While in Mumbai last week I was a guest at two Bertani wine dinners. Apart from the pleasure of watching other people doing work that I normally do, the wines were a real eye-opener.
Amarone is not a new wine experience for me, but I don’t think I’ve had any for ten years. Also, I seem to recall drinking the more ‘modern’ styled wines, such as those made by Zenato.
If I’d been asked before the time to describe a wine that had spent six years in cask I would have bet money on the wine being oxidised, if not ridden with volatile acidity.
I tasted three vintages of the Bertani Amarone Classico – 2000, 1998 and 1983 – all of which did spend six years in cask. They were gorgeous, and the 1983 was so fresh that I would never have guessed it was 26 years old.
The unique feature of Amarone vinification is that the grapes are harvested in September before the full ripeness of the grapes causes the acidity to drop. The grapes are then placed on cane mats in open-sided sheds, where they lie for four months. Due to the cool, dry winds the grapes remain healthy, but lose a substantial amount of moisture, which causes the flavours to become very much more concentrated.
Regardless of which producer has made it, Amarone is a big, rich wine.
After pressing, the skins are used to re-ferment Valpolicella, which then becomes Ripassa. In essence, Ripassa is more concentrated than ordinary Valpolicella as a result of the use of Amarone skins.
Grappa is the distillate of the alcohol remaining in pressed grape skins after the completion of fermentation. Were these skins to be used for grappa, having already undergone fermentations for both Amarone and Ripassa, they would be the most-used grape skins ever!