Amarone della Valpolicella is a DOCG red wine made from dried (passite) grapes. It is made from grapes grown in the Valpolicella area, between the Lake Garda and the city of Verona, in Veneto and it is the region's most prestigious red wines. Though Amarone wines from the Classico zone are often considered to be the best expression of the wine, there are many top producers operating outside the area.
The Amarone was the result of local winemakers looking for a way to increase the body, complexity and alcohol content of their native grapes, from Corvina to Corvinone (now identified as a distinct variety), from Rondinella to the Molinara. In order to concentrate the natural sugars and aromatics in the local grapes, winemakers began drying their grapes to remove the water from the berries .
The whole list of grapes allowed in the production of the Amarone della Valpolicella are listed in the “disciplinare”, the wine regulations that tell winemakers the characteristics the wine should have and because of the long list of grapes allowed, it is rare to find wines made with exactly the same grapes and percentages. Even within the same winery, percentages and grapes can changes between vintages therefore Amarone della Valpolicella wines can be very different between each other.
The technique, also widely used to produce “passiti”, sweet wines, including the Recioto della Valpolicella made with the same grapes, has proved very successful. The name Amarone della Valpolicella comes from the Italian word amaro ("bitter"), completed by the “one” suffix which denotes bigger size or volume.
The grapes are picked in whole bunches and kept to dry in rooms anywhere between three weeks to three months depending on the vintage and the winemaker’s philosophy. When the drying process (called appassimento in Italian) is complete, the grapes are gently pressed and the must is fermented to dry. The grapes' high sugar content produces strong wine of 15 or 16 percent alcohol by volume. The wine is then aged in barrels (each wine maker has a preference for the type of barrels ) for at least two years before being released. In the best vintages, Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva can be bottled and it has to be aged for a minimum of 4 years. Amarone della Valpolicella can be produced anywhere within the Valpolicella zone, but those from the Classico and Valpantena areas may be labeled as such.
A good Amarone is a an expensive wine due to its very intense labour wine making process, from hand picking the grapes to the ageing in barrels to the additional time in the bottle before the wine is released to the public. The Amarone wine making process produces a byproduct. The dried grape skins rather than being discarded or used to make grappa, are used to add depth and complexity to the Valpolicella. The wine and grape skins go through a second fermentation together creating the Valpolicella Ripasso.