Maybe it was the cheap Chianti cloaked in a straw basket that we drank in the ‘90s that gave me such a poor first impression of Italian wines, but having recently tried some of their modern day reds, I am glad I gave their viticulture a second chance!
Where the old style Chianti was very dry, loaded with tannin and often bereft of flavour, modern Italian winemakers are experimenting with different blends and new techniques and are having tremendous success. Take for example the Amarone della Valpolicella. It’s a style developed in the Veneto region in North-Eastern Italy and is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. None of these three amigos is capable of providing much body to the wine or any degree of intensity of fruit flavours: so local winemakers developed a trick of drying their grapes after harvest to remove water, concentrate sugars and flavours and give some real depth to the end product.
The resulting Amarone wines are high in alcohol and muscular yet still mouth caressing and while maintaining a balanced tannin environment.
Some good Amarone can be extremely expensive at as much as $300.00 to $400.00 a bottle, but others, like the Zonin Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2010 is available locally at around $50 a bottle. The cuvee is 60% Corvina, 35% Rondinella and 5% Molinara and hails from the Valpolicella region of Veneto. It’s a deep red colour in the glass but displays a Christmas cake of rich fruit flavours right across the palate and gives a really nice mouthfeel, perhaps because of its near 15% alcohol content. Best of all is the seamless passage of the opulent fruit characters as they march like raisin soldiers across your mouth, before lingering like a sweet perfume until the next sip is taken.
I fear this may become my new favourite style, but thankfully, there are a few less expensive examples of the Amarone wines that hit Australian shores from time to time.