Amarone della Valpolicella is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara varieties. The wine was assigned DOC status in 1968 and on the 4th December 2009, Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella were promoted to the status of DOCG. The name Amarone, in Italian, literally translates to "the Great Bitter"; was used to distinguish it from the Recioto wine produced in the same region, which is typically sweeter in style.
Ripe grapes are harvested in the first two weeks of October, carefully selecting bunches having fruit not too close to each other, to allow air flow. Grapes are allowed to dry, traditionally on straw mats. This process is called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian.
This concentrates the remaining sugars and flavours. The pomace left over from pressing off the Amarone is used in the production of ‘Ripasso’ Valpolicella. Modern Amarone is now produced in special drying chambers under controlled conditions. This approach minimizes the amount of handling of the grapes and helps prevent the onset of Botrytis. In Amarone, the quality of the grape skin is a primary concern as that component brings the tannins, colour and intensity of flavour to the wine. The process of dehydration not only concentrates the juices within the grape but also increases the skin contact of the grapes.
The length of the drying process is typically 120 days but varies according to producer and the quality of the harvest. The most evident consequence of this process is the loss of weight from 25 to 45%. Following drying the grapes are crushed and then go through a dry, low temperature fermentation process which can last up to 30-50 days. After fermentation, the wine is then aged in barriques made from either French or Slovenian oak.
Amarone della Valpolicella wines must consist of a blend of grapes within the following percentages: Corvina Veronese between 45% and 95%. It is also allowed that a percentage of Corvinone up to 50% in substitution to a similar percentage of Corvina, with Rondinella between 5% - 30% and currently 5-10% of Molinara. It is possible to include in the production of Amarone up to a maximum of 10% of grapes coming from the following varietals: Negrara, Forsellina, Pelara and Oseleta.
At the end of the drying period, grapes should have a minimum natural alcohol of 14%. Before being released on the market, wines labeled 'Amarone della Valpolicella' must undergo a period of ageing of at least 2 years from January 1st of the year following the vintage of the harvest. Amarone della Valpolicella wines labeled 'Riserva', should age for a minimum period of 4 years from November 1st of the harvest vintage.