This weekend has been devoted to Amarone Valpolicella. Regular readers of my blog will know that my favourite wine region in Italy is Veneto and this is where Amarone comes from. In June 2017, I wrote about an Amarone from Asda and wrote that ‘You can expect to pay between £50-£80 for a fine Amarone wine’. For my birthday in August my husband bought me six fine wines and amongst them was Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012 Allegrini.
Amarone is one of Italy’s top red wines. All Valpolicella wines are made from a blend of different local grape varietals in different percentages. They are mainly Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and other indigenous varietals. Corvina is the most important grape in the blend. It gives the wine its structure and aroma. The grapes for Amarone wine are left on the vine longer so they are sweet. They are harvested late in October and left to dry on straw mats throughout the winter. The process is called appassimento and refers to the withering of the grapes. Leaving the grapes on the vine brings risk and contributes to the high cost of the wine. If there is a frost the grapes are ruined.
The grapes are grown just outside of the historic city of Verona, a city which I love because it combines two of my passions, music and wine. The Arena di Verona houses an opera festival every August. I have been to it twice in the last three years and then I have headed north towards Lake Garda, where the rolling hills of the Valpolicella region lie.
As this wine was so expensive, I wanted to compare it with lower priced Amarone wine which I planned to drink with the same food. Fortunately, the food I was serving with my birthday Amarone needed some Amarone wine in the cooking process. I purchased Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Amarone Della Valpollicella 2012. As it was Friday evening, I decided to try the Amarone from Sainsbury’s. My husband said that he needed a couple of glasses for the meal on Saturday so he could spare some. It was a gorgeous dark ruby colour. The legs were a little disappointing given that the alcohol content was 14.5% and the nose was harsh. On the palate it was black fruit, mainly cherry and very pleasant. I had a Margherita pizza for dinner with a twist from Verona. In Verona, I had enjoyed a pizza topped with pear, walnut and gorgonzola cheese and this is exactly what I matched with the wine. The walnuts and fresh cooked pear were amazing with the wine. It was also fantastic with salad, authentic olive oil and balsamic vinegar which, I dipped the pizza crust in. It had quite high acidity which was offset by the Balsamic vinegar. However, it wasn’t great with the cheese but after a very busy week slipped down easily and was very enjoyable. After the food the Sainsbury’s Amarone was highly tannic but I’d really enjoyed it with the food.
On Saturday morning my husband pointed out that he needed 400ml of wine for the Saturday night meal. I measured what was left of the Sainsbury’s Amarone and it was only 300ml. He went to Waitrose, as it’s nearer than Sainsbury’s, and purchased another bottle of Amarone. At Waitrose, he chose Cantina di Negara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classical, 2014. It was made from two of the Valpolicella blend of grapes; Corvina and Rondinella. It was 15% alcohol volume with the legs you would expect from a wine of this volume. They clung seductively to the side of the glass. Like the Sainsbury’s Amarone the nose was cherry cough medicine, not to my liking. On the palate however, this Amarone was livelier. It was floral and spicy. The floral notes were like potpourri so not a great flavour at first but then it softened on the palate and was round and soft with notes of dried fruits like prune with the sweetness of fig, which was very pleasant. I liked this one more than the Sainsbury’s Amarone. Although it was 15% alcohol volume it was surprisingly light and fruity. I served this wine with food that is authentic to the region of Veneto. The starter was Porchini and Chestnut mushroom risotto topped with pan roasted walnuts followed by Spezzantino di matzo (Italian beef stew). While the risotto was being cooked, I uncorked my birthday Amarone, Allegrini and allowed it to breathe. The grapes in the blend were Corvina, Rondinella and Oseleta. The alcohol volume was 15.5% and the legs were spectacular. The nose was wonderful. No cough medicine but black fruit. On the palate the layers of flavour begun to unravel. The blackest cherry, ripe fig, bitter chocolate and then sweet oak. It was smooth, mellow, soft and luscious, achieved from spending 18 months in wooden barrels. The food was rich too. The Spezzantino di manzo was served with roast potatoes. The ingredients were beef ribs, braising steak, Pancetta, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomatoes, beef stock, rosemary, sage and parsley. The Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico from Waitrose did not handle the Rich beef as well as Amarone Allegrini from Majestic. The fruit in the Cantina disappeared and the wine became less pleasant. Amarone Allegrini, however matched beautifully with all the flavours throughout the whole meal and was still delicious after it.
All three Amarone wines were full bodied, had a beautiful colour, were rich and full of flavour. I know that this meal and wine has been an expensive one but the Amarone Allegrini was a gift and I wanted to make the most of it. As well as the pleasure of the wine I get enormous pleasure from finding a successful food match. A gift that kept on giving!
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Allegrini from Majestic Poole £70- in a mix six it is £63
Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2014, Taste the Difference from Sainsbury’s £16
Cantina Di Negrar Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, 2014 from Waitrose £19.99
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