2014 La Giaretta Amarone

Amarone is special wine, made in a classic style (ie, drying grapes prior to fermentation) that has spanned centuries and dates back to the first days of winemaking–some reports say as far as 4th Century BC. The Venetians are usually acknowledged as the masters of Amarone, specifically, and that means this Italian red has old world charm in spades.

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2014 La Giaretta Amarone, Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy. 

Aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone often has a higher sugar content than other reds and thus is stronger vino. It’s also relatively pricey because of the amount of fruit used in the process. If you’re interested in a longer explanation of the Amarone method, just click here for Notes‘ quick take on the topic…but we’re moving on to the present. This bottle came out on a Friday night, a badly needed wine experience that put a long week into the rear view mirror, if only for a few hours.

It accompanied a simple meal of seasoned pork chops (little bit of spice rub; plus salt, crushed black pepper, and a garlic/lemon salt blend) and white rice. The pork was on the grill about a minute too long, and the fruity La Giaretta helped compensate and add just a bit of juice into each bite. The Amarone is rich, it is intense, and it packs a hint of the raisin smell that I have attributed to such bottles in the past. It is a lovely drink and makes for great complement to your evening. This one originates from Amarone della Volpolicella, Italy, and I’m certainly interested in adding more to my wine rack. Thanks for reading – and be sure to tell a friend. Nothing like sharing good wine!

The Ones That Got Away – Summer 2017

2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore

Notes has recently covered several different Valpolicella Amarones for your edification, and this one should be rated highest on that list, just ahead of the Vella Maffei and the Juliet (I have the Montessor ranked as the weakest of the set despite its ambitious price tag). This 2013 Antica Corte Amarone was a very generous birthday gift that managed to sit undisturbed over these last two months until I decided to unveil it with a tip of the cap to my brother on his own birthday.

2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Valpolicella, Italy.

2013 Antica Corte Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Valpolicella, Italy.

I had stored this beauty at 55 degrees since bringing it home from the store; some knowledgeable sites counseled at storing Amarone at that temperature while others implied no hard and fast storage requirements. I did not decant the 2013 Antica Corte, as I was in a rush to taste once I realized it was was wine thirty and into happy hour. On this occasion I had the Amarone in a Cabernet Sauvignon glass–not quite the norm but the wine played in this stemware very well.

This Amarone comes from Verona, which is about 90 minutes east of Venice, and grapes for it are traditionally harvested in October from the most matured grapes (e.g., Corvina, Molinari, and Rondinella) in the region’s vineyards. They are dried during the winter almost into “raisin” form, a period of about 120 days when the grapes will lose 30 to 40 percent of their weight. This obviously intensifies the concentration of flavor and sugar content, which results in higher alcohol levels in an Amarone. Since the winemakers use much more fruit to make an Amarone (approximately 2x as many grapes as normal wines, with >45 days of slow fermentation), price tags elevate in similar fashion.  The 2013 Antica Corte Amarone is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months and the end product is spectacular.

A bottle this delicious is perfect to enjoy with friends, in part to share in the richness, and also so they get a sense of what you consider the ‘good stuff’. This evening the 2013 Antica Corte accompanied a mixed green salad, accented by fresh cucumber, onion, carrots, and radishes, a baked potato, and thick-cut steaks fired on the grill. After a week of poor eating on the road it was a “Welcome Home” treat to be sure. It poured not like the jammy juice of a Petite Petit or Cabernet Sauv, and not the thinner red of a Pinot Noir–it’s truly a ruby red somewhere in the middle of these extremes. It smells a bit like spiced cherry, like a kicked up box of raisins with all the right scents turned up for your senses. It’s so good that I just stopped writing for a second to go back for another whiff.

I understand that it’s a treat to drink Amarone, and I thank my mother for gifting the 2013 Antica Corte Amarone and making this experience possible for me. May you find great occasions (or any/every occasion) to enjoy one yourself–I know you’ll be glad you did.

2012 Juliet Amarone della Valpolicella

I opted to go back-to-back on Amarones, both purchased at different times from different purveyors but the grapes hail from the same Valpolicella region. This one is the 2012 Juliet and a step up in class from the 2013 Montresor I finished last Sunday.

2012 Juliet Amareno della Valpolicella

2012 Juliet Amareno della Valpolicella, Italy.

This 2012 beauty encompasses several different varietals, including Corvina (65%), Corvinone (10%), Rondinella (20%), and other varieties from the territory (5%). The grapes (after a fall harvest) were naturally dried in a fruit cellar for three to four months, and vinification you almost know by the Amarone–according to the winemaker, soft crushing was performed on the destemmed grapes in January and February. Fermentation lasted about 30 days, and aging was conducted 20% in steel and 80% in wood for 18 months. Two thirds of the wood consisted of American and French barriques, half of which are used for the second and third time, and one third in large barrels.

That’s a whole lot of detail on the setup, but let me tell you the resulting product is really strong. You can see plainly its deep red color, and its smell is just as rich. Cherries and spices are easily detected in your glass, and there’s a pungent raisin vibe to the 2012 Juliet Amarone della Valpolicella as well. It’s got a full body, which is not to say that it’s heavy. It even has a little kiss of dark chocolate to it and makes you want to swirl and really enjoy its mouthfeel.

The food? We’re looking on pan-fried fingerling potatoes, asparagus tips, and roasted pork with a mustard pan sauce. Let me tell you it came out great–an easy recipe, a rewarding beverage, and a good evening. Really glad to share that I’ve got three more of these Juliet’s on hold (Juliet…I get it now…from a winery outside of Verona, Italy?) and will keep you posted on its profile.