Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Amarone Dinner

Posted by JonDerry, Apr 1, 2012.

Was fortunate enough to attend a very well put together Amarone dinner in LA last night put on by a friend I met at a tasting last year. For those who don’t know, Amarone is a wine produced in Veneto, Italy, from mostly Corvina grapes along with 20-40% Rondinella and 5-25% Molinara. What makes these wines unique is that the grapes are basically hung out to dry for about 4 months after harvest, and before crush, losing about 35 – 40% of their weight, and resulting in higher alcohol (14 – 15+%), full bodied wines.

Never having tasted Amarone, I’ve been hearing more and more about them lately and it seems to be establishing itself as perhaps the most popular Italian red wine not involving Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, or Bordeaux varietals. After having tasted a few good examples last night, I found them to be as unique as advertised, with complex smells and tastes of raisins, liqueur, curry spices, but most of all, powdered and concentrated chocolate (cocao).

2008 Corte Rugolin Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 

First up was a Ripasso also known as a “baby” Amarone, similar to how a Langhe Nebbiolo might be a baby Barolo or Barbaresco. This was a popular wine among the crowd, probably due to the mint freshnesst, tight black/red fruits, and easy going tannins.

2010 Gini Soave Classico

After looking over the list of wines, I offered to bring a Venetian white, and Soave (pronounced Sue-Ah-Vay) seemed to be the best and most widely available choice. This wine showed well, and was a nice white counterpart to the Ripasso, also exuding good freshness, underlying butter and cream notes with little oak influence and not much bitterness (grain, wheat), just good clean fruit elements that you’d expect to find in a hybrid of Chardonnay and semi-sweet to dry Riesling. Not that a Soave is supposed to taste like Chardonnay or Riesling, but I personally found relatable elements to both.

2006 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

This wine definitely raised the stakes, clearly a much bigger wine, with powerful tannins, and also exuding big chunks of the powdered chocolate and raisin. Though much bigger in style, this wine was consistent in quality with the first two wines, all nearly outstanding, though this was the consensus #3 wine of the night.

1998 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella

The paper champ, the Brigaldara was supposed to be the best wine without much of a question according to the host, but we all had to convince her otherwise after tasting them all. This was a very good wine, showing good regional typicity and perhaps having the longest finish, but it was clearly beaten out as the first runner up.

2002 Tommaso Bussola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico BG

Maybe this was made in a more forward style compared to the Brigaldara, but if there was ever a case of drinking a wine at its absolute peak, this was it. It was giving so much good chocolate and raisin flavors with some nice botanicals and acidity mixed in, though it was how the wine released these flavors, softly exploding on towards the end of the mid-palate and fully resolving on the finish that made it such a pleasure to drink. 93+ points

1995 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – This was probably the big disappointment of the night, not that it was bad, it just didn’t show much any fruit or other flavors to note. Gave less than the Ripasso.

Overall it turned out to be one of the better tastings I’ve been to, and was just what I’ve been trying to seek out after some disappointments with public or commercial tastings around LA. A classic example of how wine can unite quality people, food, and conversation in a festive atmosphere. The wines were paired with an excellent Spaghetti Bolognese.


Reply by Vinpeder, Apr 2, 2012.

Hi Jonderry

Seems to have been an interresting tasting:)

If you want to taste more, I can suggest you , to try Gamba Campedel 2007. It just got 19/20 in Decanter and is a great Amarone, as it is not to alcoholic or heavy. Needs 4-6 hours in the decanter before tasting.

cin cin Peder



Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Apr 2, 2012.

It's been quite some time since I threw an Amarone dinner. The last was very memorable but I think I'llhave to wait until the fall to even begin thinking of the next one. Glad to share you's though, vicariously as it may be!

Reply by genaberg, Apr 3, 2012.

Amarone is one of our favorite splurges. We enjoy the Masi Costasera Amarone Classico. Others that we recently tried were the Santi and the Bolla, both enjoyable also. Looking forward to trying those listed here.


Reply by JonDerry, Apr 3, 2012.

Thanks Vin, seems like this got some Amarone lovers out of the woodwork.

Gena, definitely recommend the Tommaso's, seems like a really solid producer. Thanks for the rec's as well, cheers.

Reply by shsim, Apr 4, 2012.

Thanks for sharing Jon! I have never had Amarone and after reading 'powdered and concentrated chocolate (cocao)', I am going on a hunt! Did you guys pair with food or just tasting? Blind?

Reply by steve666, Apr 4, 2012.

One should try the Ripasso and the Amarones.  There are several around at the $15-30 price points, and having just started drinking them about a year ago, I tried many, but have enjoyed them all.  Very much a change of pace wine -- full bodied but very different flavors.  Just had three bottles in last several days -- on a vacation, and it was such a pleasure.   Trader Joe's sells a few at 15-20USD that are good deals.


Reply by JonDerry, Apr 5, 2012.

Shi, Amarone's an interesting steve triple 6 points out, it's a "change of pace" wine, definitely. Even better if you can find good examples for $30 or less, not sure though, all the Amarone we had other than the Ripasso was $50+, and though the Ripasso was nice, it wasn't in the same class.

The Soave's are interesting though if you like whites, can get good ones easily in that $15 - 20 range.

Reply by steve666, Apr 5, 2012.


haven't spent over 30 for an amarone, so have no idea what higher line amarones are like.   Trader Joe's and Costco are good places to start, and I have bought them at various on line stores.  

Reply by edwilley3, May 19, 2012.

One of the best food-wine pairings I've experienced was a long aged Allegrini "Palazzon della Torre" with a filet garnished with a liquorice-wine reduction sauce.  The old Amarone blended so beautifully with that wonderful sauce and the beef. Yum!

Reply by Lucha Vino, May 20, 2012.

I just tried my first full bottle of Amarone as the Giro d' Italia started in Veneto, the heart of Amarone country (from what I understand).  I was really impressed with the richness of this robust and hearty red wine.  The winemaking style with the dried grapes is really interesting too.

I matched up the Amarone with a Amarone style wine from an Oregon winery using Washington Grapes.

2007 Musella Amarone Della Valpolicella v. 2008 Tre Nova Seccopasso

You can read the full details of the match on my LuchaVino blog.

I will continue to feature Italian wine through the end of May as I follow the route of the Giro.


Reply by dmcker, May 22, 2012.

I've always wondered why Amarones aren't more popular these days. Probably just a PR positioning and risk-averse distribution decision set of issues. Because of the  'American palate' and how bigger, over-ripe fruit has been built into so many wines in CA and elsewhere in recent years, feeding a virtuous/vicious (you choose which word you prefer) demand cycle, I'd think that a big, hairy, beasty Amarone might just catch on. That palate and bomb-production trend as we know is one explanation why the geeks effetishly head towards Burgundy. It's hard to imagine two more diametrically opposed reds than Amarones and Burgundies...

Reply by JonDerry, May 23, 2012.

Definitely a PR and positioning thing for Amarone. Just going by Italian regions, the Veneto comes in a distant third to Tuscany and Piedmont it would seem. More and more, I'm starting to understand why Burgundy is so important...almost by process of elimination.

Reply by Eric Guido, May 23, 2012.

First, let me say that I really enjoy a good Amarone.  in fact, my wife enjoys them A LOT, and so we always keep some in the house.

As for why more people don't buy it, I believe the first problem is quality versus cost.  I was recently at an Amarone tasting and there was only one bottle out of twenty that I would buy for my own cellar.  When I inquired about the cost--$125.  The other bottles were okay and some were even better than okay but nothing worth laying the money out for.

Second, Amarone might be big and often ripe but it also has a tendency to be bitter with too much of its alcohol poking through the seams.  I believe that a lot of people taste Amarone and it simply reminds them too much of a cocktail or desert wine (don't forget about how unpopular dessert when is in this country).

I guess the summation of my thoughts are that enjoyable, affordable and balanced Amarone is not easy to come by.

Reply by JonDerry, May 23, 2012.

Definitely a good point on the $ factor. While it may be true you can get cheaper Amarone (Ripasso's), it's a similar situation to CA Cabernet. While cheaper examples can be found to varying degrees of acceptability, truth is that if you want the good stuff, the price is now typically $50 - $100.

Incidentally, the Amarone I really loved from the dinner, the 2002 Tomasso goes for $60, and that looks like a good value in the Amarone world.

Reply by dmcker, May 23, 2012.

Was hoping to stimulate a little discussion here, and glad to see you showing up, Eric.

Points taken (and previously understood) about both that bitterness and the pricing. Just was thinking some ambitious Venetian (plenty of them in the very old days) might round off a couple of edges for a limited range of offerings, cut costs a bit, invest in a little promotion, and ship trireme loads of amphorae (or whatever the Venteians used to use!) off to the new world. If not exactly like that, but with some tweaks to their efforts by some enterprising entrepreneur, who knows?  ;-)

Oh, and if you don't like the prices in the States, you should try Japan.  ;-(

Reply by Eric Guido, May 23, 2012.


Dmcker - I couldn't resist commenting on a topic about Amarone.  

JON - I do love Tomasso Bussola and you are right that their entry-level bottle is a very good price for its level of quality.  The problem is for the average consumer to find their way through the sea of mediocrity, to find it.

Then there are the Ripasso Volpolicellas, which can be good but not often great.  One that I love comes from the producer L'Arco.  You seriously need to give this bottle 3 - 4 hours of air.  But then you get to marvel at how good it is.  Again, this is the exception and not the norm.

I think the best bet for the region would be to improve the Valpolicellas to a point that consumers can’t ignore the quality.  Much like some of the excellent Côtes du Rhône that tempts you to try a CdP.  That would stimulate consumer interest.  Instead, most Valpolicella is like a big glass of fermented cherry juicy.  Yummy, juicy but often forgettable. 

Reply by lingprof, May 23, 2012.

Amarone is my secret affair, lol!  Got so thirsty just reading your notes, JD.  If you hear of good events in the L.A. area that are open to the public, shoot me a note, okay?  That or we have to pressure GDP to come out here.  :-)


Reply by jtryka, Jun 8, 2012.

Wow!  I am admittedly so jealous of this tasting!  Amarone is such a wonderful wine and every wine lover should try it at some point.  You  might check some of the online retailers, as I think I bought several bottles of 2007 Amarone from WTSO.

As for the alternatives, one of my favorite wine sellers turned me on to the Bussola Ca' del Laito Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, I bought a bottle of the 2004 vintage for about $26, but I haven't tried it yet!  Another Valpolicella Ripasso I've had in the past that's superb is the Tenuta Sant' Antico Monti Garbi, I bought a few bottles of the 2006 vintage for under $20 and it was fantastic!

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