Tucked in the northeastern region of the Italian Republic lies the Veneto, a culturally rich and romantic part of the world responsible for a number of gifts to the world including Romeo and Juliet, the picturesque Venetian landscape and a handful of iconic wines.
This exciting region has produced a variety of wine styles throughout the years from fruity and refreshing sparkling versions to crisp, citrusy white wines from the Garganega grape all the way to rich, complex and intellectual red wines, the focus of this week’s column.
I had the pleasure of participating of a carefully chosen tasting experience orchestrated by Sawyer/Casale a partnership, which consists of wine guru Christopher Sawyer and beverage business expert Keith Casale. Worth mentioning, our gracious and generous host Don Sebastiani who let us populate his beautiful home to experience the wines.
The focus of the tasting, Amarone (which in Italian translates to "the great bitter"), a wine that consists mainly of Corvina and Rondinella varietals and made with partially dehydrated grapes, which add depth and richness to the final wine.
There are a handful of producers that populate prestigious wine lists throughout the world including Masi, Giuseppe Quintarelli, Cesari and Allegrini, to name a few.
For our focused tasting purpose, Chris secured a number of producers from a range of vintages and even a local producer of this style, Mora Estate.
The list of attendees included wine writers, sommeliers, winemakers and even a Veneto native chef.
All in a blind tasting format, we had a few minutes to individually become acquainted with the wines, truly a fantastic journey ranging from fresh and zippy styles to oxidative and musky ones -- all bringing a memorable experience to the palate.
We were asked to rate the eight wines in front of us based of balance, quality and a touch of personal preference, which made for an excellent group conversation based on everyone’s past experiences with this mouth-watering wine.
Now to the wines. The first glass on the left was the oldest of the bunch, but by no means an elder, this was the 2009 Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG a retail price of $85 and a real gem. l found this wine to have a dusty cherry note with a pleasant bitterness and some hidden tints of anise and dried sage. A wine to enjoy now or in five years; very inviting.
Wine number 2 was the 2011 Masi Vaio Amaron Serego Alighieri Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG ($68). This wine exploded out of the glass with violets and a layer of cigar box and provided grippy and stern tannins just like shaking Clint Eastwood’s hand. Rich and elegant with character.
The next wine, 2013 Allegrini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ($60), brought a gentle and warm smile full of bramble and wild berries on the nose that carried into the palate complemented by a refreshing bitterness and a pleasant jolt of acid.
Wine number 4 was a beautiful balancing act between violets, a handful of dried herbs and espresso, 2013 Mazzi Cru Punta di Villa Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ($57).
The 2013 Tommasi Bussola Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico DOCG ($66) followed with a powerful and memorable array of dried roses, black dried fruits, a hint of oloroso sherry and walnut skin like tannins, quite a different proposition and quite delicious.
Next, the 2013 Stefano Accordini Acinatico Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG ($65) brought layers of dark fruit reminiscing of fig, blackberry and black olive with a tannic profile that lasted for a while. A masculine wine indeed.
The seventh wine was the Californian with an Italian soul, 2013 Mora Estate Valpo ($55) produced by passionate Amarone proponent Fabiano Ramaci from Sonoma County grapes and vinified in a style that mimics the Veneto’s Amarone. This wine clearly followed its heroes' lineage with an herbal nose that reminded me of bay leaf, a hint of cinnamon and a roasted coffee finish, just lovely.
Finally at the end of the line, the youngest of the bunch was 2015 Bertani Amarone Della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG ($40). Although too young for most, this was a wine worth buying now and keeping for a decade or two. It showed great promise with notes of fresh red roses, bramble, olive tapenade and mission plums.
A big 'thank you' to our hosts who put their time and expertise into this memorable experience. Amarone is certainly a welcomed guest in my house.
Until next week!