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Valpolicella: The Land of Amarone Wine

Jennifer Martin at the Anteprima Amarone event in Verona.

Jennifer Martin at the Anteprima Amarone event in Verona.

After coming out of this crazy winter that we experienced I figured everyone has cabin fever and if you haven’t been able to travel somewhere yet, why not escape with our minds. What better place than to Italy?

You can join me virtually on my recent trip to the wonderful city of Verona, in Italy’s northeastern region Veneto. I was invited by the Consortium of Valpolicella to explore the wine region and take part in the Anteprima Amarone event, which featured the release of the 2011 vintage of Amarone. I have lots more to share on my site Vino Travels, where you can get a day by day glimpse into my wine journey, but I’ll give you an overall idea of this region and what it has to offer from a vino point of view.

I was based in the city of Verona. If you have never been there, it’s well worth the visit. Verona itself has lots to offer, especially in the nicer weather. If you are a lover of arts, you can see musical performances in the historic Arena, similar to the Colosseum, or visit the ancient ruins of the Teatro Romano along the Adige River. It’s great for shopping as well! Visiting nearby towns like Vicenza, Padua and Venice in Veneto or even other regions like Trentino and Emilia Romagna that are only about an hour away by car or train. I was there for the food and wine and — like any region in Italy — Veneto has perfect pairings and traditions that I’d like to share with you.

For those unfamiliar with the region’s wines, it’s a land of hills and plains divided by five valleys, with the Valpantena valley being considered the “cru” of the valleys for wine production. The indigenous grapes of this land that make up the Valpolicella and Amarone wines are corvina, corvinone, rondinella and molinara, although molinara is being used less and less. Veneto’s regulations are somewhat lax in regards to the varying percentages of each grape that are allowed to be used, therefore the wines can be very different on a producer by producer basis.

amarone-della-valpolicella

The main red wines include Valpolicella (your everyday wine), Valpolicella Superiore (a year of aging and 1% more alcohol), Valpolicella Ripasso (a wine whose grape must is run or “repassed”), and appassimento (made with the leftover pressed skins of Amarone, adding more complexity and body to the ripasso wine). Lastly, you have the prized wine of the region, Amarone, which goes through a special process where the grapes are picked and dried out for about 100-120 days on crates in well ventilated rooms before they are pressed, resulting in a wine of depth, concentration and richness. Amarone also comes at a higher price tag due to its status and quality.

anteprima-amarone-event

The Anteprima Amarone event I attended took place at the Gran Guardia in Verona’s central Piazza Bra on January 31 and February 1. The event presented 64 producers from the Consorzio that released their 2011 Amarone vintage — a vintage to experience in upcoming years. The wines from the event seemed to have the ability to age and develop in years to come. The wines were fresh, backed with lots of fruit that seemed complex with high alcohol and acidity that will start to smooth out in the next 2-3+ years. Many of the winemakers brought with them not only the 2011 bottles, but an older vintage as well to demonstrate how their wine ages over time.

Luca Martini (right)

Luca Martini (right)

I also attended a blind tasting at the event, conducted by the engaging and enthusiastic top sommelier of Italy, Luca Martini. Seventeen wines were shared from one of the best vintages, 1998, as well as the 2003 and 2006 vintages. Tasting through the 1998 vintages showed the aging potential of these wines as many of the wines seemed younger than a wine that already had 17 years of age.

The President of the Consortium, Christian Marchesini, shared that “Amarone is the engine of the economy.” With 80 percent of the wine being exported (the United States alone imports 42 percent) it’s important for the Amarone brand to maintain its quality. As Luca Martini stated, “the bottle and wine have a cultural heritage” and the best way to experience that firsthand is to always go to the source, but it’s not always that easy of an option for everybody, so support your local shops and restaurants and seek these wines out for yourself to get a taste of Veneto and the wines of Valpolicella.

About Jennifer Martin

Jennifer Martin is a Boston-based Italian wine blogger. Her love of wine first started years ago when she studied abroad in college in Florence, Italy. She's traveled to Italy a multitude of times now and her love and passion for Italy not only comes from her experience of living there, but also due to her Italian heritage. Jennifer now runs her own company and website, Vino Travels, specializing in wine travels to Italy.