WorldWine Tasting Report

2012-02-16

Amarone, Ripasso & Co.

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This tasting report was short of turning into a complete desaster. The idea of tasting the wines of the Valpolicella area, after so many years passed since our last comprehensive tasting, had been born after we received an invitation to participate in the annual "anteprima Amarone", a meeting which has been set up some years ago upon the model of Piedmont and Tuscany. What we had not known, accepting the invitation, was the fact that the best dozen producers did not even participate at this "anteprima", due to a continuing dispute between them and the consorzio.

Back in Hamburg we thus had to organize a second tasting and, luckily, most of the producers who had been missing in Verona submitted their wines. Tasting all the Quintarellis, Masis, Dalfornos or Venturinis obviously improved the general impression, but the picture nonetheless remained somewhat disappointing.

The reason for this? Well, with the recent explosion of production numbers - Amarone alone increased from 5 m bottles, some years ago, to 12 m last year - number of producers seem to have "lost" their wine. What remained was only alcohol. While in the 1990ies the 15 or 16 degrees of a Quintarelli or Masi Amarone were considered high or even spectacular alcohol levels, these days they seem the to form the bottom line and the most alcoholic wines even reach 17 or 18 degrees.

In order to find a balance for this alcohol level, many wines are bottled with exaggerated residual sugars. Elegance, aroma, structure instead have faded away. Obviously some producers blame the climatic changes for this development, but that is a complete myth. Changements in the vineyard management, the much too long "appassimento" (drying of the grapes prior to vinification, as typical for the Amarone), and the use of always more efficient yeasts are the real culprits. Producers who would love to shorten the "appassimento" cannot do so, because they need the consorzio's permission to end the drying and start vinification.

The unfortunate results of this development can be appreciated in our tasting notes: Whilst the Amarone at least in part compensates the alcohol with high extract levels and firm but ripe tannins, most of the Ripasso wines we tasted were just thin, alcoholic, sharp and/or marked by dry, unbalanced tannins. Certainly no model for the future!

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*****Quintarelli (Negrar) - Amarone Classico 2003
 
*****Dalforno (Illasi) - Amarone 2006
 
*****Monte Faustino - G. Fornaser (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico 2006
 
*****Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Spa (Verona) - Amarone Famiglia Pasqua 2003 Riserva
 
*****Secondo Marco - Marco Speri (Fumane) - Amarone Classico 2008
 
*****Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Spa (Verona) - Amarone Cecilia Beretta Terre di Cariano 2004
 
*****Cav. G.B. Bertani Srl (Grezzana) - Amarone Classico 2004
 
*****Soraighe by Bennati (Cazzano Di Val Traminia) - Amarone 2008
 
*****Santi (GIV) (Illasi) - Amarone Classico Proemio 2008
 
*****Pietro Zanoni (Quinzano) - Amarone 2007
 
*****Michele Castellani & figli (Marano Di Valpolicella) - Amarone Classico I Castei Campo Casalin 2008
 
*****Massimino Venturini & figli S.S. (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico Campomasua 2006
 
*****Brunelli (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico Campo del Titari 2007 Riserva
 
*****Massimino Venturini & figli S.S. (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico 2007
 
*****Corte San Benedetto (Negrar) - Amarone Classico 2004
 
***** ?Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Spa (Verona) - Amarone Cecilia Beretta Terre di Cariano 2008
 
***** ?Roccolo Grassi - Bruno Sartori (Mezzane Di Sotto) - Amarone Roccolo Grassi 2008
 
***** ?Michele Castellani & figli (Marano Di Valpolicella) - Amarone Classico Ca’ del Pipa Cinque Stelle 2008
 
**** +Stefano Accordini (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico Acinatico 2008
 
**** +Cavalchina (Custoza) - Amarone Torre d’Orti 2008
 
**** +Le Guaite - Giulietta Dal Bosco (Mezzane Di Sotto) - Amarone 2008
 
**** +Pietro Zanoni (Quinzano) - Recioto Valpolicella 2003
 
**** +Brunelli (San Pietro In Cariano) - Amarone Classico 2009

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