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.


2010 Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella

Several years ago–perhaps even a decade–I had occasion to join colleagues and clients at a high-end working dinner in Manhattan (or Boston?) in discussion of potential collaboration.  No longer can I remember on what fare we dined, or how I enjoyed the meal, but I can remember with stark clarity the two wines that we enjoyed.  One was Bogle, and the first time I’d been exposed to that winemaker, and the featured twin was an Amarone–also a first for me.  The Amarone was remarkable and a grape that I set out to find nearly a month ago, off and on, with no tangible outcome.

2010 Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella, DOCG, Veneto, Italy.

2010 Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella, DOCG, Veneto, Italy.

Wine stores here in town didn’t seem to carry Amarone, and it hadn’t appeared on any of the online sites we frequent.  And then, unexpectedly, we stumbled across this intensely flavored red at a high-end grocery store in the city and absolutely snapped it up–unsure of what to expect in the 2010 Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella.  It was first sampled together with home made sliders that were so large they strained toward “burger” classification in their size and substance. Topped with crispy dill pickles and just the right amount of mustard, the sliders were a perfect way to kick off a Memorial Day of grilled treats and a perfect companion for the Amarone.

It was sweet, it was deep, it was ridiculously purple, and its berry scent swelled from the glass to greet your nose.  The 2010 vintage from Corte Majoli had a long finish and immediately made me wish we had additional bottles to savor.  As I now research, Amarone della Valpolicella is made from dried grapes in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy and is one of the region’s most recognized and prestigious reds. It results from the efforts of Veneto winemakers who sought out ways “to increase the body, complexity, and alcohol content of their wines” by concentrating the natural sugars and aromatics in Valpolicella wines.

These grapes are picked in whole bunches and kept in drying rooms (via the “appassimento” process) for 3 to 12 weeks until they are gently pressed and the “must” is fermented to dry. Their high sugar content translates to a stronger wine (15% to 16% alcohol) after fermentation, one that is barrel-aged for a minimum of two years prior to commercial release.

Our 2010 Amarone della Valpolicella from Tezza Corte Majoli was remarkable upon its debut and again the following evening when we polished it off with grilled steaks, blue cheese salads (yes a staple on our table), and some miscellaneous crispy crowns, onion rings, and the like. As I contemplate good vino options for an upcoming weekend with friends at a lake getaway, the 2010 Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella makes a compelling case for inclusion.  The only tragedy one encounters with this rich red is when it’s gone.


Note: Special acknowledgment to Wine Searcher for assistance on the profile and process associated with the amarone style.