Castelnuovo del Garda 2016 Amarone della Valpolicella
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Amarone is rarely an inexpensive wine, but we are hugely impressed with this example from Castelnuovo del Garda. It shows the right amount of richness, and depth of flavour with notes of liqueur cherries, autumn berries, woodland scents and cassis, wrapped up in a full-bodied palate with gentle tannins.
Italy | Veneto | Valpolicella | Castelnuovo del Garda | Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara | ABV 15% | Drink 2021 - 2026
The Wine Region
Veneto is the largest of Italy's vineyards covering a large part of NE Italy from the Alps to the north to the fertile plains of the Po River basin in the south. It is no surprise the the best vineyards are on the slopes with the industrial wine coming from the flats. This region is the home of some of the country's most famous DOCs Soave, Valpolicella and Prosecco to name a few. Soave and Valpolicella are next door neighbours and are both composed of limestone and basaltic formations. Soave is potentially one of Italy's great white wines: a regions that is exploring its zones in developing a cru system. Valpolicella is already established as one of the great sources of red wines in the north of Italy reaching its peak with the very best producers of Amarone.
Prosecco has undergone one of the biggest booms to occur anywhere in the world of wine. From humble beginnings which was essentially just two communes, Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, Prosecco has spread like wildfire across the plains and hills of NE Italy.
Valpolicella is a series of valleys in Italy’s pre-Alps in the region of Veneto, bordering the DOC of Soave, but here it is only red wines that are produced. The varieties used are a combination of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara, but others are permitted. As in neighbouring Soave, the best vineyard sites are on the hillsides, away from the quantity led, fertile soils of the lower plains.
There are a number of styles of wine produced here: Valpolicella and Valpolicella Classico are the styles simply made from freshly harvested grapes. Amarone della Valpolicella is made from grapes which have been dried in the winery until they reach a point of desiccation, followed by pressing and fermentation in the normal way. Due to a higher concentration of sugars from the drying, Amarone is a much more profound wine. Valpolicella Superiore is not strictly regulated as to be precise in its vinification methods, but is normally a blend of dried and fresh grapes. There is another style which is gaining momentum and that is Valpolicella Ripasso. This is an almost unique style of wine to this region where the fresh Valpolicella is refermented with the gross lees (the residual solids from the fermentation) from the same year’s Amarone.
Appassimento is a process of making wines, the most famous result of these is Amarone della Valpolicella originating in the hills of Verona in Italy's region of Veneto. The word comes from the Italian verb 'appassire' - to wither.
During this process the grapes are dried after harvest in the winery until they reach a point of desired concentration. The grapes can lose around 30% of their original weight, concentrating the sugars, flavour compounds, and acidity. Wines made by this process have augmented alcohol and/or sweetness due to the loss of water.
For Amarone and its sweet counterpart Recioto, the time of pressing of the grapes is dictated by the Valpolicella consortium so that a minimum desired level of concentration is achieved. The process sometimes attracts the benevolent fungus noble rot (botrytis cinerea), which adds an extra dimension to the aromatics and further concentrates the grapes. In other parts of Italy, and elsewhere in the world, the regulations are not so rigid.
The process is often confused with Ripasso, which although is another winemaking method, it is dependent on having dried grapes for the refermentation to occur. However, certain wines can be made by both processes as the Valpolicella Classico Superiore and Rosso Ca del Merlo from Giuseppe Quintarelli