In terms of pure, full-throttle fruitiness, Amarone is unparalleled. There are more muscular red wines out there, and those with more complexity, but if you crave concentrated, silky fruit, there is no finer example.
Hailing from the Veneto region of northern Italy, Amarone della Valpolicella, to give it its full name, achieves its remarkable intensity through a process known as appassimento. This involves spreading out the grapes (typically Corvina, plus Corvinone and Rondinella) across straw mats and allowing them to partially dry out over a period of three to four months, intensifying their flavour and bringing a rich, almost port-like character to the finished wine.
It’s often paired with the robust venison and wild-boar stews of northern Italy, but Amarone is also regarded as a vino da meditazione – a wine to be sipped and contemplated after a meal, perhaps served with well-aged Parmesan and a handful of hazelnuts.
Recent years have seen winemakers looking at ways to keep Amarone’s hefty alcohol levels in check by harvesting earlier and reducing the grape-drying period. A glass of Amarone is never going to be the low-alcohol option, but for those wine drinkers for whom a 16% red wine may not be their cup of espresso, it’s good news that there’s been a noticeable push by producers to retain as much acidity and freshness as possible.
Roccolo Callisto’s 2012 bottling took an IWSC Gold this year, and is a superb introduction to the category. Here are the best five examples of Amarone from the IWSC 2020.
Expressive and complex nose of ripe cherries, raisins and oak spices. Smooth and seductive on the palate with concentrated cassis-like flavour; rich and balanced structure with chalky tannins and an extraordinary long finish. 15.5% n/a in UK
International Procurement and Logistics
Complexity of strawberry, graphite and tobacco on the nose, Palate is refreshing, ripe red fruit, spices and elegant tannins. Length continues well and structure is rounded. Very approachable example. 14.5% RRP £16 from Asda
Wild blackberries , liquorice and violets on the expressive nose. Deep and rich on the palate, balanced with refreshing acidity. A long and charming finish with hints of mocha. 16% RRP £45 from Davy's
Generous core of cooked black fruit balanced with firm tannins and full body. Decadent and luxurious, showing cedar, cinnamon and leather lifted by lively acidity and red berry freshness. 16% n/a in UK
Le Preare 2017
Cantina Valpolicella Negrar
This wine is well structured and packs a punch! More earthy than fruity at the fore, it opens up to provide a rich and intense palate with concentrated tannins and good grip. 15% n/a in UK