Anteprima Amarone: more visits, more wines

In two previous articles (here and here) I tried to show why my opinion of Valpolicella/Amarone has changed markedly for the better. However, it would be unfair and inaccurate to leave you with the thought that these two wineries were the only reason for my new higher opinion of these wines. We visited ten individual wineries out of a total of 83 members of the Consorzio and tasted the Amarone wines from a number of other member wineries at various dinners and events. All were of the highest quality.

The following is a brief summary of the eight other wineries we visited during our stay. All were family owned and varied in size from 26,000 bottles/year to over three million bottles/year.

We began our tour at Corte Archi where third-generation owner/winemaker Fernando Campagnola produces a full range of Valpolicella Classico wines including a Superiore, a Ripasso and, of course, an Amarone using various combinations of French and Slovenian oak aging. His 2010 Amarone “Isobelle” I rated as 92, but his older Amarones from 2000 and earlier I rated from 94 to 95.

Next we visited Monteci where the Righetti family produces a full range of white, rose and red wines featuring the classic Corvina/Rondinella blend with small portions of Molinara and Saletta added. I rated their DOCG Amarone 2011 as a 92 but it will improve with age.

Our final stop on Day One was Villa Mattielli, a new winery started on the site of a far older one in the eastern part of the area near Lake Garda. The winery produces 150,000 bottles including several very nice Soave DOCs, especially the “Campolungo”, and a full range Valpolicella/Amarone red wines. The Valpolicello Ripasso “San Giacomo, a blend of 60% Corvina, 20% Corvinone and 20% Rondinella, was excellent and I rated this wine a 92. Their Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG Riserva, a 15% alcohol newer and lighter Amarone, I rated a 93.

Day Two began at Azienda Agricola Boscaini Carlo where the Boscaini brothers produce 60,000 bottles/year, primarily Valpolicella wines. These wines feature lower acidity and freshness in non-filtered offerings. I particularly liked the Ripasso Superiore “Zane” which I rated 92 and felt was slightly the best of the many Ripassos we tasted. The Amarone San Georgio 2012 DOC, a blend of 50% Corvina, 35% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella and 5% Croatina and Dindarella, was strong but very smooth in the finish. I rated this wine a 92/93.

Next we visited the Albino Armani winery about which I have previously written in detail. Our third winery was Aziendo Vinicola Farina, a 1 million bottle/year producer of a variety of white, rose and red wines. We tasted only the Valpolicella wines which featured aging in Slovenian oak for varying periods. All were good but the star of the tasting was the 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG Riserva “Montefonte”, a 16% alcohol old-style Amarone aged four years in a combination of oak barriques and large casks plus one year in the bottle. It featured a very long and smooth finish and I rated this wine a 94.

Our last winery on Day Two was Azienda Agricola San Cassiano, a producer of 60,000 bottles of white and mostly red wines. The Soave we tasted first was very pleasant and added to my favorable impression of Soave wines. The Valpolicella wines were excellent but the standout was the 2012 Valpolicella Superiore “Le Alene” a 15% alcohol single vineyard blend of 40% Corvinone, 40% Corvina and 20% Rondinella that is aged for 24 months in oak barriques and 12 months in the bottle. The result was the clear standout among the Valpolicella Superiores that I tasted and an excellent wine that I rated a 92.

Day Three began at Azienda Agricola Zyme, a 100,000 bottle/year winery run by Celestino Gaspari, the acknowledged individualist of the Consorzio. The winery itself was another amazing example of environmental consciousness in architecture combined with efficiency and sustainability. Owner/winemaker Gaspari, the driving force behind the winery design, provided an informative and enjoyable tasting of some of his 11 wines. As you might expect, we tried some unique wines with local grapes I did not know, both red and white. The Valpolicellas were light but very smooth and the 2009 Oseleta, a 100% Oseleta grape wine was fresh but intense. The IGP “Kaoros”, a blend of 15 different grapes was fresh and well-balanced. I rated this interesting wine a 90. We finished with a 2009 Amarone Classico DOP and a 2006 Amarone Classico Riserva DOP “La Mattonara”, both of which contained 5 % Crotina and 10% Oseleta in addition to 40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone and 15% Rondinella. Both were excellent but the 9 years in Slovanian oak casks for “La Mattonara” versus 5 for the Amarone Classico made the difference. I rated the “La Mattonara” a 93 and the other a 92.

Our second stop was at Cesari about which I have written earlier. We finished at Azienda Agricola Ca Dei Frati, a winery that has grown from 1 hectare in 1939 to 200 today. The Dal Cero family produces 3 million bottles/year, but only 11 hectares are reserved for Amarone grapes. These produce 35,000 bottles of Amarone. The Amarone wines from Ca Dei Frati are a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina. We tasted three Amarone wines, all 17% alcohol. The 2008 “Pietro del Cero” was made from the youngest vines and was long in the finish but somewhat rough. It needs more aging. The second version of the same wine was a 2009 made from different, older vines and was smoother and more pleasant. I rated this wine a 91. The third Amarone was a 2010 vintage from the same vines as the 2009 but it was not as smooth and definitely needs more time. I rated this wine a 90. After the Amarones we tried some of Ca Dei Frati’s white wines and I was very impressed with their “Brolettino” a 100% Turbino which was very fresh and aromatic. I rated this wine an 89.

This concludes my series on Amarone wines. Remember, when drinking Amarone wines, please allow a minimum of 1 hour of decanting in another wine holder before drinking. This will increase your pleasure as the wine is afforded the opportunity to open for you.

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