The Vineyards and the Grapes
How the wines are made
|Masi is one of the Amarones you can find at Doris Italian Market. Other Amarones include Bertani, Brigaldara and others depending on the store...|
DOC or DOCG
Regions and their producers applying for DOCG status have to show 10 years of record keeping and documentation, and when reds, like Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino were awarded their DOCGs, they didn't have to do anything differently from what they had already been doing.
In the recent case of Amarone, however, some fine producers in general, and a group of twelve Amarone families in particular, decided to put some teeth into their newly awarded "G", and rise to the meaning of the "G", which stands for Garantita. They decided that standards had to be raised, production had to be limited by lowering the yield per hectare to ensure quality, with no new plantings scheduled until 2013. Producers had to agree to abide by all of the stricter regulations that come with being a DOCG wine, such as minimums for alcohols and extracts.
The recently created Amarone Families Association has agreed on an increase of the amount of Corvina, from 40-80% to 45-95%. The percent of Corvinone has also been increased, since its thicj skins and low yields make it suitable for drying. DOC Amarone had permitted 10% "foreign" varieties, such as Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. The newly designated DOCG Amarone willa lso be allowed to use those varieties, but may also use 10% of indigineous smaller varieties, such as Oselata and Negrara.
The unique taste of Amarone
Common tasting notes of Amarone acknowledge the vibrancy of the wines, their freshness, the way that the high levels of tannin were so seamlessly integrated with the fruit. Despite having alcohol levels between 15% and 16% these wines are extremely balanced, warm in some cases but never aggressive or intrusive.
Additionally, even in the most ‘modern’ style, the oak was never overt, instead adding subtle background and complexity to the fruit.
In the late 20th century, a new style of wine known as ripasso (meaning "repassed") emerged. With this technique, the pomace of leftover grape skins and seeds from the fermentation of recioto and Amarone are added to the batch of Valpolicella wines for a period of extended maceration.
The additional food source for the remaining fermenting yeasts helps boost the alcohol level and body of the wines while also leaching additional tannins, glycerine and some phenolic compounds that contribute to a wine's complexity, flavor and color. As the production of Amarone has increased in the 21st century, so too has the prevalence of ripasso style wines appearing in the wine market, with most Amarone producers also producing a ripasso as a type of "second wine".
An alternative method is to use partially dried grapes, instead of leftover pomace, which contain less bitter tannins and even more phenolic compounds.
The first Valpolicella producer to commercially market a ripasso wine was Masi in the early 1980s.When the style first became popular in the late 20th century, it was rarely noted on the wine label. There was also debate about whether it was even permitted to be included under DOC regulations. If it was mentioned at all it was relegated to the back label wine description notes. Today the term ripasso is freely permitted to be used, with several examples on the wine market labeled as being made in the ripasso style. In late 2009, Ripasso della Valpolicella received its own DOC designation.