I am a huge advocate of Amarone.  A well made example will stand second to no other wine and nothing else can make such a profound impact on one's palate as this rich Italian red - not even a jammy Cali Cab, an over-hyped Bordeaux, nor a big Aussie fruit bomb, they simply don't have the stuffing!  Today, we seek out the classic Amarone powerhouse.

Amarone is a result of the appasimento method, the process of partially drying fully ripened whole grape clusters to concentrate the juice and sugar content.  The grape varieties used in the production are Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara and approximately 40% of the grape's mass is lost during appasimento which leaves behind dehydrated raisin-like fruit. Good ventilation in the drying house prevents the development of Botrytis (noble rot) so highly sought after in French Sauternes and German Trockenbeerenauslese wines but unwanted in Italy's great Amarone.  Typically, the grape must is fermented until completely dry and thus all residual sugar is converted to alcohol.  As stipulated by the wine's DOCG status, Amarone must be at least 14% alc/vol and most are elevated well beyond that.     

Today we sample five wines, they are listed below in order of tasting:

2004 Luigi Righetti
1993 Villa Bellini
2006 Corte Majoli
2000 Cesari, Bosan
2004 Zenato

This was a great opportunity to sample a range of vintages and the amount of variation across the five bottles was tremendous. We asked the Bistro to 'beef-up' the appetizers today in preparation for the weight of these wines and yet again Chef Jay at Bistro Seven Seven left us all flabbergasted by his culinary skills. 

The wines...

2004 Luigi Righetti
Initially some earthy notes followed by sour cherry which became quite pronounced. Quite light on the palate for the style; more like a high end Valpolicella with a good core of red fruit which developed nicely as the afternoon progressed.  A very enjoyable bottle. 

1993 Villa Bellini
Interesting nose of truffle, green pepper, mushrooms, and underbrush.  A very thin wine and we actually questioned the possibility of oxidation initially but later concluded the wine was likely past its prime, though still quite good in a 'funky' kind of way (much like the '81 Haut Brion we tasted in May 2010).

2006 Corte Majoli
Some licorice on the nose. Initially light but it quickly filled out to become medium bodied with some air.  Some figs and spice, this one paired beautifully with the lamb pot-pie appetizer. A bit young was the consensus - let it cellar for a few more years and see what develops.

2000 Cesari, Bosan
BOOM!  Now this is an Amarone!  Big, bold, and powerful.  Very old world - dry and complex; dark fruit, some spice and no hard edges whatsoever.  An incredible wine!

2004 Zenato
Spectacular again!  Amarone with perhaps a more new world twist. Ultra rich, viscous, port-like and lip-smacking good.  Drinking beautifully now.
The group tasted and ranked the wines in terms of personal preference. The top three favourites are listed below:
  • 2004 Zenato
  • 2000 Cesari, Bosan
  • 2006 Corte Majoli
In terms of 'wow factor', the tasting was a bit slow to get started but I think that once we hit the jackpot with the 2000 Cesari Bosan, our keen tasting team clearly understood what all the fuss and anticipation was about.  The Cesari Bosan, our second place wine was perhaps the greatest expression of the Amarone style even though the ’04 Zenato took first place today in terms of group preference, likely for its fruit forward style.  Both wines were absolutely spectacular.  In third place today, though not quite in the same league, was the 2006 Corte Majoli which while very enjoyable, will likely develop into something much greater with a few years on its side... The other two bottles were fascinating in their own way and I actually overheard someone say they enjoyed all the wines equally.  

Thank-you Gary/Joy and Jim for your very generous wine donations for this tasting.

See you all next month for the highly perfumed 'Viognier'.