Amarone revolution: how the King of Valpolicella wines is changing (and will change)

Amarone revolution: how the King of Valpolicella wines is changing (and will change)

The goal is so high that everyone must first take a step back. Amarone revolution is not, and will not be, something we will see the results of – in the chalice – tomorrow. At least on a large scale. It is, and will be, a slow process. The (solid) foundations of which are beginning to be seen today.

Amarone Opera Prima, the great event that accompanied the preview presentation of the 2017 vintage of the King of Valpolicella wines, will therefore not go down in history as the point of arrival. Rather, as the appointment that sanctions the (presumably) collective turning point of the group of producers linked to the Consortium.

The new direction? That of an Amarone that remains, yes, a “method wine”. But it questions, perhaps for the first time so profoundly, the new consumer ‘tastes’ and international haute cuisine trends. As well as on ‘terroir’.

Here, then, the withering technique, close to being recognised as a Unesco heritage, becomes a “means” and ceases to be an “end”. Right to perceive the characteristic scents, in the goblet. Wrong to renounce freshness or, rather, balance.

All in the name of a new concept of Amarone della Valpolicella, suitable for accompanying even shellfish and fish (yes, from scallop to eel). Shaking off the name of “meditation wine“, necessarily to be paired with very structured meat dishes or a good cigar.

AMARONE AT THE TABLE: PAIRINGS WITH HAUTE CUISINE

Exemplary, in this sense, was the highly successful masterclass conducted by Davide Scapin with the (brilliant) dishes of the duestellato chef Nicola Portinari of the La Peca restaurant in Lonigo (VI), on the opening day of Amarone Opera Prima.

The four styles of Amarone identified for the pairings (fresh, ‘reciotato’, elegant / austere and powerful), can only be considered at first glance as a risk of confusing (further) the consumer as to the real profile of Amarone della Valpolicella (which, at the moment, is certainly not unambiguous).

On balance, it is rather a (brilliant) coup de théâtre by the Consortium to show members the way forward: that of an Amarone that renounces pomposity, unbalanced residual sugar and preponderant wood notes.

A ‘method wine’ that remains as such, but reduces the gap (in drinkability and attachment to terroir and varietal, as well as the breadth of the pairing range) with Valpolicella Rosso, the area’s true Trojan horse for breaking into the markets and the new international consumer trends. In two words, the road to the Amarone revolution.

A step backwards, in fact, showing different styles. To indicate, quietly but clearly, on tiptoe but from the institutional stage of Amarone Opera Prima, the style to follow, in order not to miss the train of the market and haute cuisine, suggested by the President of the Consortium, Christian Marchesini, as the Amarone Mecca of the future.

AMARONE AND STORYTELLING

Slightly less centred were the wines chosen «in total autonomy» by JC Viens for the second Amarone Opera Prima masterclass. The invitation, addressed to the press by the Italian wine ambassador and wine educator, to abandon the denomination’s “great cellars” and concentrate instead on «small Valpolicella realities that produce less than 100 thousand bottles» (a few bottles equals quality? A legacy of the past, now widely decried).

What was missing from at least four of the six wines tasted (three and a half to be exact, as I will explain later) was precisely the light at the end of the dreaded abyss of what Viens called the media’s «myopia»: «Talk about these wineries – he said, addressing the audience of professional guests at Amarone Opera Prima – or you will do nothing more than reproduce and replicate a myopic vision of Valpolicella to your readers». Among the goblets of Villa Spinosa, Romano Dal Forno, Ca’ la Bionda – Ravazzol, Le Guaite di Noemi, Vigneti di Ettore and Villa San Carlo, (only) the first two shone.

FROM THE PAST THE FUTURE: VILLA SPINOSA AND DAL FORNO

The Amarone della Valpolicella Doc Classico 1998 Villa Spinosa (Negrar) is a concentrate of freshness that does not even remotely show the passing of the hands under the cork. What emerges from the glass is a wine that speaks, at the end of the 1990s, of the denomination’s needs and hopes today. A wine that is already an interpreter of the Amarone Revolution that will be.

Romano Dal Forno’s Amarone della Valpolicella Doc 2003 (Monte Lodoletta vineyard) does the same, albeit with different canons and not being the top bottle by the standards of the Cellore d’Illasi (VR) winery. The usual deep and textured sip is answered more by tannin than freshness, but the final figure is nevertheless centred and, in turn, innovative and characteristic. And the other four glasses?

Despite the generational change underway and the “limited” number of bottles indicated by Viens as the panacea to «myopia», they are still too tied to a style that looks more to concentration and tertiary aromas than to the canons of the Amarone revolution (the exception is the 2007 Amarone Ravazzol of Ca’ la Bionda, unbalanced on acidity and bare in the centre of the mouth; the winery, however, seems to have found the right balance in the most recent vintages, led by one of the most passionate winemakers of the denomination, Alessandro Castellani). Proof that storytelling is not enough. All the more so when they try to convince you that “storytelling is not”.

THE SURPRISE OF AMARONE PREVIEW 2017 IS NOVAIA

That the Amarone revolution has begun is also confirmed by some of the glasses tasted at Anteprima Amarone 2017, on Sunday 19 June at the Palazzo della Gran Guardia in Verona.

The details of all the samples will be published in the next few days, but it is worth spending a few words immediately on the winery that really, almost as an “ousider”, surprised the most with an Amarone that was finally clean – compared to other vintages – and decidedly “revolutionary”.

The reference is to Novaia Organic Wines, capable of putting a truly convincing nectar in the glass, from fruit to structure, on a par with some well-known names and guarantees of the denomination.

The Amarone della Valpolicella Docg Classico 2017 “Corte Vaona” marks a big step forward in the stylistic signature of the Marano di Valpolicella winery. A reality that has always been devoted to “Bio“, a hot topic for Italian and international viticulture that has instead remained rather at the margins of Amarone Opera Prima. The “Revolution” will not be able to do without it.


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