03 June, 2010
An ode to the bitter one.
A couple of nights ago, I was lucky enough to be with a group of adventurous wine drinkers who wanted to try something different. One of the group was determined to taste something expensive and this Amarone from Zenato fit the bill. At $70, (retail, not restaraunt) it's not a wine I would pick up on the spur of the moment, yet when you think about splitting this with 4 other people, it's not so bad.
Amarone is one of Italy's national treasures. The word literally means "bitter one." Made in the Veneto region by the same producers of Valpolicella with similar grapes (Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara; I hadn't heard of them either) but with an entirely different process. First, the grapes are left on the vine longer, increasing their sweetness and ripeness. But what makes Amarone so different is that the grapes are then dried on straw mats for several months before they are pressed. The grapes dry and raisinate, concentrating the sugars and the flavors. The wines are then aged, often in barrels, for five or more years. Not surprising, then is the typically high price tag.
But, oh, what a wine! This is not a casual wine, it's serious stuff packing a whopping 16.5% alcohol. Full bodied and dense, you'll imediately notice a great deal of dried fruit and dried black fruit: black cherries, blackberries, prunes, and figs. You'll also pick up some notes of chocolate, vanilla and earth. Medium tannins, full body, and that knock out punch of alcohol. Certainly, not an everyday wine, this is a great wine for intense cheeses at the end of a meal, especially a meat heavy meal of lamb or braised beef.