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Travel stories + tips from seasoned explorers

Are those things raisins? Amarone vs Valpolicella

May 9, 2020

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We recently published a newsletter that gives a broad overview of the top wines from the Veneto region of northern Italy. Some of you may be asking: if the grapes that produce Valpolicella and Amarone are the same (Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone), how can the resulting wines be so very different?

The difference between the production of Valpolicella and Amarone wine is crucial. The grapes for the Valpolicella are picked during the normal harvest in mid-to-late September each year. But the grapes selected for the Amarone are left hanging on the vine until October (even late October in cooler years), to achieve more ripeness and therefore more residual sugar before they are hand-picked. For Amarone, only the upper portion of each grape cluster is selected since it is here that the grapes are richest in sugar and extracts.The selected grape bunches are then spread on mats and left in cool, drying lofts for three to five months. Here the grapes shrivel and lose most of their water content — almost like raisins! — in a process called appassimento. This further concentrates the sugar nectar and flavors. In late January/early February, the grapes are finally crushed and undergo a dry, low-temperature fermentation for 30 to 50 days. Aging is completed in barriques (225 liter/59 gallon barrels) of Slavenian or French oak. The result is a wine that’s lavish, full-bodied and contains well over 15% alcohol, even 16.5% in the better wines.

Our Veneto wine experiences can include pairing different vintages of Amarone; comparing Valpolicella to Recioto; and even exploring recipes using the local wines in the splendid environment of the Verona hills.