‘A’ as in Amarone della Valpolicella. Let’s start with a review of the most famous Italian wines in the world. Despite being considered by many too heavy and full-bodied (its alcohol level is between 15% and 16.5%), in recent years Romeo and Juliet’s iconic wine (the first vineyards are a stone’s throw from the heart of Verona) has been given newfound elegance and drinkability.
The production area is precisely called Valpolicella (the valley of the many cellars, from the Latin “Val Polis Cellae”), and the varieties that contribute to the final production are local vines such as Corvina, Corvinone, Molinara and Rondinella. The grapes are harvested between the end of September and the beginning of October but, instead of being pressed and fermented immediately like most wines, they are dried in the cellar for at least three months with the aim of increasing sugar content (hence the high alcohol percentage) but above all to impart to the grapes with the most complex perfumes thanks to the enzymatic processes of the drying process. At the end of the three months the grapes, which have now lost almost 30% of their water retention and look more like raisins, are crushed and vinified as you would in September with any red wine.
Unlike other famous Italians, the production of Amarone is much more recent than you might think. In fact, it finds its roots in the late 1950s due to a natural and fortuitous randomness occurred in the vinification of a wine that was thousands of years older: the Recioto della Valpolicella. This, like many passito wines, is obtained by fermenting dried grapes with so much sugar that not everything is transformed into alcohol, thus remaining naturally sweet. Every now and then, however, the sugars of the Recioto were all transformed into alcohol, thus bestowing the cellars with a “scapà” (escaped) Recioto, that was and bitter, in fact … Amarone (which, incidentally, means “very bitter” in Italian)!
Within a few years, this great Italian wine becomes famous for its unique and sensual qualities. Its success leads to hundreds of hectares being devoted to this particular wine, increases in the price and often in the structure of the wine which became increasingly charged. Today you can choose from about fifty reliable and increasingly elegant labels. By tasting of some of these, which was done last February with the 2015 vintage, you can actually be surprised by wines that have a great structure but also a lower alcohol level. Above all, these wines have a velvety taste given by the pleasant contrast between the acidic and sweet components of the black fruits which quench the thirst and the balsamic fruits from the sediment that seduce the senses.
But if Amarone remains too muscular of a wine and you prefer a more agile and lean sip, the Valpolicella Classico is produced with the same grapes. In this case you will smell aromas of wild strawberries, some violet notes and, in the best cases, also a touch of black pepper and Hibiscus. Forget the power and structure of Amarone and think rather to something more snappy and agile, something to drink in winter with the most fatty dishes and in summer served at 15 ° C / 16 ° C to feel a pleasantly refreshing shock. The same shock that you would feel on a summer evening in a picnic under one of the thousand Veronese pergolas with which the vine is raised to protect it from the sun’s rays. Because in spite of the Valpolicella being a wine-growing area located very far to the north, the presence of warm breezes from Lake Garda generates a uniquely extraordinary Alpine Mediterranean climate, where you can enjoy the contrast between the snow of the pre-Alps peaks and the flowering of the olive trees. The wine manages to translate these climatic and cultural expressions in a single sip. This is why I will never get tired of traveling through vineyards, listening to their groundskeepers and tasting the fruit of their extraordinary work.