such a short space of time.
That brings us to today’s article. We’re going to look at what Amarone is, its history, and offer up some titbits that we’re sure you’re going to find interesting.
So before we get into the history of this amazing red wine, let’s take a look at what it is.
Amarone has become one of the signature wines of the Valpolicello area, which is part of the famous Veneto region that encompasses much of the northeast of Italy, for many years.
Wines from this region typically have a high alcohol content, in addition to being flavourful and extremely complex. They’re also often dry and full-bodied, which makes them difficult for beginners to really penetrate.
You could say the same of Amarone. It has the high alcohol content, typically falling between the 15 and 16% ranges, and the massive bouquet of flavours. However, it also has a smoothness that many other wines from the same region lack.
Another interesting point about Amarone is that it is not a wine that you should drink while it’s young. Like many great Italian red wines, it benefits from a little ageing. Some say that you should leave the wine in the bottle for at least 10 years before you open it up for the first taste.
So where did Amarone come from? Let’s now take a look at the interesting, though rather short, history of this great Italian wine.
The History of Amarone
It all started in 1938. That’s not a year that you’ll associate with a lot of the classic Italian red wines. Most had their starts centuries before, but Amarone has always been a little different. 1938 was the year in which the first bottle of Amarone was produced. However, many don’t see it as the true starting point for the wine. That’s because the first bottles to be actively sold didn’t come to be until 1953.
At a glance, this makes Amarone one of the shortest tenured Italian red wines. But, as with all great stories, there’s a little more to it than that.
To understand Amarone, you must look at the history of the Recioto, which is where the wine originally came from.
The Recioto is a much more ancient type of wine, with documents dating it back to the Roman era at least, Made using the Retico grape, it is believed that the wine was being consumed from the 2nd century BC, and far into the later centuries.
Originally, the wine bore the name of its grape – Retico. However, at some point during the 5th century AD, the wine underwent a name change to Acinatico. We know this because of Flavio Cassiodore, who served as a consultant to the great king Theodoric.
The name didn’t stick, as the wine eventually became Recioto. We don’t know exactly when this happened, and some would say that this doesn’t establish a link between Amarone and Recioto. However, there’s the persistent rumour to keep in mind.
Some will tell you that the genesis of Amarone lies in a forgotten barrel of Recioto. Left aside, the wine in the barrel fermented for much longer than had been intended, which led to the creation of a much stronger and dryer wine than normal.
This wine was certainly not a Recioto. In fact, it was something very different. Many will tell you that this “over-aged” wine is what eventually became Amarone.
Unfortunately, the history books are a little muddier than we would like. It’s impossible to tell if this rumour is true, and we aren’t helped by the fact that what we do know about the origins of Amarone neither confirms, no denies, this legend. Still, it’s interesting to think that Amarone may have just as decorated and prestigious a history as the other great Italian red wines.
A Few Fun Facts
We thought we’d round off today’s article with a few other fun facts about Amarone that you may not know.
- Amarone is one of the most stringently governed of the DOCG wines. Not only do producers have to use certain types of grapes, which they must be able to track to their origins, but they also can’t choose when they harvest. Instead, the DOCG provides the producers with a harvesting date. Any that jump the gun may not use the DOCG label on their bottles.
- The leftover seeds and skins from the Amarone fermentation process do not go to waste. Instead, producers use them in the creation of Ripasso della Valpolicella. A fuller version of the famed Valpolicella wine, this wine has some of the features of an Amarone, while still very much being a Valpolicella.
- Many producers blend their traditional Amarone grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon, with the DOCG allowing up to 15% of the latter grape. There’s a purpose for this. Producers want to make the less penetrable Amarone more palatable for the general public, with the introduction of a more familiar grape being seen as the way to do it.