What is Amarone wine?
Amarone is a style of Valpolicella wine. The Valpolicella region is located north of Verona, bordering Lake Garda to the west and by the Lessini Mountains to the east and north.
There are 4 styles of winemaking for Valpolicella: Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC and Valpolicella DOC. Valpolicella DOC is the lightest bodied of these wines, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC is a medium-bodied wine, Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is a full-bodied wine, and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG is a sweet red wine.
Since the wines are all made from the same grapes blend of native varieties, the main discriminating factor to mark out them is the different winemaking technique. 97% of the grapes used for Valpolicella wines are indigenous varieties; primarily Corvina (57%), Rondinella (21%), and Corvinone (13%). Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is made by partially drying the grapes after they have been picked. The process takes approximately 120 days and concentrates the juices in the grapes and increases skin contact. After 120 days, in January or February, the partially dried grapes are pressed then fermented at a cool temperature. The result is a full-bodied wine with low acidity.
A Brief History of Masi
From Masi, “The history of Masi is the history of a family and its vineyards in Verona, part of the Veneto. The name itself derives from the Vaio dei Masi, the small valley purchased at the end of the XVIII century by the Boscaini family, still its owners today.”
Since 1973, Masi has collaborated with the Conti Serego Alighieri family, descendants of the poet Dante, on their estates in Valpolicella. It all began we are told in 1353 when Dante’s son, Pietro Alighieri acquired the Casal dei Ronchi vineyard in the Valpolicella Classica region. Twenty-one generations of Dante’s descendants have lived on the estate. The winery is known for the use of the Molinara grape (they have a specific clone) and Corvina grapes, and the use of cherry wood casks for ageing their red wines.
Mr. Raffaele Boscaini, Wine Ambassador and Marketing Director for Masi led us through a tasting of these wines and provided background information about the wines and vintages. It was very interesting.
Tasting A Range of Masi’s Amarone
Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 1990 – We were told by Raffaele that 1990 was an outstanding vintage, and when we tasted it, we agreed. 28 years ago this wine was made and it still has great character. It was deep garnet in colour. Very aromatic with lifted aromas of dark black fruit, cassis, sweet spices and oak. Full body, dry with a soft, lighter mouthfeel. Fine tannins. Flavours of tart red cherries, ripe plums and raspberries. Some dried fruit flavours toward the finish. Finishing with puckering red and black fruit flavours and some light pepperiness. Elegant. –
Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2000 – Costasera is a southwestern facing slope that they say produces the highest quality Amarone. The days are longer, and the vines face Lake Garda which reflects its light to the grapes and contributes to the vineyard’s mild climate. This wine is medium-plus garnet colour. A light nose with aromas of black fruit and a hint of toast. Full bodied with a heavier mouthfeel. Round and soft. Ripe black fruit, ripe cherries, raspberries and sweet spices on the palate. Also picked up some salty minerality. Light tannins on the finish. –
Masi Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2012 – 2012 was a vintage with a very cold spring, followed by a hot, dry summer resulting in a reduction in quantity of grapes but of excellent quality. This is identified as an outstanding vintage. This wine is currently in the market in BC. It is deep garnet in colour but still translucent. Ripe raspberries, red fruits, along with some sweet spices and molasses on the nose. Dry, round, soft and silky mouthfeel. Fine tannins and good acidity to balance the tannins and fruit flavours. Flavours of ripe raspberries, red apples, and sweet spices. Very modern, clean and tasty. –
Masi Riserva di Costasera Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG 2011 – This wine is a bit different from the other wines in this tasting. For one it uses 10% of the Oseleta grape, the appassimento period is more than 120 days, and the wines are aged for 48 months since harvest. This wine is opaque garnet with a hint of ruby colour. Medium minus aromatic intensity. Aromas of ripe raspberries, dark fruit and cedar. Fuller body, round, with a thick mouthfeel. Tasty red cherries, ripe raspberries, black fruits, along with a touch of sweet spices, cedar and pepperiness. Medium tannins and bright acidity. This wine has quite intense flavours and finishes with grippy tannins. Excellent. –
Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009 – Campolongo di Torbe is a vineyard located in the commune of Negrar. This wine is produced in limited quantities and only in the best years. Opaque ruby with a hint of garnet colour in the glass. Medium minus intensity aromas of dark fruits, cassis, black cherries, cedar and vanilla, along with hints of cocoa and capsicum. Full-bodied, smooth and round, with medium tannins. Flavours of ripe dark fruits, plums and raspberries, along with a hint of cedar and salty minerality. Firm tannic finish. Very good quality. –
Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2009 – Mazzano is another vineyard in the Negrar commune. This vineyard has been known for its quality since the XII century. It is another wine produced in limited quantities in the best years. This wine is opaque ruby with garnet colours. Very light intensity nose showing raspberries and red fruits. Full body, dry, with medium minus acidity and firmer tannins. Dark fruit and raspberry flavours along with a touch of sweet spices. A firm wine.
These wines are all top quality as you can see by my star ratings. I was amazed at the longevity of these wines, especially the 1990 vintage, which still has a few more years of ageing potential. I’d suggest purchasing a few bottles of the 2012 Costasera which is now currently available in the market, and any bottles of these other wines if you come across them. Thank you to Wildebeest Restaurant for hosting this tasting and providing us with a variety of small dishes to try with these and other wines.
I did write another article about this tasting; the MASI Costasera Contemporary Art Features Indigenous BC Artist Susan A. Point