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All About Amarone Wine

If you're looking for Amarone, you aren't messing around, and we commend you for knowing your stuff. Officially named Amarone della Valpolicella, it's one of Italy's most refined wines, boasting a vibrancy and sophistication that hides its alcohol level above 15 percent. While it is lighter in color, Amarone wine is rich in body and flavor, with notes of black cherry, cinnamon and hazelnut.

Considered the patriarch of Italy's Vento wine region, Amarone typically sells for a minimum of $50 to $80 per bottle. Due to its high entrance fee, few wine connoisseurs ever acquaint themselves with the prestigious drink. But, and let's make this perfectly clear, Amarone is worth every cent.

The wine doesn't have an extensive history and is quite young compared to other wines. In fact, the first bottle of Amarone was produced in 1938, likely by accident. The story goes that a winemaker left a forgotten bottle of Recioto to ferment, which changed the wine's characteristics. The result was a dryer, stronger wine than Recioto, and people appreciated its uniqueness.

It wasn't until 1953 that the wine caught on and started to crop up on the wine market. It was considered a novelty at first but quickly rose to prominence to become the homecoming queen of wines we know today.

How It's Made:

It takes a good long while to make Amarone, which contributes to the hefty price tag. The grapes are harvested during the first two weeks of October. After harvesting the best bunches of grapes from the most mature vines, winemakers lay the grapes out to dry for three to four months. The shriveling process allows sugars, acids, tannins and other flavors to compound, creating more complexity. Because the grapes lose 30-40 percent of their weight during this process, it takes much more fruit to fill a bottle, which only adds to each bottle's cost.

Modern techniques include special drying chambers that dry the grapes under more controlled conditions. This process also reduces the chances of gray mold, which can destroy an entire batch. By January or February, the grapes are crushed and left to undergo the fermentation process, which can last up to 50 days. Once that's finished, the wine is stored in oak barrels to age.

Amarone Characteristics:

Amarone features plenty of earthy aromas and flavors, some of them leathery and reminiscent of roasted meats. It's a rich, elegant flavor that highlights any fruit notes within, including plum, black fig and cherry. Cinnamon and peppercorn are other notable tasting notes.

On the palate, Amarone wines offer a medium-to-high acidity that's balanced nicely by a high alcohol content. The older the Amarone wine, the more likely it offers flavors of fig, molasses and brown sugar.

How to Pair Amarone:

A wine as highly decorated as Amarone deserves only the best. Hearty, rich dishes pair best with the exquisite wine, so break out your best rib-eye and roast venison recipes. Amarone is also lovely with hearty stews, pork, poultry and veal dishes, and it works well when served with big-flavored cheeses.