A panel of journalists from around the world recently met in Verona at the Amarone 2007 Anteprima to taste, evaluate and pronounce opinion on one of the industry’s most prized wines - Amarone. After a three-year period of refining the 2007 Vintage was swirled, sipped and judged as it was unveiled at a variety of Preview events at numerous venues in Verona Fiera - the site for VinItaly.
Addressing the audience of international journalists and special guests, Luca Sartori, President of “Consorzio per la Tutela dei Vini Valpolicella," pointed out that “sensible supply management, the fight against counterfeiting, rigor in the controls, and strong promotional initiatives has brought about an increase of the demand of our wines, in particular the Amarone”. Further, he stated that marketing efforts, which include collaboration with the Consortium of the Prosecco DOC, will witness stepped-up marketing activities for 2011-2013 in countries such as Russia, Norway, United States and Brazil.
The Valpolicella landscape, in the foothills of the province of Verona is mostly hilly with soft slopes that are covered with vineyards cultivated, in the most part, in the ‘pergola’ style. The valleys’ soil made of lime, clay and rock gives way to elevations that extend to an altitude of 600 meters above sea level, imparts unique qualities to the wine.
The ‘classic Valpolicella” production zone encompasses five distinct geographic areas: Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, San Pietro in Cariano, The Furmane Valley, The Marano Valley, and the Negrar Valley.
The Valpolicella D.O.C. area includes the Valpantena (along with the Squaranto and Mezzane valleys), as well as the Illasi and Tramigna valleys situated east of Verona.
Grape varieties include the Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and, to a lesser degree, the Molinara grape. As the area’s most important wine, the Amarone does not limit itself to just one variety. Thus it is that each bottle can display a variety of characteristics, derived from the area, grape variety, and/or technological process. Ultimately, the consumer can look forward to, and choose from, the elegant and highly drinkable Valpantena Amarone; the modern and structured example from the Eastern Valpolicella, and the more complex and aromatic edition from the Valpolicella classica.
Profiled as a wine that can be drunk immediately, but with the potential for long shelf-life, the 2007 Amarone had the earliest harvest in the past 70 years, thanks to a warmer winter season and an extremely dry summer. The sugar values at fermentation were high, similar to those of the extraordinary 2003 vintage.
From a list provided after a blind tasting of 66 wines I was able to determine the producers whose wines most impressed me.
Of note were: Azienda Agricola San Felice; Fratelli Tedeschi; Roccolo Grassi; Agricola Musella; Scriani; Tenuta San Antonio; and Monte Zovo. Honourable mention should also be made of Aldrighetti Luigi, Angelo e Nico; Speri Viticoltori,; as well as Antolini Pier Paolo e Stefano.
Journalists were divided into four groups, with each visiting different wineries. My visits, in no particular order, included:
San Rustico Valgatara
A lunch consisting of a typical regional menu, paired with wines from this producer, was an ideal way to assess the qualities of their products. My favourite was the Gaso Valpolicella Amarone Classico Riserva, made in the traditional way from grapes grown in the Marano area at an altitude of 350 metres. This winery has been family owned and operated since 1870, and it faithfully continues to employ traditional enological methods of Valpolicella Classica from the vine to the bottle. www.sanrustico.it
Since the 1900s, the Farina family has been making wine from grapes grown in the vicinity so as to take advantage of the area’s soil and winemaking traditions. The grapes used in Amarone are painstakingly harvested by hand, placed onto trays and left to dry in old granaries until January (around 120 days). Noteworthy was the Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOC, which displayed a spicy nose laced with cherry and a trace of chocolate. Full-bodied it’s well-balanced and goes well with game, roasted meats, and cheese. The delightful 2009 Recioto Della Valpolicella Classico DOC is made with Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, and was left to rest in the bottle for about one year. www.farinawines.com.
In 1971 Walter Delibori and Giorgio Cristoforetti founded this winery which today is located in Calmasino in the area where Bardolino is produced. Thanks to its terroir, exceptional and fruity wines can be created in this region.
A lunch of exceptional fare, accompanied by their wines, translated into a very pleasurable experience. We began with a rose`, Pozzo Dell’Amore Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2010, that offered a delicate nose of cherry and wild flowers tempered with spicy notes. We conducted a vertical tasting of two whites, Villa Cordevico Bianco 2006 and 2007. Pale yellow with golden hues, the fruity nose of white golden delicious apples and citrus, it gave way to a full-mouth feel and a rich tanginess. Both 13.5% alcohol, my preference was the 2006 version. For the red, the aromatic Fracastoro Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2003, is made from the best grapes in the vineyard, from the Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone varieties. Given its vintage year, it proved to be an exceptional wine that rewarded the palate with a dry mouthfeel, and a lingering finish. www.vignetivillabella.com.
Founded in 1933 by seven partners in Negrar, the heart of the Valpolicella area, the co-operative has grown considerably. It now advises and co-ordinates the activity of its approximately 200 grape growers and 500 Ha of vineyards where the average age of the vines is around 20 years. Focusing on quality, while at the same time having a healthy respect for the environment by keeping to a minimum treatment on the vines, and handpicking the grapes during harvest, the end result are world-class wines of which 60% are exported to 26 countries with the balance consumed by the Italian market.
Remarkable was the Amarone 2007 Classico, Domini Veneti, with its 15.5% alc., was an intriguing wine. Its intense garnet red colour, along with captivating fruity nose of cherry, prunes and spice and a great depth on the palate, makes for a wine that can also be cellared for 15-18 years. www.cantinanegrar.it
Situated in the centre of Pedemonte, this winery prides itself in creating wines that can rightly bear their “Tedeschi trademark”, that is indicative of high-quality wines. It is also a personal stamp that reflects the spirit of the Tedeschi family, which remains unchanged since the vineyards were first purchased, according to historical records, in 1630. To accomplish this, the family tries to “comply with nature in every phase of working, from the vineyard to the cellar”.
Renzo Tedeschi is today assisted by his three children in carrying on the family business. Antonietta handles national sales and administration; Sabrina, a food technician, looks after the marketing aspects along with aiding her brother with export sales; and Riccardo, an enologist, not only looks after the entire production process but also has export market responsibilities.
I was hard-pressed to choose from the ten wines we tasted, but I was able to narrow it down to three. Amarone Base 1998, offered the palate a well-balanced wine with soft tannins together with a spicy nose and long finish. A little sweeter, was the Amarone Classico, Capitel Monte Olmi, 1998, that featured a bouquet of cherry, berry and red currant along with palate of great depth and structure coupled with good acidity. The Amarone Classico, Capitel Monte Olmi 1983, given its age was surprisingly still spirited and harmonious. www.tedeschiwines.com
Located in Fumane, the Cottini family manages to reap fruit of rich quality from its 8 Ha of vines which can range from nine to fifty-two years of age, and where pruning and harvesting is performed exclusively by hand. The winery produces mainly Amarone, which is refined in barriques for 18 months followed by eight months in oak barrels and a further six months in the bottle.
Three fabulous wines were the Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, which undergoes the re-fermentation of the skins of the Amarone Valpolicella Classico and Recioto grapes so as to acquire even more scents, colours and body. Ruby in colour, the aroma of berries and cherries entices one to savour the wine’s glorious flavour.
The Amarone Della Valpolicella is almost garnet red in colour, with a jammy and spirited nose that leads one to delight in the succulent flavours of spice, vanilla along with liquorice and bitter almonds. For best results, it should breathe at least two hours before serving.
The Recioto Maddalena, named after the mother, is aged 12 months in oak barrels, and a futher 12 months in the bottle. One of the best recioto I’ve tasted, its clean mouthfeel, and intense aromas of fruit syrup and walnut makes it a wonderful dessert wine to accompany local traditional desserts such as Pandoro, Panettone. It also marries beautifully with soft cheeses such as gorgonzola, and should be uncorked some time before consumption so as to release the intensity of its perfume.
Third-generation Diego Cottini, the company’s owner and winemaker, founded Monte Zovo in 2000. He is committed to continuing the tradition of producing high-quality wines from grapes grown on their two estates. Monte Zovo, situated between the shores of Lake Garda and slopes of Monte Baldo, is located on the sunny hills of Lake Garda at 350 metres. The Palazzo Maffei estate, overlooking the Valley of Mezzane in the heart of Valpolicella, encompasses 40 Ha of vineyards. The grapes produce prestigious wines, all of which are aged in oak barrels in the winery’s underground cellars. During our visit we tasted the Rosso Veronese “Ca’Linverno” IGT 2006, and Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2005, the Recioto della Valpolicella DOC 2007, and a Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC 2009, the last of which was my particular favourite.
Since 1956 different members of the Aldegheri have played vital roles in various areas of competence in the production and marketing of their wines. Straddling a perfect balance between modern technologies, and a tradition of paying special attention to the vineyards that includes special selection of grapes, means consumers can enjoy exceptional wines. The main grape varieties grown on their 52 Ha of vineyards are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, but also important are their other varieties that includeCabernet, Merlot, Garganega,Pinot and the indigenous and excellent Dindarella. Made with 100% Dindarella of approximately 30 year old vines in the northwest of Verona in the hills at heights ranging from 150-300 metres, the “Dindarella 2006” is only produced by this winery. This unique wine displays scents of cooked fruit and spices, great tannins and offers a long finish on the palate. The exceptional 1995 vintage resulted in the elite and sumptuous “Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 1995”. After the grapes are slightly over-ripe, they are harvested around the beginning of October after which the best grapes are manually selected and set aside for the ‘appassimento’ or air-drying process. Selling for 58 euros, this wine is wonderful accompaniment to all meats, especially roasts and game, as well as aged cheeses. This is one to be added to your collection!