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Grenache | Red Wines

March 3rd, 2008

Grenache Noir | Red WinesGrenache (pronounced gren-ash) (in Spanish, Garnacha, in Catalan, Garnatxa) is probably the most widely planted variety of red wine grape in the world. It ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain and in the south of France. It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and colour, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut.

Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhône wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in “GSM” blends with Syrah and Mourvèdre.

Grenache is also used to make rosé wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of most Australian ‘port’.

Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: Alicante, Cannonau, Garnacha (more)
Origin: Spain
Notable regions: Rhône, Sardinia, Spain


Grenache may have originated in Spain, probably in Aragon or Catalonia, but has since spread over the Pyrenees into southern France and the rest of the Mediterranean. It is the same grape variety as Cannonau which is claimed to originate in Sardinia. This might imply that it is really from Sardinia, and was imported to Spain when Sardinia was under Aragón rule.

Clones, mutants and crosses

Like the Pinot family, Grenache comes in ‘black’, ‘grey’ and ‘white’ versions, plus a mutant with an altered epidermis.

The standard “black Grenache” is known as “Garnatxa Fina” in Catalan, and is the most common version.

The “hairy Grenache” is also known by names such as Lladoner Pelud (see below). The leaves look similar to Macabeo, but with fine little hairs. Recent research in Spain into this bizarre clone indicates that is produces smaller berries with a thicker skin, which suggests a greater potential than the original for making fine wine. This is an active area of investigation.

Grenache Gris is widely planted in France in particular, but is declining under the current vine pull schemes.

Grenache blanc is a major variety in its own right, particularly in France, where it is an important component of many white wines from the Rhône. It is often blended with Roussanne.

Grenache Noir was crossed with Petit Bouschet to give Alicante Bouschet, sometimes called Garnacha Tintorera. It was an important grape during Prohibition, as its thick skins survived being transported from Californian vineyards to consumers, who were allowed to make small amounts of wine at home.

In 1961, a cross between Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon produced the French wine grape Marselan.

Distribution and wines


A clone from Perpignan arrived in Australia with James Busby in 1832 collection. More significant was the introduction into South Australia of new cuttings from the South of France, by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold in 1844. Plantings in South Australia boomed, particularly in McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley and Clare Valley. Traditionally much of the production went into a fortified wine sold as ‘port’, but recently interest has turned to unfortified wines either as a single varietal or in “GSM” blends with Shiraz (Syrah) and Mataro (Mourvèdre). These wines are often the product of old vines grown in excellent conditions, and can be very successful.


Grenache can make three very different styles of wine in France, where it is planted on nearly 100,000 hectares in the Rhône valley and across the huge vineyards of Languedoc-Roussillon, where it may be known as Alicante or Carignane Rousse. As a single varietal it makes rosé wines throughout the region, although the most famous are from the Tavel district of the Côtes du Rhône. Grenache is best known for making dry red wines, sometimes as a single varietal but more commonly blended with more chewy grapes such as Cinsault and Mourvèdre. It forms the basis of the red wines of Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where 12 other grapes can be included in the blend. Emmanuel Reynaud of Château Rayas in Chateauneuf du Pape, and Philippe Laurent of Domaine du Gramenon are notable proponents of Grenache as a single varietal.

Grenache is also used in vins doux naturels, sweet fortified wines from French Catalonia. Banyuls is the best known of the red vins doux naturels, but they are also made in Maury and Rivesaltes.


Grenache is known as Cannonau in Sardinia, where it may have originated and is still common.


Garnacha (Garnatxa in Catalan) used to be the most widely planted variety in its homeland of Spain, but has now been surpassed by the fast-expanding Tempranillo. It is still the dominant variety in southern Aragón, particularly in the Cariñena, Calatayud and Campo de Borja appellations. In the famous Catalan wine producing region of Priorat it is traditionally blended with the dominant Carignan. In Terra Alta, just southwest of the Priorat, the blend is often the same but many wineries have been begun to blend it with Cabernet and Syrah.


Grenache is grown in California’s Central Valley.

Vine and viticulture

The vine is upright, with good wind tolerance. Its natural vigour must be controlled for best results. The three-lobed leaves are yellowy-green, with no hairs on the undersurface unless it’s the ‘hairy’ clone mentioned above. The medium-sized bunches are conical and winged, with blue-black berries.

In commercial production, the vine tends to alternate, with one ‘good’ year of production, followed by a ‘lighter’ year whilst it recuperates.


Abundante, Aleante, Aleantedi Rivalto, Aleante Poggiarelli, Alicant Blau, Alicante, Alicante Grenache, Aragones, Bois Jaune, Cannonaddu, Cannonadu Nieddu, Cannonau, Cannonau Selvaggio, Canonazo, Carignane Rosso, Elegante, Francese, Garnaccho Negro, Garnacha Comun, Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Roja, Garnacha Tinta, Garnatxa Negra, Garnatxa Pais, Gironet, Granaccia, Granaxa, Grenache Noir, Grenache Rouge, Kek Grenache, Lladoner, Mencida, Navaro, Navarra, Navarre de la Dordogne, Navarro, Negru Calvese, Ranconnat, Red Grenache, Redondal, Retagliadu Nieddu, Rivesaltes, Rousillon Tinto, Roussillon, Rouvaillard, Sans Pareil, Santa Maria de Alcantara, Tentillo, Tintella, Tintilla, Tinto Aragones, Tinto Menudo, Tinto Navalcarnero, Tocai Rosso, Toledana and Uva di Spagna.

Synonyms for the hairy Grenache include Garnatca Peluda, Garnatxa Pelud, Lladoner Gris, Lladoner Pelud and Lledoner Pelut.


Montalcino | Red WinesBrunello di Montalcino is a red Italian wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 70 miles southwest of Florence. Brunello is a clone of Sangiovese, a grape used in Chianti. Brunello is one of the best-known (and expensive) wines of Italy. Well-made Brunellos are capable of aging for long periods of time, given their high tannin content.


Montalcino has one of the warmest climates in Tuscany and the grapes in the area ripen up to a week earlier than in nearby Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico. There are distinct micro-climates among the northern and southern slopes of Montalcino. The northern slopes receive fewer hours of sunlight and are generally cooler than the southern slopes. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes tend to produce wines that are racier and more aromatic, while the southern slopes tend to produce wines with more power and complexity. The top producers in the area have vineyards on both slopes, and make use of a blend of both styles.


Although the modern rules for making Brunello were first laid down by the Biondi Santi family in the late 1880s, the current industry has its roots in the 1960s when there were only a handful of producers. Even as recently as 1975, the total number of producers was approximately 25 vintners producing approximately 70,000 cases of Brunello total. According to the Consorzio di Vini di Brunello di Montalcino, in 1995 120 producers made 300,000 cases. Today there are well over 200 producers in the Consorzio. The production has risen to over 6,000,000 bottles, or 500,000 cases.


Brunello di Montalcino | Red WinesBrunello di Montalcino must be made 100% from the Brunello clone of Sangiovese. Most producers will separate their production between a normale and riserva bottling. The normale bottles are released on the market 50 months after harvest and the riserva are released a year afterward. The current aging requirements were established in 1998 and dictate that Brunellos are to be aged in wood for 2 years and at least 4 months in a bottle before release.

Traditionally, the wines are aged 3 years or so “in botte,” large oak casks that impart little oak flavor but allow for the controlled softening of the wine. Modernists use small barrique which impart a more pronounced oak flavor. There is a middle ground where the wine is aged in small barrique for a short time and then spends a longer sojourn in the traditional botte.

While there are wineries that follow traditional processes and still make dark and rich wines, the reason for this is the conditions of the soils and the micro-climates of the vineyards. This contrasts to winemaking processes that reduce the time in botte or eliminate it entirely, and follow fermentation methods designed to extract more color and tannin from the grapes.


Brunello is often compared with the Pinot noir wines of Burgundy with its smooth tannins and ripe, fruit driven character. The wines are available to be consumed soon after release but generally hit their prime six to eight years after harvest. The wines have good aging ability with some producers regularly making wines that still improve within the bottle for more than 20 years. The high acidity of the wine allows it to pair well with food, especially grilled meat and game. A large portion of Brunello sold in the United States is purchased in restaurants.

Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova 2001 Brunello di Montalcino was named Wine Spectator’s 2006 “Wine of the Year”.

Other DOCs

Rosso di Montalcino, is the other main DOC from Montalcino. This wine has few restrictions on aging other than it may not be released prior to September 1 of the year following the vintage. It is required to be 100% Brunello grape grown in a strictly delimited zone within the area of Montalcino. It can range from a soft, easy-to-drink-when-young style to a wine capable of long aging when made by a fine wine estate in a great vintage.


Barolo | Red Wines

March 3rd, 2008

Barolo city | Red Wines
Barolo is an Italian wine, one of many to claim the title “Wine of kings, and king of wines”. It is produced in Cuneo’s province, south-west of Alba, within the region of Piemonte.

It is produced in the communes of Barolo, Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba and parts of the communes of Cherasco, Diano d’Alba, Grinzane Cavour, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Novello, Roddi, Verduno, all in the province of Cuneo. Only vineyards in the hills with suitable slopes and orientations are considered adapted to production, and the terrains must be primarily clayey-calcareous in character.

The wine is produced from the Nebbiolo grape variety. The Lampia, Michet and Rosé types are authorized. It matures at the end of September. The clusters are dark blue and greyish with the abundant wax that dresses the grapes. Their form is lengthened, pyramidal, with small, spherical grapes with substantial peel. The leaves are of average size with three or five lobes.

Barolo typically smells of tar and roses, and can take on an unusual orange tinge with age. When subjected to aging of at least five years, the wine can be labeled a Riserva. The initial nose of a barolo is often that of the pine tree.

For connoisseurs it is Italy’s most collected wine; for beginners it is a difficult one to understand.

Barolo data



Amount produced

5,000,000 litres

Maximum yield

8000 kg/ha

Maximum yield of wine from grapes


Minimum alcohol level


Minimum total acidity


Minimum net dry extract


Required aging

three years

The “Barolo wars”

In the past all Barolos used to be very tannic and they took more than 10 years to soften up. Fermenting wine sat on the grape skins for at least three weeks, extracting huge amounts of tannins; then it was aged in large, wooden casks for years.

In order to meet the international taste, which preferred fruitier, more accessible styles, the “modernists” cut fermentation times to a maximum of ten days and put the wine in new French barriques (small oak barrels). The results, said traditionalists, were wines that weren’t even recognizable as Barolo and tasted more of new oak than of wine.

The controversies between traditionalists and modernists have been called the Barolo wars.

The war has now subsided. Though outspoken modernists are still committed to new oak, many producers are now choosing the middle ground, often using a combination of barriques and large casks. The more prestigious houses, however, still reject barriques and insist on patience only for their exceptional wines. These are auction staples, sought after by aficionados in Italy, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and the United States.

Traditionalist producers include: Giuseppe Rinaldi, Marcarini, Bartolo Mascarello, Brovia, Giuseppe Mascarello, Giovanni Conterno, Paolo Conterno, Comm. Burlotto, Oddero, Barale, Cavallotto, Massolino, Bruno “the Maestro” Giacosa, Luigi Pira, Vietti (especially the Riserva Villero), Vajra.

Modernist producers include: Scavino, Gigi Rosso, Rivetti, Ceretto, Aldo Conterno (from 1996 onwards), Boglietti, Mauro Veglio, Altare, Sandrone, Domenico Clerico, E. Pira, Einaudi, Icardi, Parusso, Prunotto, Ceretto, Corino, Alessandria, Silvio Grasso, Seghesio (Aldo e Ricardo).

In January 2007, Filippo Bartolotta indicated how a vertical tasting of Barolo, from 1985 to the present “showcased Barolo’s longevity, intense aromatics, freshness, silk-and-cashmere tannins and also highlighted the considerable contrast between production zones”.

Barolo Chinato

The origins of Barolo Chinato date back to the nineteenth century and they are a precious elixir according to the popular culture.

They are aromatic wines that are prepared using Barolo with infusion of China Calissaja bark, rhubarb root, and about ten other aromatic herbs.

Grappa di Barolo

By distilling the residue of wine press of Nebbiolo, it’s possible to obtain grappa, a spirit smooth and mild like the grapes destinated to make Barolo. The distillation makes use of a traditional process with alembic in a bain-marie. This spirit, only just condensed in a refrigerating coil, is a white drink. After ageing in oaks for three years at least, the colour becomes light yellow, slightly amber-coloured, and the taste grows smooth. The right spirituousness is around 45%, because it intensifies the fragrances, the alcohol and the ethers.


Barbera | Red Wines

March 1st, 2008

Barbera Grape | Red WinesBarbera is a red wine grape variety that is either the most- or second most-planted variety in Italy. It gives good yields and can impart deep colour, low tannins and (unusually for a warm-climate red grape) high levels of acid.

Century-old vines still exist in many regional vineyards and allow production of long-aging, robust red wines with intense fruit and enhanced tannic content. The best known appellation is Barbera d’Asti. When young, the wines offer a very intense aroma of fresh red and black berries. In the lightest versions notes of cherries, raspberries and blueberries and with notes of blackberry, black cherries and fruit in brandy wines made of more ripe grapes. Many producers adds the flavor of toasted (searing the wood over open fire) oak barrels, obtaining very good results in terms of complexity and longevity when vanilla and ‘toast’ is added to the original fruit aroma. The lightest versions are not recommended for cellaring (fresh fruit replaced by bitterness and notes of dried fruits). Wines with better balance between acid and fruit, often with the addition of oak and high alcohol content - and reduced yields - are more capable of cellaring.

Barbera | Red Wines

Species: Vitis vinifera
Also called: (more)
Origin: Monferrato, Italy
Notable regions: Montferrat (Italy), California, Australia and Argentina
Notable wines: Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Barbera d’Alba


Barbera is believed to have originated in the hills of Monferrato in central Piemonte, Italy and is known from the thirteenth century. A number of clones have evolved.

Distribution and Wines

Northwest Italy is much the most important region for Barbera, but Italian immigrants spread it through much of the New World, where its acidity is valued in blended wines for the ‘freshness’ it imparts.


Barbera went to Argentina with Italian immigrants. It is quite widely grown, but is used mostly for blending.


Barbera came to Australia via University of California, Davis in the 1960s. It has been grown for ~25 years in the Mudgee region of New South Wales, with later plantings in the King Valley and the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Selected vine clones have been trialled with great success in McLaren Vale, which is regarded as Australia’s premium red wine growing region.


As in Argentina, Barbera was brought by Italian immigrants to Brazil. For instance Casa Valduga make a rose from a Sangiovese/Barbera blend.


Barbera is found in the north western part of Italy, particularly in Monferrato, and to a lesser extent further south. It likes the same conditions as Nebbiolo, but the latter is more profitable so is grown on the best sites. The earlier-ripening Barbera is grown on the cooler lower slopes below the Nebbiolo, and other secondary locations. This explains why relatively little Barbera is grown in the DOCG around Alba, where the wines are entitled to the appellation Barbera d’Alba. Thus the best known Barbera is the DOC of Barbera d’Asti. Barbera del Monferrato DOC - which tends to be somewhat sparkling (frizzante) - is seldom exported.

All three DOCs have ‘Superiore’ equivalents (eg Barbera d’Asti Superiore DOC), which typically require an extra 0.5% alcohol and at least 6 months in barrel. Traditionally Barbera was aged in large botte of Slovenian oak for several years, but there has been a recent trend to mature at least part of the wine in (expensive) small barriques of French oak - with a corresponding effect on prices.
The grape is permitted in many other Italian DOCs.


Again, it came with Italian immigrants to the South American country.


Italian immigrants brought Barbera to the Napa Valley and Central Valley of California, where it is quite widely grown. It provides “backbone” for so-called “jug wines” and is being explored as a varietal. Recently, it has begun to be used in a number of wines in the Monticello wine region in Virginia with some success.

Vine and Viticulture

Barbera likes warm climates and can give high yields. The compact bunches of black grapes ripen quite late, although not as late as Nebbiolo.


Barber a Raspo Rosso, Barbera a Peduncolo Rosso, Barbera a Peduncolo Verde, Barbera a Raspo Verde, Barbera Amaro, Barbera Crna, Barbera D’Asti, Barbera Dolce, Barbera Fina, Barbera Forte, Barbera Grossa, Barbera Mercantile, Barbera Nera, Barbera Nostrana, Barbera Riccia, Barbera Rissa, Barbera Rosa, Barbera Vera, Barberone, Besgano, Cosses Barbusen, Gaietto, Lombardesca, Ughetta.


Chianti | Red Wines

February 25th, 2008

Chianti Bottles | Red WinesChianti is Italy’s most famous red wine, which takes its name from a traditional region of Tuscany where it is produced.[1] It used to be easily identified by its squat bottle enclosed in a straw basket, called fiasco (”flask”; pl. fiaschi); however, the fiasco is only used by a few makers of the wine now; most Chianti is bottled in traditionally shaped wine bottles. Low-end Chianti is generally fairly inexpensive, with a basic Chianti running less than US$10 for a bottle. More sophisticated Chiantis, however, are made and sold at substantially higher price points. Today, Chianti is generally drunk at room temperature, like most other red wines.


The first definition of a wine-area called Chianti was made in 1716. It described the area near the villages of Gaiole in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti and Radda in Chianti; the so-called Lega del Chianti and later Provincia del Chianti (Chianti province). In 1932 the Chianti area was completely re-drawn. The new Chianti was a very big area divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano and Rùfina. The old Chianti area was then just a little part of the Classico area, being the original area described in 1716 about 40% of the extension of the Classico sub-area and about 10% of all Chianti. Most of the villages that in 1932 were suddenly included in the new Chianti Classico area added immediately or later in Chianti to their name (the latest was the village of Greve changing its name to Greve in Chianti in 1972).

Rural Tuscany near San Gimignano (part of Chianti Colli Senesi sub-area.)The popularity and high exportability of this wine at the moment of introduction of the DOC, 1967, was such that many regions of central Tuscany didn’t want to be excluded from the use of the name. As a result the Chianti wine-area got about 10% more territory. Wines labeled Chianti Classico come from the biggest sub-area of Chianti, that sub-area that includes the old Chianti area. The other variants, with the exception of Rufina from the north-east side of Florence and Montalbano in the south of Pistoia, originate in the respective named provinces: Siena for the Colli Senesi, Florence for the Colli Fiorentini, Arezzo for the Colli Aretini and Pisa for the Colline Pisane. In 1996 part of the Colli Fiorentini sub-area was renamed Montespertoli.

Wine production

Many different kinds of wines are produced in Chianti:

Chianti wines

Chianti Barrels | Red WinesCastello di Brolio, owned by Baron Ricasoli, inventor of the 19th century Chianti wineUntil the middle of the 19th century Chianti was based solely on Sangiovese grapes. During the second half of the 19th century Baron Bettino Ricasoli who was an important Chianti producer and, in the same time, minister in Tuscany and then Prime Minister in the Kingdom of Italy, imposed his ideas: from that moment on Chianti should have been produced with 70% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo and 15% Malvasia bianca (Malvasia bianca is an aromatic white grape with Greek origins). During the 1970s, producers started to reduce the quantity of white grapes in Chianti and eventually from 1995 it is legal to produce a Chianti with 100% sangiovese, or at least without the white grapes. It may have a picture of a black rooster (known in Italian as a gallo nero) on the neck of the bottle, which indicates that the producer of the wine is a member of the “Gallo Nero” Consortium; an association of producers of the Classico sub-area sharing marketing costs[2]. Since 2005 the black rooster is the emblem of the Chianti Classico producers association[3]. Aged Chianti (38 months instead of 4-7), may be labelled as Riserva. Chianti that meets more stringent requirements, (lower yield, higher alcohol content and dry extract) may be labelled as Chianti Superiore. Chianti from the “Classico” sub-area is not allowed in any case to be labelled as “Superiore”.

Comparative table of Chianti laws of production[4]
  normal Classico Colli Aretini Colli Fiorentini Colli Senesi Colline Pisane Montalbano Montespertoli Rùfina Superiore
Max. grape prod. (t/ha) 9.0 7.5 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 7,5
Max. grape prod. (kg/vine) 4.0 3.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4.0 4,0 2,2
Min. vines/ha 3,300 3,350 3,300 3,300 3,300 3,300 3,300 3,300 3,300 4′000
Min. age of vineyards (years) 3 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Min. wine dry extract (g/l) 19 23 21 21 21 21 21 21 21 22
Min. alcohol cont. (%) 11.5 12.0 11.5 12.0 11.5 11.5 11.5 12.0 12.,0 12.0
Min. ageing (months) 3 10 3 9 3 3 3 6 9 9

Other wines

Chianti olive trees.Chianti is not the only traditional wine made in Tuscany, and sangiovese is usually the base of most red variants like Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano (together with other grapes), Morellino di Scansano, etc., while Brunello di Montalcino is based on a variant called sangiovese grosso. There are also new wines, based on sangiovese and some popular French grapes that are usually dubbed “Super Tuscans”. Due to rule changes, some of these wines (particularly the pioneering Tignanello) could legally be labeled as Chianti if they would reduce the quantity of international grapes under 15% (or under 20% in the case of Chianti Superiore), though many producers of these wines have chosen not to do so.

The word “Chianti” can be used as a semi-generic name in the United States if the place of origin is clearly indicated next to the word to avoid consumer confusion. However, with the popularity of varietal labeling, semi-generic names are rarely used today, even on jug wines.

Due to the wine’s relative cheapness, its easy-drinking qualities, and the frequent use of the empty fiasco as a candleholder, Chianti is very strongly identified with Italian American cuisine, especially the “red sauce” variety pioneered by southern Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Chianti geographical region

From the 14th century till 1932 the geographical region consisted of three small communities all in the province of Siena:

- Radda in Chianti
- Gaiole in Chianti
- Castellina in Chianti

Nowadays is common to name Chianti all the central part of Toscana. Often Chianti geographical area is confused with the Chianti wine area or with the Chianti Classico sub-area. Unlike for the wine-area, there is actually no statement describing the actual geographical Chianti area.


- Val d’Orcia
- Crete senesi


1- Some white wine is also made in the region. The region grows many white grapes, used to make local table wine and also (traditionally) part of red Chianti, though this is less true today. Some fine white wines are also sometimes made. Until 1950s, ordering a bottle of the unusual Chianti Bianco would attract the notice of a sommelier; but since 1967 Chianti name can be referred only to red wine. What was once Chianti Bianco is now sold under various names following the local DOCs, or under the name Toscana IGT or simply labeled Trebbiano.
2- Consorzio del Marchio Storico
3- Consorzio del vino Chianti Classico
4- Unione Italiana Vini


Amarone | Red Wines

February 21st, 2008

Amarone | Red WinesAmarone della Valpolicella is a typically rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina (40.0% – 70.0%), Rondinella (20.0% – 40.0%) and Molinara (5.0% – 25.0%) varieties. The wine was awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata status in December 1990.


The name of this wine was given to distinguish it from the sweet Recioto, wine from which it was, inadvertently, originated. The legend recites that a producer wanting to do the Recioto with Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara desiccated grapes, forgot the wine in the barrique. The product continued to ferment, all its sugars were transformed to alcohol and the wine lost its sweetness. In opposition to what it should have been, it was named “Amarone” (big bitter).

The first documented selling was recorded in 1938, but official trade started only in 1953, year in which Amarone was firstly sold by choice and not by chance. It gained immediate success, however to a small public of passionate lovers. The production of this wine remains modest, covering only 10% of the territory production in the province of Verona (Veneto), dominated by Valpolicella and Valpolicella Superiore, fragrant red wines, often to be drunk young, refreshing and tasty. Those wines, even though made with the same grapes than Recioto and Amarone, are easier to produce (there is no desiccation involved), to sell and to drink.

Until 1990, production of Recioto was largely greater than Amarone’s. Later on, starting from that year regulation change clearly differentiating the two products and giving it the status of Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Amarone’s demand started to grow, to peak in 1995.

In conclusion, Amarone is quite recent but produced by skilled and experienced winemakers, which is what is needed to drive to the right level of desiccation the grapes designed for this precious wine.


Grapes are harvested perfectly ripe in the first two weeks of October, by carefully choosing bunches having fruits not too close to each other, to let the air flow. Grapes are allowed to dry, traditionally on straw mats. This process is called rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian. This concentrates the remaining sugars and flavors and is similar to the production of French Sauternes. The pomace left over from pressing off the Amarone is used in the production of ripasso Valpolicellas.

Modern Amarone is now produced in special drying chambers under controlled conditions. This new approach minimizes the amount of handling that the grapes go through and help prevent the onset of botrytis cinerea. In Amarone, the quality of the grape skin is a primary concern as that component brings the tannins, color and intensity of flavor to the wine. The process of desiccation not only concentrates the juices within the grape but also increases the skin contact of the grapes. The drying process further metabolizes the acids within the grape and creates a polymerization of the tannins in the skin which contribute to the overall balance of the finished wine.

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 lost of weight: 35 to 45% for Corvina grapes, 30 to 40% for Molinara and 27 to 40% for Rondinella. Following drying, end of January/beginning of February, the grapes are crushed and go through a dry low temperature fermentation process which can last up to 30/50 days. The reduced water content can slow down the fermentation process, increasing the risk of spoilage and potential wine faults such as high volatile acidity. After fermentation, the wine is then aged in barriques made from either French or Slovenian oak.


If fermentation is stopped early, the resulting wine will contain residual sugar (more than 4 grams of sugar per litre) and produce a sweeter wine known Recioto della Valpolicella. Unlike traditional Amarone, Recioto della Valpolicella can also be used to produce a sparkling wine. Ripasso is an Italian wine produced when the partially aged Valpolicello is contacted with the lees of the Amarone, including the unpressed grape skins. The lees still contain a lot of sugar and the Valpolicello undergoes a second fermentation. This will typically take place in the spring following the harvest. The resulting wine is more tannic, with a deeper color, more alcohol and more extract. The word Ripasso designates the winemaking technique and the wine, and is usually found on a wine label.

Characteristics and faults

The final result is a very ripe, raisiny, big-bodied wine with very little acid. Alcohol content easily surpasses 15% (the legal minimum is 14%) and the resulting wine is rarely released until five years after the vintage, even though this is not a legal requirement. The labor intensive process poses significant risk for the development of various wine faults. Wet and rainy weather during harvest time can cause the grapes to rot before drying out which then requires winemakers to be diligent in removing rotted bunches or moldy flavors in the wine will be accentuated.

Amarone in popular culture

In the novel The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter eats the census taker’s liver with fava beans and a “big Amarone”, rather than a Chianti as in the film version.


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