Amarone is a red wine blend, pronounced AH-MA-ROW-NAY, most commonly made from venetian grapes Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and Molinara. The grapes are grown and produced in Valpolicello, located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. What makes these wines unique is the process that takes place after harvest known as the “appassimento process.” Traditionally, after harvest they were laid out on straw mats to turn into raisins in the sun. Nowadays, the grapes are laid out on wood racks in climate controlled drying rooms called Fruttaio.
The basic idea is to dehydrate the grapes, which in turn, increases the concentration and the sugar in the grape, adding richness and balance and a higher alcohol content to the final product. Due to the dehydration in the grapes, it takes twice as many grapes to produce the wine, which has a lot to do with the very expensive price tag associated with it. This process takes place for anywhere from about 90 to 120 days. Like all wines, there are different styles determined on the producer’s style and the location of where the grapes are grown and of course the blend that is put into the wine.
When it comes to Amarone, it is very important to know the style that you are drinking. When people think about Amarone, what typically comes to mind is ‘full-bodied, robust with dark fruit flavors of prunes and plums’. This can be the case but there is also a leaner style with more acid and structure that has a bit more longevity. A very large factor is ripeness at harvest and the length of the appassimento process. As the grape ripens it loses acidity, so the producers that pick early in the season have the tendency to have a wine that will have a more maintained acidity and the ones that let it ripen longer will have a lower acidity.
Factor two, the appassimento process, the producers that allow for the longer drying times will have the more raisinated and pruney styles. Where the ones that don’t dry as long will give you a slightly leaner style with more notes of cherry and plums. Amarones can range anywhere from 14%-18% in alcohol content, so even the leaner expressions are strong wines.