I don’t know what my point is. Amarone is great before sex? In lieu of it? During, as a suggested pairing that I’d secretly sneak into some conservative wine magazine one day? Maybe, if your sex consists of dark chocolate, Careless Whisper, and a comfy mattress. Which, let’s be real: Amarone is basically a liquid version of such.
The northeastern Italian wine, a style of Valpolicella, is famed for producing sumptuous Corvina-based wines from dried grapes. My tasting notes usually consist of some kind of full texture, a handful of dried fruit, some level of chocolate, a variety of spices, and present structure that never tears the mouth apart. I’m tasting (almost) all of them at the Vancouver International Wine Festival (like I did with Prosecco, Nebbiolo, and Brunello), in order to further understand the scope of the styles. Hey: it might be chocolate-covered strawberries instead of dark chocolate; It Must Have Been Love instead of Careless Whisper; or the back seat of a car instead of a comfy mattress.
Allegrini 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $108
90% Corvina Veronese, 5% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta; 18 months in oak; 4.5 g/L RS. Heady and spicy with coffee and mocha behind deep and gummy black fruit. The fruit is met with intense coffee bitterness on the palate. Mouth-filling but finessed.
Cesari 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
Much more dark chocolate among the spice on the nose, but then counterintuitively certainly much riper on the palate than the Allegrini. Chalky. Solid stuff.
Masi 2011 Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella $58
Lots of black cherry here, and surprisingly extroverted and aromatic with savoury meatiness on the nose. Definitely a sweeter, supple, and more accessible example with more red fruit on the palate, supported by fine and firm tannins.
Monte del Frà 2009 “Lena di Mezzo” Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $69
80% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella; 24 months in 20-30 hectolitre oak barrels. Definitively coffee, and literally like that whiff you get when opening a bag of coffee beans. Within the styles of Amarone here, it’s the complete opposite from the Masi. A hint of well-integrated herbaceous character joins the mocha and dark chocolate. It’s mouth-coating and structured, but isn’t mean about it. Ended up buying a bottle to keep but just drank it the next weekend for a friend’s birthday, because I have no self-control. (Duh.)
Cantine Giacomo Montresor 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella
50% Corvina, 35% Rondinella, 15% Molinara; aged in Slavonian oak and small French barrels for 3 years. Moderately intense spice and lots of dried cherry fruit, maybe even some strawberry here; not one of the intensely serious noses in this lineup. Not so thick or overly expressive on the palate, either – just a bare drizzle of chocolate over cherry and strawberry. Medium-bodied.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $48
70% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella; 8.0 g/L RS; aged in 225 hectolitre and 50 hectolitre barrels of French oak for 18 months. First bottle corked! A fresh bottle revealed smoky dried red fruit and spice. Medium-bodied, ripe, and soft, but deceivingly tannic. A bit of vanilla.
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Organic
70% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella; 8.6 g/L RS; aged in 50 hectolitre Slavonian oak casks for 40 months. Simultaneously gamier and sluttier. More ash and meat compared to the previous bottle, also with more sweetness. Similar structure as well, but maybe a pinch less tannin. Hint of dried flowers.
Pasqua 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella
Aged in small oak barrels for 18-20 months. Vanilla-scented; obvious but well-integrated oak, here. Spice, hints of mocha, black fruit, dark chocolate, leathery. Quite mouthfilling on the palate, and with lots of tannin to chew on.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Selezione Antonio Castagnedi
70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta; 6.8 g/L RS; aged in 500-L new French oak for 24 months. Mocha, earth, dark chocolate, some gummy black and red fruit. Definitely verging on off-dry territory. Medium-bodied with some grip, though it’s one of the lightest so far. A bit sweet.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2011 Amarone Della Valpolicella Campo Dei Gigli
70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta; 3.9 g/L RS; aged in 500-L French oak for 3 years. Something spicy and velvety joins cherry compote. Medium-bodied, and notable spice and dashes of leafiness on the palate. Some grip, but rather soft and accessible for the most part. Long.
Tedeschi 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella $56
30% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 10% Rossignola, Oseleta, Negrara, Dindarella; 5 g/L RS; aged in Slavonian oak for 3 years. Stinkier, gamey, open, and fruity – could easily be a Masi brother. Playful red fruit, like dried cranberries and strawberries. Palate is also strawberry-flavoured, and generally structured with a hint of bitterness on the palate to balance out all of the ripeness.
Tommasi 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico $61
50% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta; aged in 35-hectolitre Slavonian oak for 30 months. Chocolate-covered plums and dried fruit, and then something like dried banana peel and spice. Finessed and creamy; something in here is reminiscent of a smoothie. Tannins are there but it’s not super structured.
Zenato 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta; oak-aged for 36 months. Gummy dark fruit, spice, and obvious oak. An odd dried banana thing going on. It’s all of big, spicy, ripe, friendly and open with flavours of black fruit and oak spice. Rather soft for the style. Bit of meat and mocha on the palate.
Zenato 2009 Amarone Riserva Sergio
80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta; aged in 75 hectolitre Slavonian oak barrels for 48 months. Probably the most aromatic, slutty, and flamboyant of all the Amarone I’ve tasted. Molten chocolate, black cherry compote, spice, and hints of meat. Something ripe and leafy. Off-dry with creamy texture and powedery tannin. Sumptuous.
Domini Veneti 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
70% Corvina, 15% Corvinone; 15% Rondinella; 8.0 g/L RS; aged in 50-hectolitre Slavonian oak barrels for 24 months. Lots of spice and forest floor here with black pepper and black fruit. Off-dry and velvety but with a hint of balanced bitterness. Solid.
Zonin 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella
60% Corvina, 35% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara; aged in 792 gallon Slavonian oak barrels for 24 months. Chocolatey, but certainly blackberry-forward. Very fragrant, full, and hedonistic. Charming and sweet, and definitely not so tannic. Alcohol is lower than the norm for Amarone, at 14% (for the 2011 vintage, at least): not completely fermented to dryness?
Bolla 2009 Le Origini Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva
75% Corvina and Corvinone, 25% Rondinella; aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and then 36 months in Slavonian oak. Red fruit, yes, but also a hint of something sweaty and nutty. Chocolatey, mouth-coating but well-contained. Quite spicy. 16.7% ABV.
Bottega 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella
Again with a gamy version here, though moderately intense. Gummy dark fruit. Med+ body but finessed. Definitely strucured but not super grippy; more finely-textured tannins compared to most. Hint of ashy mocha.