What to have with your Amarone?

Wine Made From Dried Grapes?

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We wanted to alert you to a great buy on a really good Amarone, the famous and fantastic rich red wine from the Veneto in northern Italy. Then we started thinking about some other wines that are made the same way. Our intended focus is on Musella’s Amarone, which is a steal for the quality, but you may enjoy seeing the listing below of bottles for Quintarelli, the most famous producer of Amarone, which are actually ‘very well priced’.

Imagine taking your precious and hard-won crop, and deliberately reducing it by half. This is what happens when grapes are dried to make Amarone, and the same process is used to make the Valtellina wine called Sforzato, and the remarkable sweet wines from the island of Pantelleria. After harvest the most pristine bunches of grapes are spread on mats in purpose-built rooms (ventilation is the key); it takes 2 – 3 months of careful tending for the grapes to lose the desired amount of water from the juice, and then the grapes are pressed and fermented.  The drying process removes water and concentrates sugar; the resulting wine is rich and powerful, with a permitted minimum alcohol level of 14°. These are not shy wines – they’re impressive, full bodied, and delicious. They go well with hearty autumnal / wintery food, like stews and roasts; we’ve also had fantastic Risotto al’Amarone.  The intensity of the wine means that they can be enjoyed in place of Port (with less risk of headache), and they are red wines that go well with cheese. Italians call Amarone and Sforzato “vini da meditazione”; for most of us a little extra contemplation in life wouldn’t be a bad thing!

 

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Musella 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella

We were very happy to discover Musella when we attended a big tasting of family-run Amarone estates. Many big names were there, and the wines mostly showed what we don’t care for in Amarone – big wines with massive fruit, very low acidity, and enough residual sugar to push the wine into the dessert category. Musella Amarone stood out, with soaring brightness to balance its rich tones and hefty weight. Instead of the sweet plum character of many Amarones, Musella impressed us with zesty cherry fruit and minerality. Musella, by the way, is certified organic, and the vineyards are in conversion to biodynamics. Special pricing for this offer should help make it irresistible — Amarone of this quality is never this reasonably priced!

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $39.99

Monte Dall' Ora 2008 Valpolicella Amarone Classico

For some years now Monte dall’Ora has been our reference point for the Valpolicella: their complete line-up is a testament to the grace and elegance that can be achieved in region where the wines are so often dull (or at least not much to our taste). Even the Amarone – at 15.5 alcohol – has surprising fresh acidity to complement the dense structure and touch of sweetness, along with very positive earthy and spicy notes that many other Amarones lack. It’s hard to imagine a nicer companion to a rich stew – although aged cheese would be fine – but if dinner isn’t for ten years or so the wine will be up to the challenge.

 

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $109.99

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $379.99

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $1,599.99

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  • red sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $249.99

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $299.99

Marsetti 2006 Valtellina Superiore Sforzato

As with Amarone, Sforzato is very labor-intensive: the drying grapes must be carefully tended every day to prevent mold, and of course the drying process results in much less wine. The Valtellina’s cliff-like vineyards require so much work (an hour of labor in the relatively gentle hills of the Veneto is the equivalent of 6 hours in the Valtellina) that the wines are never inexpensive, but we love good Sforzato. For one thing the higher acidity of Nebbiolo gives the wine some lift and brightness that makes them a bit easier to drink. The trick is to get the complexity and concentration that comes with drying the grapes, but to avoid cooked and stewed flavors – not a simple accomplishment.

Alberto Marsetti is a very small producer. He’s one of the few in the region to forgo small new oak for aging his wines, and the results are very fine and pure.  Sforzato needs some time in bottle, and the 2006 is now beginning to show its stuff.

 

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  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99

Ferrandes 2006 Passito di Pantelleria 375ml

Pantelleria is a little island between Sicily and Tunisia. The sweet wines produced there (from partially dried grapes) are by far the best of their type that we’ve ever tasted. We find most sweet wines are sugary monoliths that lack nuance or complexity. The passito process of air-drying grapes certainly helps to make sweet wine more interesting, but it fascinates us that given the same raw ingredients, it turns out that the chef really makes all the difference. Marco de Bartoli and Salvatore Ferrandes have been making amazing wine on Pantelleria for many years. What they achieve isn’t well known, but we think it rivals Tokaj, Sauternes,BA/ TBA, and the very best Vin Santo.

The Ferrandes passito is remarkably complex, with aromas and flavors of apricot and peach, creme brulee, roasted nuts, and even a bit of lime-like citrus. The wine is very rich, but it's balanced with fresh acidity and the complexity of flavor keeps it from being cloying. If you like a sweet wine with cheese this would be great; otherwise and not-too-sweet dessert will be a fine match.

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  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $46.99

De Bartoli 2006 Passito di Pantelleria Sole d'Agosto

The late Marco de Bartoli was fortunate to have two equally dedicated sons to carry on his legacy in Marsala and on Pantelleria. Sol di Agosto is a new wine, intended to complement their passito called Bukkaram which has much longer aging before release. The Sol has similar complexity of aroma and flavor, but it’s fresher and shows a bit more cut and verve, which will probably make it a lot more difficult to stop after your first glass.

  • Out of Stock
  • white sweet
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99