Have you tried Amarone della Valpolicella? Find out where and how it is made...

What is Amarone wine?

Amarone della Valpolicella is a wine made with partially dried grapes in Valpolicella, Veneto, North-east Italy. There are three geographical sub zones; Classico, Valpantena and ‘Est’, the extended zone.

Amarone wine map

Amarone wine map. Credit: Decanter/ Maggie Nelson

‘Each of the three geographical zones has its own identity,’  said Michael Garner, in the 2018 Decanter Italy supplement.

‘In broad strokes: Amarone from Classico tends to be the most elegant and aromatic, versions from the Valpantena are generally lighter and fruitier, while the so-called ‘extended’ zone (beyond Classico and Valpantena, bordering on the Soave) tends to produce richer, more muscular wines with a higher alcohol level.’


In-depth: See our Amarone buying guide – For Premium members


Grape varieties

There are a few permitted grape varieties in Amarone wine – the main ones being Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, plus some lesser known ones.

‘The aromas and flavours of Amarone are determined invariably by Corvina – and to a lesser extent Corvinone,’ said Garner.

‘Elegance and perfume (especially a telltale note of freshly ground black pepper) are hallmarks of the former, while Corvinone has deeper colour, more tannins and tobacco-like aromas.’

‘Some growers talk up the current favourite Oseleta despite the low ratio of solid-to-liquid (skins and pips to must), which makes the variety a less suitable candidate for appassimento.’

Appassimento

Appassimento is the method of partially drying out the grapes, which are then slowly pressed, and slowly fermented, to make Amarone della Valpolicella.

‘Amarone is about winemaking as much as anything else,’ said Susan Hulme MW, in our 2017 panel tasting.

‘Decisions around drying the grapes, length of appassimento, and time fermenting on skins make dramatic differences to style and quality.’

What is the difference between ripasso and appassimento?

Oak ageing

‘Amarone spends a minimum of two years in wood, though can remain there for up to nine or 10 in rare cases (Quintarelli, Zyme). Barrels vary from French and Slavonian oak through to chestnut, cherry and even acacia,’ said Garner.

‘Newer, smaller barrels, usually oak, are commonly used and have a distinct effect on both aroma and texture (mouthfeel) in particular, though there seems to be a return to the more subtle and seasoned notes promoted by larger and older wood.’

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter.

Find more wine questions answered here.