Favourite Posts, Italy

Amarone: This is not a love song

Art Deco poster of Valpolicella at Accordini scaled

If logic applied, I would not love Amarone della Valpolicella. To say it’s a big style of red is an understatement; it’s dramatic, high in alcohol and generally quite expensive. It has been said, Amarone “is seductive, sexy, confounding… an aphrodisiac”. Naturally, in the face of slavish devotion, I tasted it many times with regulation thin lips and furrowed brow.

Despite my best attempts to be cynical, I could not help but love the slightly debauched characters of licorice, smoke and dark fruits. Before long, I was singing the same love song, too.

Amarone is unique and intimate, deep and sometimes sweet. Like a good love song, it sometimes has a slightly bitter edge. What I suspect is part of the appeal of Amarone is the way in which it is made. Even if an ardent Amarone fan knows nothing about the passito method of drying grapes on straw mats for months and then extracting the juice, there is shock of recognition in finding this out, like hearing the real story behind a favourite lyric.

I have tasted and liked Allegrini (a fresh, modern style with good mouth-watering acidity), Tedeschi (which I found to be more traditional and heavier), but the one that will be close to my heart is from the ‘eccentric’ Tommaso Bussola. Antonio Gallioni footnotes his wines with the observation, these are among the most unique wines being made anywhere.”

When talking to other winemakers at the Amarone Families tasting last year, I asked, “Why is Mr Bussola not here?” The others replied, “he did not want to come to London because he’d rather be out with the grapes”.

Says it all, really. Love is not rational. This is why my usual “tasting logic” does not apply when talking about Amarone della Valpolicella.

Image by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello
Originally posted Aug 2, 2010