Amarone Buying Guide

Learn about this delicious dry red wine from Italy


Amarone is essentially a modern day update on a traditional wine made for centuries from dried grapes in the area around Verona in Italy’s Veneto region--Recioto della Valpolicella. Whereas Recioto is quite sweet, however, thanks to a substantial amount of residual sugar, Amarone is fermented to complete dryness.

Like the dry red table wines from the Veneto’s Valpolicella region, both Amarone and Recioto are made from a blend dominated by Corvina (sometimes using the bigger berry version, Corvinone), along with the aromatic Rondinella and, in decreasing use, the high acid Molinara. Other red grapes may also be used in small amounts, making up to 15 percent of the blend.

The grapes for Amarone are harvested when ripe in mid-October and then allowed to dry, a process termed “appassimento” in Italian. This drying process typically lasts three to four months, concentrating the grapes’ sugars and reducing their weight by 40 to 50 percent. As a result, it takes over twice as many dried grapes to make a bottle of Amarone as it does a regular bottle of red wine. The dried grapes are then crushed and go through fermentation that turns the grapes’ sugar into alcohol, aided by special yeasts that continue to ferment even when the alcohol levels exceed those that usually kill off standard yeasts. The resulting wines, which generally exceed 14 percent alcohol, are then aged in large barrels and/or barriques.

The first Amarone was created in 1938. The story goes that its creation was accidental - a Recioto continued to ferment until it came out dry. Whether that’s true or not, little of it was made or sold until the mid-1950s. Fermentations used to be quite lengthy, often resulting in wines with high volatile acidity and oxidation. Improved drying methods and specialized yeasts have led to shorter fermentations, preserving more of the fruit flavors and minimizing VA. Amarone della Valpolicella was recognized with Italy’s highest designation, DOCG status, in 2009.

Amarone image via Shutterstock
What to expect: Amarone

Amarones are rich, dense and powerful wines with firm tannins. They offer complex aromas of dried cherry, black fruit, tar, anise, herbs and powdered chocolate. With age, they add leather and tobacco dimensions. On the palate, they are rich and dense, showing similar flavors with long finishes.

Amarones are terrific with braised and roasted meats and all dishes with rich meat sauces. Stews and roasted game can also be wonderful with these wines. Pasta with wild boar sauce is a natural. Tomato and truffle sauces also pair well. Of course, Amarone pairs to perfection with Venetian dishes, like risotto all'amarone and brasato all’amarone. Amarone also stands up well to aged cheeses—think mature Gruyere or aged Pecorino Romano.

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  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    Are the grapes protected from the elements during the drying process? Also, are they subjected to mold during the drying process?

    Sep 13, 2012 at 1:29 PM

  • Snooth User: Sweetstuff
    Hand of Snooth
    139592 254

    My understanding: yes and yes.

    Sep 13, 2012 at 2:09 PM

  • Snooth User: lingprof
    Hand of Snooth
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    Why are Amarones as a whole so expensive?

    Sep 13, 2012 at 2:51 PM

  • Wonderful wines, indeed but because of the cost, I drink them rarely. Another wine that is very similar but less costly is the Ripasso della Valpolicella. Much less expensive and not the same I know, but still a worthy vino.

    Sep 13, 2012 at 2:54 PM

  • Amarones by virtue of the intense labor and time make these wines more expensive. I lived near the Valpolicella Valley for three years and visited many of the wineries GDP discusses as well as many others off the beaten path. The grapes are usually hand selected clusters that are laid in airing racks that are stacked in open air facilities. They are brought out and hand turned during the drying process as they turn to almost raisin like (appassimento). The grapes become more intense and dehydrated, another reason for increased cost as it takes more grape to produce the same bottle. The winemakers I visited have improved their operations in both purity and cleanliness and this has decreased the amount of botrytis. I too agree that one can find very good ripasso (literally, to re-pass) from the region. They, when made right, resemble amarone and are often called baby amarones.

    Sep 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM

  • So sorry, I gave GDP credit for the apologies to Richard. Chin Chin!

    Sep 13, 2012 at 3:44 PM

  • I am a great fan of Amarone as it is a wonderful complex , powerful yet subtle wine. The Italians refer to this as a " wine of meditation" which it truly is as it a wine that deserves time and reflection and should not be rushed. It is a wine of character and this character changes glass by glass, one of the best examples we have tried and represent is a Vaona Perrgandi Classico Amarone 2008 ( Lake Garda), deep rich plum color, a velvet like texture than is heaven on a stick ( btw not all Amarone's are expensive you just need to get off the beaten track like we do to find these gems)

    Sep 14, 2012 at 12:43 AM

  • Snooth User: ccheede
    740853 47

    I enjoyed this article and am also an Amarone fan - but was particularly interested in the comment about volatile acidity. Some time ago I opened an expensive, well rated Amarone that exhibited so much VA that it was almost undrinkable. Is VA common in Amarone, is it bottle variation, what can be done with it, will it blow off, is some level of VA acceptable, did I just get a bad bottle?

    Sep 14, 2012 at 4:50 AM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 126,349

    zinfandel1 - Great question about protection of the grapes during the drying process, and whether they're subject to mold during drying. The answer, these days, is yes, Most producers use very clean, specially designed drying chambers, to keep the drying grapes as pristine as possible. As to everyday mold, they would certainly want to counter and eliminate that too. If you're asking about botrytis, that's a more complex question. Many producers, like the Allegrinis, believing in avoiding botrytis on grapes going into Amarone, as that kind of rot breaks down acid and tannins that they want in their wines. Other producers, like the Tedeschis, go for about 30% botrytis in their grapes, feeling it adds softness and richness.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 10:56 AM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 126,349

    lingprof, I think Paul gave a very good answer about why Amarones tend to be expensive. As mentioned in the article, too, it takes over twice as many dried grapes to make a bottle of Amarone as it does a regular wine, from non-dried grapes.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 10:57 AM

  • Snooth User: Richard Jennings
    Hand of Snooth
    780161 126,349

    ccheede - Amarones made prior to the last 10 years or so did tend to exhibit a lot of VA, due largely to the lengthy fermentations, and reliance on the native yeasts to start those fermentations (a lot of the yeasts that start fermentations, before Saccharomyces cervisae kicks in, yield VA). These days, shorter fermentations and the use of commercial yeasts have helped eliminate much of the VA of the past.

    Sep 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
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    Richard Jennings
    Thanks for answering my question in great detail. As far as mold, I was not thinking about botrytis but mold in general. Again, thanks for answering my question.

    Sep 18, 2012 at 7:43 AM

  • there are specific techniques for vinification of Amarone. The harvest is done exclusively by hand, which allows selection of healthy grapes, suitable for the subsequent drying or “appassimento”, this being another speciality of Valpolicella. The process is helped by the cool, dry breezes in this part of the country, and has ancient origins in Valpolicella. Originally, grapes were laid out on wooden floors in barns, then later hung from particular strings called "picai", next they were stretched out on mats called "arele", subsequently, they were arranged in wooden boxes and placed in specially designed drying rooms.This then being the most suitable method. “Appassimento” involves both the physical and chemical processes, as it initially involves grapes losing weight by dehydration (this varies with grape variety) followed by the formation of new compounds through concentration. Through this, both the alcohol and body structure of the wine increase, giving a longer ageing potential. Today we talk of "integrated appassimento", because, thanks to continual monitoring, we can decide whether to use outside air flowing from outsisde (when ambient conditions are optimal) or indoor programmed ventilation. The development of botrytis (the noble one! or, so called, grey botrytis) is considered very good for the grapes, as the mold is responsible for the synthesizing of glycerine, which makes the Amarone so smooth and enjoyable as no other red wine!

    Sep 18, 2012 at 8:42 AM

  • Snooth User: umairaslam
    1139811 8

    wowww Awesome containers of containers, indeed but because of the price, I eat them hardly ever. Another containers that is very identical but cheaper is the Ripasso della Valpolicella. Much less costly and not the same I know, but still a suitable vino.

    Sep 19, 2012 at 3:05 AM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    umairaslam - As much as I love Amarone, the price is rapidly depleting my budget. I will have to look into the Rapasso della Valpolicella. Thanks for the tip.

    Sep 19, 2012 at 7:47 AM

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