Directly translated as “the big bitter” Amarone is one of the world’s great wines that divides opinion like no other. As the name suggests it has a wonderful coffee/cocoa bitterness to it, which is supported by concentrated flavours of dark and dried fruits and a very slight sweetness, which is accentuated by the high alcohol and low acidity. Think of it as a halfway house to a Port, since Amarone will age for a long time (often more than 30 years), and is usually 15-18% abv, which makes it definitely a bottle to share with more than one person if you wish to remain coherent.
Strangely, for such an old technique it is quite rarely seen in wines from other regions. Wines made in the appasimento method were around in the Roman empire, enjoyed by such figureheads as Virgil, Pliny the Elder, Columella and later the Doges of Venice. Today they are considered something of a treat to those who like a serious red wine. Not to be drunk every day, but rather saved for a night when the fire is roaring and there is nothing to do but put your feet up.
The process for making this style of wine involves laying the grapes on a rack and leaving them to dry for up to six months. This is called the appasimento method and it results in grapes that have often lost over half of their water content, leaving the juice very sweet and concentrated in flavour. The main grapes used are Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella. Small amounts of Oseleta are also allowed but this has been a more recent update and a welcome push to revive an indigenous grape.
This month we have the Arele Appassimento from Tommasi (a prominent Amarone producer) available for tasting. Although this one is not nominally an Amarone, it is one to try as it gives you a good idea of the style. For the real deal, we have Allegrini’s high-scoring expression (also available in half bottles) and the more affordable Torre del Falasco Amarone, which is the flagship wine from a brilliant little co-operative.
If you haven’t tried it already, the current cold spell is the perfect excuse to brighten your evening with this decadent wine. Couple it with a warming casserole and remind yourself of the good things that autumn brings.