Italy is known for many fine wines like Barolo, Brunello and Barbaresco, but another varietal to add to the list is Amarone della Valpolicella.
It’s a special-occasion wine that has earned its place as an elite red because of its scarcity and difficulty to make. From the district of Valpolicella in the Veneto region near Verona, Italy, Amarone is the top red wine made in that area. It achieved DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllato e Garantita) status in 2009, which means that the winemakers followed strict quality guidelines while making the wine. It is a government-controlled guarantee that designates geographical authenticity. Only 74 wines from designated regions qualify for DOCG status.
This wine is traditionally made with Corvina grapes (45% to 95%) and blended with other varieties such as Corvinone (up to 50%), Rondinella (5 to 30%) and, possibly, small amounts of Molinara. The grapes are picked late in the season to ensure full ripening and perfect conditions. They are then laid in a single layer on bamboo racks in a large, low-humidity drying room where the grapes dry for 3 to 4 months. This process lowers the level of moisture and acidity in the grapes, and it concentrates the sugars, glycerin and other components such as resveratrol. The grapes are then crushed, and the fermentation and aging processes begin. Amarone must be aged a minimum of 2 years, and reserve varieties must be aged a minimum of 4 years.
High-quality Amarone wines will contain a higher percentage of Corvina and Corvinone grapes. The Corvina grapes offer notes of cherry, almond and spice, while the Corvinone grapes, which are very rare, possess similar flavors. Rondinella and Molinara grapes are also used in smaller quantities. Rondinella adds a floral note and helps balance the tannins. Molinara offers high acidity. Because the drying process lowers the acidity in Corvina and Corvinone, Molinari helps balance those components.