Friday, February 13, 2009

Thoughts About the 2005 Amarone

And About Valpolicella, Too

Much has changed since last year, and there have been some unexpected (and, for me at least, surprising) developments regarding Amarone, the Veneto's most sought after wine. But first, some background.

Though Amarone is now eagerly sought out by connoisseurs, this hasn't always been the case, and indeed one can gather this from the wine's name. It's a very particular wine that's made by allowing the grapes, a blend of primarily Corvina and Rondinella (Molinara, the third major grape of the traditional blend, is no longer required because it was primarily a filler that would guarantee quantity in vintages when the others failed) and some complementary varietals to dry on mats until late into the fall, and then fermenting the raisins. The original goal of this tremendous labor was Recioto, a sweet red wine that dates back to the Romans, and which was the stuff of nobility and kings in the days before processed sugar, when sweets were a treasured rarity.

Alas, the barrels didn't always yield sweet Recioto: Sometimes the wine fermented to dryness, and what emerged was Amarone, a brooding, tremendously concentrated and highly alcoholic wine. Amarone, or Big Bitter One, and the name does convey the sense of loss that the winemakers felt when what they expected to be Recioto turned out not to be.

Recioto is still beloved of the winemakers of Valpolicella, but over the past few generations it has been eclipsed by Amarone, whose popularity has soared among wine drinkers the world over. Indeed, those who are inclined to make lists now rank Amarone on a par with the other great Italian reds, Brunello, Barolo, and Barbaresco.

For the wine (and the appellation, Valpolicella) this is a mixed blessing. Very mixed; during the talk that proceeded the tasting this year we were told that demand for Amarone is holding steady despite the current economic crisis, and exceeding supply, and therefore the winemakers are planning to double the output of Amarone, going from the 8.5 million bottles of 2008 to about 16 million.

While I am happy that the Valpolicella producers continue to enjoy a demand for their finest wine, I fear that the solution they have decided upon is a recipe for disaster. We were also told that demand for Valpolicella Superiore, and especially Valpolicella Superiore made with the Ripassa technique (when the wine is briefly passed over Amarone marks to boost its structure and complexity) is also very strong, and therefore the winemakers do not plan to reduce the production of Valpolicella Superiore.

Given that the vineyard area in Valpolicella is finite and can only produce so many grapes, if Amarone production increases while Valpolicella Superiore production remains constant, what will be squeezed is Valpolicella Base, the lowermost of the three Valpolicella wines. Though I doubt directly; the most probable scenario is that winemakers who increase Amarone production will dry the grapes they would otherwise have used to make Valpolicella Superiore, thus diverting them to Amarone, and then make Valpolicella Superiore with what they would have otherwise used to make plain Valpolicella Base.

Unfortunately, grapes that yield a superb, wonderfully quaffable Valpolicella Base may not be suitable for making a richer, more complex Valpolicella Superiore. Likewise, grapes that yield a fine Valpolicella Superiore may not be suitable for making Amarone. Therefore Amarone, which has always been a wine to approach with caution, because of the complexities involved in making it (one has to consider not just the growing season, but also the drying season), will become an even riskier proposition: the wines made by those who have not decided to follow the general lead (and there are many, especially among the smaller producers) will continue to be what we now recognize as Amarone. Those made by producers who increase production will probably not be, except in truly spectacular vintages, and I fear that this will damage Amarone's reputation and value. In short, some Amarone producers seem bent upon shooting themselves in the feet.

So what should a consumer do? Certainly not eschew Amarone. Rather, taste, with care, and be very selective. There are superb Amarones to be had, in a wide range of styles, and they have always been diamonds hidden in the rough. With the increase in production the rough will simply be thicker and higher, but the diamonds will still be there.

Having said all this, the 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella:

Looking specifically at the vintage, 2005 was one of the cooler and wetter vintages of recent memory, though the distribution of rainfall and temperature were uneven: Bud break began in the first week of April, and blossoming at about May 20, while the invaiatura (when the grapes change color from green to red) fell roughly on August 1. June was dry, while July and August were wet, with lower than average temperatures and smaller day-night temperature variations than usual. September was warmer and drier than usual, allowing for a good harvest; the harvest of grapes to be dried for Amarone and Recioto began on September 19, and the general harvest on the 24th), while October was quite wet, and would have created problems in the past, before the construction of temperature controlled drying houses for the grapes. The quality of the grapes was good to excellent, with thick skins that made them ideally suited to the drying that is at the heart of the vinification process.

Given good-to-excellent grape quality one can expect a mixture of good to excellent wines, and that is what I found. But first a word on the wines, and the tasting. The Disciplinare governing the production of Amarone states that the wine must be aged for at least two years before bottling, and in the case of a wine harvested in 2005 this means that those who want to can bottle at the beginning of 2008. And some do. But most prefer to give the wine more time, and some are still waiting. Therefore, we were presented with a mixture of wines, some of which have been in bottle for quite a while (and are on the market), some of which for just a couple of months (and will be released soon), and some that are still in cask, vat, or barrel (and will be released in 2010).

It is very difficult to compare bottled wines and barrel samples, because barrel samples are to a degree like lumps of clay: They can display great, even tremendous potential. But they are not complete, because a great many aspects, especially of the bouquet, develop in the bottle. For this reason I generally do not score barrel samples. However, I am making a partial exception in this case, scoring the barrel samples that showed well, because what is showing well now will presumably continue to show well in the future. As for the barrel samples that are not showing well, I prefer to simply talk about them and wait, because they could improve dramatically (as could the wines that have just a couple of months of bottle age). In other words, though I do give scores, in this case I think the notes and general impressions give a much more accurate picture of the wines.

The wines, tasted blind on January 30 2009

Corte Rugolin
Corte Rugolin Crosara De Le Strie Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep cherry ruby with cherry rim paling to white. The bouquet is bright, and intense, with lively candied berry fruit aromas that have an underpinning of green vegetal accents, a mixture of bell pepper and licorice root, and quite a bit of alcohol as well. Charged and very young. On the palate it's ample, and on the sweeter end of the Amarone scale, with rich red berry fruit that has unusual brown sugar sweetness to it supported by greenish licorice root-laced acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bright finish. It's swank, and very young, with an appealing brightness to it that I found myself rather enjoying.
2 stars

Valentina Cubi
Valentina Cubi Morar Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with red berry fruit supported by some spice and underlying sweetness. On the palate it's fairly rich, with powerful moderately sweet red berry fruit supported by bright cherry plum acidity and by tannins that are fairly smooth, and flow into a clean fresh cherry and forest berry fruit finish. It's quite young, with a directness that comes of youth, but also harmonious, and will, I think, age well. Or one could drink it with a steak now.
2 stars

Fratelli Degani
Fratelli Degani La Rosta Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with pyrope reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is airy, with forest berry fruit supported by greenish sandalwood and some iodine, with hints of bramble and underbrush as well. Nice balance, and harmonious. On the palate it's rich, and fairly sweet, with powerful red berry fruit that gains roundness from the sweetness, and is supported by moderately intense acidity and some licorice root overtones, while the tannins are soft, ample and sweet, flowing into a fairly rich sweet fruit laced finish. It has a brooding feel to it on the palate, and though young will drink nicely with hearty stews or roasts now, and also age well for many years. Worth seeking out.
88-90

Fratelli Farina
Fratelli Farina Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with pyrope on the rim. The bouquet is powerful, with an initial rush of sandalwood that opens to reveal greenish vegetal accents and underlying red berry fruit, with some airy acidity as well. On the palate it's ample, and fairly direct, with moderately intense red berry fruit supported by acidity, and by tannins that have a warm burr and flow into a clean rather tannic finish. It's not as bright as I might have liked, but rather has a settled feel to it, especially in the fruit.
1 star

Fratelli Fabiano
Fratelli Fabiano Nicola Fabiano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Deep pyrope ruby with black reflections and ruby rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up some red berry fruit supported by spice and berry fruit, with some greenish accents. On the palate it's fairly rich, with clean deft berry fruit supported by brambly acidity and by tannins that have clean sandalwood accents and flow into a clean fairly dry tart finish. It's very young, with the nose behind the palate, but promises to be quite deft when it has its footing, in a year or two, and will age nicely for many years as well. Good definition and nice balance of sweetness and fruit, privileging the latter.
88-90

Fraccaroli Domenico
Fraccaroli Domenico Grotta del Ninfeo Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled September 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, and feels slightly stunted at first swish, leading me to wonder if it was a barrel sample, but it then opens, revealing forest berry fruit mingled with black current jam and sandalwood spice. Elegant in a very youthful key. On the palate it's ample, with fairly sweet plum cherry fruit that gains roundness from the sweetness, which has a brown sugar cast, and is supported by ample sweet tannins that flow into a clean fairly sweet finish. Promising, in an ample, rich key, and will drink quite nicely with stews or roasts, though I would give it a year or two to develop and get its bearings.
2 stars

Gamba
Gamba Gnirega Campdei Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is intense, with sandalwood-laced cherry plum fruit supported by berry fruit jam and some greenish accents. On the palate it's ample and soft, with moderately intense frankly generic fruit supported by sour berry fruit acidity and by tannins that are fairly rich, and flow into a clean fairly tart finish. I'd have liked greater richness and definition to the fruit, and more tightness overtones the tannins, which have a dull splintery feel to them.
1 star

Gnirega
Gnirega Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, and rather pungent, with some berry fruit supported by greenish spice, gum Arabic, and hints of hot iron. On the palate it's ample and fairly sweet, with moderately intense greenish berry fruit supported by moderate greenish acidity and by tannins that are fairly smooth, and flow into a clean bright finish. The palate is more interesting than the nose, which is holding back. In terms of accompaniments, I would think of hearty stews, for example Goulash or pastissada. It could do interesting things with time, and I would give it 2-3 years to develop.

Guerrieri Rizzardi
Guerrieri Rizzardi Calcarole Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with red berry fruit supported by sweetness and vegetal accents with underlying cedar and sandalwood spice. Elegant, and quite a bit going on. On the palate it's quite sweet, almost an ammandorlato rather than an Amarone, with rich brooding cherry plum fruit supported by clean berry fruit acidity and by tannins that have a greenish sandalwood underpinning, and flow into a long clean tannic plum finish. Quite elegant, in a rich and fairly sweet key -- one could also say exotic -- and if you like this style, you will enjoy it very much. I'd drink it with hearty, spicy stews, for example Veorna's Pastissada, boiled dinner, or think about swerving it with flavorful, not too sharp cheeses. Worth seeking out if you like the style.
88-90

Igino Accordini
Igino Accordini Le Bessole Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled January 2009
Impenetrable pyrope ink with purplish rim. The bouquet is rich and extremely lush, with violets mingled with almost sugary plum fruit; it brings to mind Valeria Marini, one of Italy's most opulent starlets, stuffed into a glass. On the palate it's ample and rich, with soft plum cherry fruit supported by moderate acidity, and by smooth tannins that have an unexpected bitter underpinning, and flow into a clean fairly long plum laced finish with a dusty bitter burr. The nose is a bit richer than the palate, but it's pleasant in a softer fruit driven key, and if you like big rather soft wines you will enjoy it. If your preference is for tighter wines you won't like it as much.
2 stars

Accordini Stefano
Accordini Stefano Acintico Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with bright cherry fruit supported by spicy vegetal notes and some nose tingling acidity, with slight horsehair that adds depth. On the palate it's ample, with rich red berry fruit supported by deft sour cherry acidity, and by tannins that will be smooth in maturity, but have a slight splinteriness to them now, and flow into a clean bright berry fruit finish with bitter underpinning. It's pleasant, though just a shade removed from being a work in progress; it clearly has a ways to go but has set off in a promising direction; I expect it to be middle of the road in key. In other words, it's a wine to buy now and think about drinking in 3-5 years, though it will age nicely for many more. When it's ready, enjoy it with a hearty roast or stew.
2 stars

Aldegheri
Aldegheri Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled September 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, in a more rustic key than many, with balsamic notes mingled with animal tang -- wet straw, in particular -- and some acidity, with airy spice as well. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean bright finish with berry fruit and some acidity. I won't say traditional because traditional isn't rustic, but I did find myself enjoying the mouthfeel, and if you like slightly more rustic wines it will drink quite well with foods, though I would give it a few years to get its bearings.
2 stars

Aldrighetti Le Bignele
Aldrighetti Le Bignele Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with jammy berry fruit supported by some greenish accents and hints of sandalwood and spice. On the palate it's fairly rich, with bright red berry fruit supported by greenish acidity that has slight hazelnut accents, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fairly bright berry fruit finish. It's deft, in a very young key, and needs another couple of years to get its bearings, at which point it will be quite pleasant, in a more vinous and less opulent sort of way. In other words, if you are looking for a rich, seductive Amarone this isn't it. If you instead want a more graceful wine built around finesse, in 3-5 years this will hit the spot very well. If you must drink it sooner, drink it with a hearty stew or a boiled dinner with many sauces. Worth seeking out if you like this style.
2 stars

Antolini Pierpaolo e Stefano
Antolini Pierpaolo e Stefano Moròpio Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled May 2008
Deep black almandine with black reflections and black cherry rim. The bouquet is powerful, with sweet licorice-root laced red berry fruit supported by bright greenish -- almost winter squash - acidity. On the palate it's ample, with deft cherry plum fruit supported by smooth sweet tannins, while direction comes from brisk rather vegetal acidity, and it flows into a clean bright berry fruit finish. Deft, in a powerful key, and brings to mind a well-muscled distance runner -- powerful, but not opulent. It's quite young, and will do interesting things with time, though one could drink it already with a hearty stew or a succulent roast.
2 stars

Arduini Luciano
Arduini Luciano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflectiosn and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with a mixture of red berry fruit and sweetness that somehow brings cola to mind, supported by some spice and dusky cedar. On the palate it's ample, with bright red berry fruit supported by deft sour berry fruit acidity, and by tannins that are again ample and have a greenish sandalwood burr, and flow into a clean sour finish. It needs time, at least a year and likely two, at which point it will likely be pleasant in a fairly traditional style. In short, not at all ready, and though I think it has potential a score today won't reflect that.

Albino Armani
Vini Armani A. Cusianus Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Deep violet with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is intriguing, with surprisingly fresh floral accents -- violets -- mingled with berry fruit and underlying greenish vegetal acidity. On the palate it's ample and soft, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a fairly rich berry fruit finish. A babe in swaddling clothes, but one that has nice potential, and that will, I think, do nice things in a fairly traditional key over the next few years. It will drink nicely now with hearty stews or roasts, but will reward those with patience.
2 stars

Benedetti Società Corte Antica
Benedetti Società Corte Antica Croce del Gal Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is rich, in a ripe and fairly sweet key, with red berry fruit supported by something that brings candied melon peel to mind, and moderate jammy acidity. On the palate it's full, with frankly generic red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and by tannins that have a splintery green burr, and flow into a greenish tannic finish. I'd have liked greater depth and brightness to the fruit.
1 star

Cavalier G.B. Bertani
Cavalier G.B. Bertani Vi.la Arvedi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Black almandine with black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is rustic, with barnyard tang -- wet stable straw -- mingled with what a fellow taster calls stallatico (manure) and some balsamic acidity. On the palate it's bright, with tart berry fruit supported by greenish acidity and lively greenish tannins that flow into a tart tannic finish with bitter underpinning. It' a wine that takes no quarter; if you like the style you will enjoy it. But you do have to enjoy the style; if you prefer richer more fruit driven (especially on the nose) wines it won't work for you. If you like it, it will work well with succulent stews or roasts, and age well for many years. But you do have to like the style.
1 star

Bixio Produttori Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2007
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with red berry fruit mingled with brown sugar and some cedar, and airy underlying spice. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense frankly generic fruit -- it's red but that's about it -- supported by moderate acidity, and by tannins that have a greenish splintery burr and flow into a clean fairly bright finish. While pleasant enough, I'd have liked greater definition and brightness to the fruit -- one expects more of an Amarone than this delivers.
1 star

Boscini Carlo
Boscaini Carlo San Giorgio Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, and quite ripe, with plum cherry fruit supported by black currant jam and airy spice. On the palate it's ample and smooth, with rich cherry plum fruit that gains definition from some bitterness, and is supported by smooth deft nicely polished tannins that flow into a clean bright jammy cherry plum finish. Elegant, in an ample soft fruit driven key, and if you like this style you will enjoy it very much; I would almost prefer to drink it far from the table because its smoothness and fruit aren't what I would serve with a stew or roast. If you are looking for something tighter and better defined, it won't work for you.
2 stars

Latium di Morini & Co
.
Latium di Morini & Co. Campo Leon Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope ruby with black almandine rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cedar and some underlying spice; it brings to mind a woodshop. Not much fruit. On the palate it's ample, and sweet, with moderate fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by cedar-laced tannins that have a hazelnut overlay, and flow into a fairly sweet bitter finish. It's going in several directions at once, and even if it weren't it would come across as disjointed, or perhaps trying too hard.

Lonardi Giuseppe
Lonardi Giuseppe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with red berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and spice, with some underlying licorice root and sandalwood, On the palate it's deft, with bright cherry and forest berry fruit supported by brisk slightly greenish acidity, and by slightly greenish tannins that flow into a clean fresh fruit laced finish. Elegant in a youthful fairly traditional key, and will drink nicely with roasts or stews now, though it will reward those with the patience to give it time -- years to start, though it will improve for many more. If you like the style, it's worth seeking out.
2 stars

Marchesi Fumanelli
Marchesi Fumanelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled January 2009
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, and quite ripe, with black currant fruit and jam mingled with airy spice and some bitter cedar that gives depth. On the palate it's rich, and fruit driven, with ample soft cherry plum fruit that gains direction and definition from some tart berry fruit acidity, and is supported by ample very smooth tannins that flow into a fairly rich cherry plum finish. It's ample, and quite soft, in a big fruit driven key, and if you like this style it will drink well with drier meats, though I might be tempted to serve it by the glass. If you prefer tighter wines it won't work as well for you.
2 stars

Marognole di Corsi Fabio

Marognole di Corsi Fabio Campo Rocco Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with slight berry fruit supported by mentholated accents and some greenish notes that have cedary overtones. On the palate it's ample, and soft, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by clean sour berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fairly fresh berry fruit finish. The palate is richer and much more interesting than the nose at present; assuming the nose catches up it will be quite pleasant in a middle of the road key, but needs 2-3 years to get its bearings. The score reflects the present.
1 star

Monte Cariano
Monte Cariano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pyrope ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is elegant, with rich jammy berry fruit supported by licorice root and spice, with sweetness that adds depth. Quick to write, and it is young, but there's quite a bit going on. On the palate it's deft, and fairly sweet, with rich red berry fruit supported by bright slightly greenish acidity and tannins that have a deft greenish vegetal burr, and flow into a clean tart greenish finish with tannic underpinning. Considerable elegance and great control; it will drink well now with succulent stews or roasts, but will also age nicely for many years. Worth seeking out.
90

Monte Dall'Ora
Monte Dall'Ora Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with greenish berry fruit supported by mentholated spice. On the palate it's ample and rather soft, with sweet red berry fruit supported by slight acidity, and by tannins that are somewhat green, and have a splintery burr. The overall impression is fairly lax, and I'd have liked greater definition to the fruit.
1 star

Monte del Frà
Monte del Frà Tenuta Lena di Mezzo Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with jammy cherry fruit laced with moderate mentholated accents and cedar. On the palate it's full, with generic greenish berry fruit supported by tannins that are quite dry, and flow into a dry mentholated finish. It's still badly out of whack (barrel samples can be), so much so that a score means little.

Monte Zovo
Monte Zovo Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep black almandine ruby with lack reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is a bit odd, with something that brings to mind diesel exhaust mingled with chemical aromas. Not much fruit to speak of. On the palate it's fairly sweet, with generic plum cherry fruit supported by mentholic overtones and acidity, while the tannins are fairly smooth and flow into a fairly long greenish finish. It's ample and lunking, trying too hard, and is lacking in deftness and depth. Time in the bottle will tell.

Monteci
Monteci Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections. The bouquet is fairly intense, with grilled green peppers mingled with spice that are pleasant enough. but not what I associate with Valpolicella. More swishing also brings up black currants mingled with berry fruit jam. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich red berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and bitter greenish tannins that flow into a greenish bitter finish with sandalwood and cedar underlay. Quite a bit of wood, and to be frank it needs time to digest it; I'd have preferred greater richness to the fruit, though I do think that it has potential for the future. It will work well with hearty roasts or stews.
2 stars

Giacomo Montresor
Giacomo Montresor castelliere delle Guaite Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and rim; poured ink. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up spice and some cedar. Not much fruit. On the palate it's ample, with fairly sweet, generic red berry fruit that has a disarming alcoholic softness to it supported by moderate acidity and a fair amount of spice, while the tannins are fairly smooth, with greenish mentholated accents, and flow into a clean greenish finish. It's direct, and though it will be perfectly adequate with a hearty stew or roast (if you like somewhat sweeter wines) I'd have expected greater depth and finesse from an Amarone.

Bolla
Bolla Le Origini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is greenish, with moderate spice and not much in the way of fruit. On the palate it's fairly rich, with moderate fairly sweet fruit supported by greenish spice and cedar laced tannins that flow into a fairly pronounced greenish cedar finish. There's a great deal of wood, which overshadows the fruit and the other elements that try to come through.
1 star

Buglioni
Buglioni Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with deft sandalwood mingled with red berry fruit and hints of green leather, while there is also underlying spice. Nice depth in a delicate key. On the palate it's ample, and fairly sweet, with rich plum cherry fruit supported by deft slightly greenish acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a fairly long sweet greenish finish. There's something exotic about it, and it will drink nicely with stews or roasts upon release, though it will also benefit from another 2-3 years of cellaring and age well for many more.
2 stars

Cà La Bionda
Cà La Bionda Vigneti di Ravezzoi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Impenetrable pyrope ink. The bouquet is intense, with jammy sandalwood laced red berry fruit supported by spice and some acidity. Enticing, and quite young. On the palate it's ample and quite smooth, with sweet, jammy cherry plum (not prune) fruit supported by lively slightly greenish acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh slightly sour berry fruit finish. Quite pleasant in a zesty fresh key and will drink well now with succulent stews or roasts, though it also has the potential to age nicely for many years. Pleasant in a middle of the road key, and with seeking out, though I would give it 3-5 years before thinking about opening it.
88-90

Cà Rugate
Cà Rugate Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled May 2008
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy berry fruit supported by sandalwood and some cedar. On the palate it's full, and fairly sweet -- more an ammandorlato than an Amarone -- with bright berry fruit supported by fairly lively acidity, and by tannins that are smooth, but not as well defined as I might have liked; though they do a good job of supporting the wine now they have a softness to them, and I fear they will settle with time.
1 star

Giuseppe Campagnola

Giuseppe Campagnola Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled fall 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, in a very ripe key, with jammy plum fruit supported by mentholated spice and some sandalwood. The overall impression is direct, though this is also youth at work. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich sweetish plum cherry fruit that gains direction from fairly bright plum acidity, and is supported by smooth sweet tannins that flow into an ample plum finish with a dry tannic underpinning. Quite a bit of oak at work, and if you like this smooth, fairly soft fruit driven style you will enjoy it. If you prefer tighter defter wines it won't work as well for you.
2 stars

Cantina di Soave
Cantina di Soave Rocca Sveva Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with jammy plum fruit supported by some spicy greenish vegetal accents that provide depth. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense frankly generic plum cherry fruit that gains direction from slight acidity, and is supported by ample very smooth tannins that flow into a clean soft rather greenish plum finish. The overall impression is fairly settled; I'd have liked greater depth and richness to the fruit, and more acidity to hold it up.

Cantina Sociale della Valpantena

Cantina Sociale della Valpantena Tore del Falasco Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is bright, and quite young, with jammy berry fruit supported by floral accents -- not quite violets -- and airy sandalwood spice. Pleasant. On the palate it's rich, with lively fairly sweet red berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning and some acidity. Pleasant to drink, though it is very young (and will profit from 3-5 years in the cellar) and will work well now with succulent stews, along the lines of a pastissada or goulash, or with rich roasts. Middle of the road in key, and Worth seeking out if you like the style.
88-90

Cantina Valpolicella Negrar

Cantina Valpolicella Negrar Domini Veneti Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Impenetrable pyrope ruby with black cherry rim; poured ink. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy plum fruit supported by hints of sandalwood and some brambly eucalyptus spice. Not much acidity. On the palate it's ample and fairly sweet, with rich plum fruit supported by moderate tart plum acidity and by smooth soft tannins that flow into a clean fairly settled plum laced finish. I'd have liked greater depth and tightness to the fruit, which has a settled feel to it. This said, it will drink well with drier meats.
1 star

Gerardo Cesari
Gerardo Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled September 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up cherry plum fruit mingled with some licorice root and spice. On the palate it's rich, with lively red berry fruit supported by brisk red berry fruit acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish. It's behind on the nose with respect to the palate, and when it all comes together will be quite pleasant. Only we're not there yet, and I would give it a year at least or better two. In short, a wine worth waiting for. When it's ready it will be beautiful with a roast or stew.
2 stars

Contrà Malini

Contrà Malini Azienda Agricola Tezza Fabio La Cà Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled December 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is overripe, with cedar and sandalwood laced jammy plum fruit. On the palate it's ample and fairly sweet, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by tart acidity and by tannins that are smooth, and flow into a tart fruit finish. It's direct and up front -- neither long on complexity, nor depth -- but will drink well with roasts or stews, and while I expect more form an Amarone, given also its reputation, it will drink well with succulent roasts or stews.
1 star

Speri Viticoltori
Speri Viticoltori Vigneto Monte Sant'Urbano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled December 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim; poured ink. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up some sandalwood with hints of cedar and slight balsamic notes. Not much fruit. On the palate it's fairly rich, with sweetish plum cherry fruit supported by moderately intense berry fruit acidity and by tannins that have a warm greenish burr and flow into a fairly tart greenish finish. It's not quite as rich as I'd have liked, and the tannins with their burr overshadow the fruit, with is not as deft as I'd have liked. This said, it will drink well with succulent roasts or hearty stews.
1 star

Tedeschi
Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with sandalwood and spice mingled with hardwood ash and some tart vegetal acidity. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich vegetal fruit supported by clean rather green tannins that flow into a clean bright tannic finish. It's promising, though woefully young, and needs time, another 3-5 years before it comes together and begins to reveal its potential. When it's ready it will work well with succulent roasts or hearty stews. The score reflects today.
2 stars

Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is unsettled, though swishing brings up dusky spice with quite a bit of alcohol, mingled with licorice root and jammy fruit. Nice depth, and promising. On the palate it's full, and fairly sweet, with rich berry fruit that has some brown sugar overtones supported by fresh slightly greenish tartness and tannins that are young but already fairly smooth, and flow into a clean fresh finish. Quite promising, and will do very interesting things with time.
2 stars

Terre di Leone

Terre di Leone Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled July 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with quite a bit of cedar mingled with red berry fruit and berry fruit jam. On the palate it's ample and rather sweet, more an ammandorlato than an Amarone, with sweetish plum fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a long fairly tart plum berry fruit finish. It's pleasant, in a rich fruit driven key, and if you like smooth powerful fruit driven wines you will enjoy it considerably. If you prefer drier, less sweet wines it won't work as well, though lovers of Recioto will find things to think about too.
2 stars

Tinazzi
Tinazzi La Bastia Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled January 2009
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy berry fruit supported by hints of green leather and spice, and some vegetal accents too. On the palate it's ample and fairly sweet, with plum fruit supported by clean plum cherry acidity, and by ample sweet tannins that work from below the surface, and flow into a clean fairly rich tart cherry finish. It's ample, and quite soft, and will drink well with drier meats, if you like the style.
1 star

Vaona Odino
Vaona Odino Pegrandi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with mentholated red berry fruit supported by hints of licorice root and spice. Fairly direct, but also very young. On the palate it's ample, and fairly soft, with plum fruit that gains direction from deft acidity, and is supported by slightly greenish tannins that flow into a clean berry fruit finish with tart tannic underpinning. It's pleasant, though I'd have liked greater depth to the fruit and the tannic structure. It would be a fine Valpolicalla Superiore, but I expect more form an Amarone.
2 stars

Venturini Massimo e Figli
Venturini Massimo e Figli Campomasua Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up some spice, and also hints of iodine. But not much fruit. On the palate it's ample, with moderately intense rather generic berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and by tannins that have a distinctly greenish burr, and flow into a clean rather vegetal finish. It's very young, but even if one considers this aspect, I would have expected more from an Amarone.

Villa Monteleone
Villa Monteleone Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled July 2008
Impenetrable pyrope ruby. The bouquet is muted. Shut tight, swishing brings up little if anything beyond some greenish notes. On the palate it's fairly rich, with full generic fairly sweet berry fruit supported by moderate acidity and by tannins that have a greenish burr to them, and flow into a greenish tannic finish. There's neither as much fruit, nor as much depth as I would expect from an Amarone.
1 star

Vigneti Villabella
Vigneti Villabella Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample (release date 2010)
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with delicate red berry fruit supported by some greenish accents and by deft berry fruit spice. A work in progress, but promising. On the palate it's ample, with rich red berry fruit supported by slightly greenish acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh tannic finish with vegetal fruit underpinning, Pleasant, though woefully young; it needs another couple of years to come together and will continue to improve for many more. If you must drink it upon release, serve it with a hearty stew.
88-90


Zardini
Zardini Corte Zardini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with jammy plum fruit supported by some greenish accents and spice. On the palate it's full, with fairly rich generic red berry fruit supported by deft greenish acidity and by tannins that are fairly smooth. To be honest, I'd have expected more depth and elegance to an Amarone; this is fairly up front in a pleasant way, but an Amarone should be more.

Zenato
Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled September 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, in a rather rustic key, with stable straw mingled with barnyard tang and some greenish accents, and underlying balsamic notes. Not much fruit. On the palate it's sweet, with fairly rich plum fruit supported by some plum acidity, and by tannins that have a bitter greenish splintery burr, and flow into a fairly bitter greenish finish. I'd have liked greater depth to the fruit, which is quite ripe, but not that well defined. In its defense, it is very young, and may evolve in interesting directions.
1 star

Musella
Musella Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled August 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with cherry plum fruit supported by some iodine and by some greenish accents, while there is also an undercurrent of sweetness. On the palate it's ample, and sweet, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by considerable bell pepper vegetal accents, and by clean sweet tannins that flow into a warm rich sweet greenish plum finish. Pleasant in a rather exotic fruit driven overripe key, and if you like this style you will enjoy it; because of its brooding fruit driven softness it will work well with drier meats. But you do have to like the style.
1 star

Nicolis
Nicolis Angelo e Figli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample, from large wood
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up cedar and some berry fruit, though not much. Closed tight. On the palate it's fairly rich, with ample greenish plum fruit supported by moderate acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean very ripe plum fruit laced finish.

Novaia
Novaia Selezione Corte Vaona Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up sandalwood mingled with some spice and hints of berry fruit. On the palate it's ample, with moderately rich berry fruit supported by tart acidity and clean rather splintery tannins that flow into a clean tart berry fruit finish. I'd have liked greater depth and definition to the fruit than I found.

Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Terre di Cariano-Cecilia Beretta Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled June 2008
Impenetrable pyrope ruby with ruby rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with berry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and some sandalwood overtones that provide pleasant depth and elegance. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright red berry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish. Pleasing elegance in a very young key, and though one could drink it now with a stew or roast, it will richly reward those who have the patience to give it 5 or more years.
2 stars

F.lli Recchia
F.lli Recchia Enorama Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and pyrope rim. The bouquet is rich, sweet, and spicy, with brown sugar mingled with berry fruit and sandalwood, and underlying red berry fruit. Interesting, and quite young. On the palate it's ample and fairly sweet -- more an ammandorlato than an Amarone -- with moderately intense berry fruit supported by brown sugar sweetness and smooth fairly polished tannins that flow into a clean sweetish finish, It's in mid stride, though I'd have liked greater depth to the fruit than I found; the sweetness and tannic structure end up carrying the show.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio
Tenuta Sant'Antonio Campo dei Gigli Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with cedar and moderate animal tang mingled with savory overtones. On the palate it's deft, with rich red berry fruit supported by deft slightly sour berry fruit acidity, and by smooth slightly greenish tannins that flow into a clean fairly dry finish. It's quite young, and though it needs time will drink well now with succulent stews or roasts, and will also age quite well. In short, a wine to set aside and wait for; it will begin to give its best in 5 years and will improve for a decade further, at least.
88-90

San Rustico
San Rustico Gaso Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim; poured ink. The bouquet is fairly rich, with quite ripe plum fruit laced with some greenish accents and hints of lactic acid, supported by airy spice. On the palate it's ample, and soft, with plum fruit supported by moderately intense plum cherry acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clean rather soft plum finish. It's ample, and smooth, in a soft fruit driven key, and if you like this rather ripe style it will work well with drier meats. If you prefer tighter wines it won't work as well for you.

Santa Sofia
Santa Sofia Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled January 2009
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with red berry fruit and cherry fruit supported by some greenish accents and pleasant psice. Quite young, but it has a lot to say. On the palate it's rich, with clean lively cherry and forest berry fruit supported bouquet deft berry fruit acidity, and by smooth sweet tannins that flow into a clan fairly tart finish, It needs time for the nose to develop, another couple of years at least, but promises very well, and will drink nicely with hearty stews or succulent roasts even now.wso to set aside, or even (gasp) to drink.
88-90

Santi - G.I.V.
Santi - G.I.V. Proemio Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled August 2008
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is spicy, with moderate fruit supported by brambly balsamic accents and some gum Arabic. On the palate it's full, with fairly sweet plum fruit supported by moderately intense plum acidity and by tannins that display a greenish burr, and flow into a dry tannic finish. I'd have liked greater depth to the wine, which is less rich than I'd have expected from an Amarone.
1 star

Sartori
Sartori Reius Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is ample, with tart berry fruit supported by floral accents and heather from a cut field. On the palate it's ample, with rich berry fruit supported by clean deft slightly greenish acidity, and by tannins that are fairly smooth, and flow into a clean rather green finish. It's very young, and the nose is still out of whack, but it does display a certain grace, and will drink nicely with succulent roasted meats along the lines of leg of almandine or hearty stews.
2 stars

Zeni F.lli
Zeni F.lli Barriques Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Barrel sample
Impenetrable pyrope with black cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with red berry fruit mingled with some cedar; the interaction brings cola to mind. On the palate it's ample and quite soft, with moderately intense berry fruit supported by moderate acidity, and by tannins that are ample and fairly smooth, and flow into a fairly direct plum laced finish.

Tenute Galtarossa

Tenute Galtarossa Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Impenetrable pyrope with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by some tart acidity and by slight underlying balsamic notes, with a fair amount of alcohol as well. On the palate it's ample, with fairly rich cherry plum fruit supported by bright cherry acidity, and by smooth tannins that have a slight greenish burr to them and flow into a clean tannic finish. It's fairly direct, and very much up front. I'd have liked greater depth and complexity form an Amarone.
1 star

Tezza
Tezza Corte Majoli Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 DOC
Bottled October 2008
Impenetrable pyrope ruby with black reflections and pyrope rim. The bouquet is moderately intense, with some sandalwood and spice mingled with cedar; there's not much fruit. On the palate it's moderately intense, with fairly rich cherry fruit supported by deft acidity and by clean sweet tannins that lead into a clean slightly tannic finish. While it is drinkable, one would expect more from an Amarone; this wine is pleasant but doesn't have the depth one would expect.
1 star

Tommasi Viticoltori
Tommasi Viticoltori Cà Florian Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC
Bottled November 2008
Impenetrable pigeon blood ruby with black cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy berry fruit supported by spice and some hints of cedar. On the palate it's rich, with lively cherry t supported by deft berry fruit acidity and by smooth slightly cedar laced tannins that flow into a clean fresh berry fruit finish with tannic underpinning. Pleasant in a rather traditional key and though it needs time, will drink nicely with succulent roasts or stews even now. Worth seeking out if you like the fairly traditional style.
2 stars

5 comments:

Anthony said...

Kyle you should have tried the barrel sample from Castellare - it was sublime. I have never tasted anything with that much strawberry flavor. Would like to hear your comments about Fattoria Rignana also someday - and Poggio al Sole - two of my favorites (and very close geographically).

Great write up though - thanks!

Kyle Phillips said...

I taste barrel samples for personal curiosity, but prefer not to write about them because they really are works in progress, and can change so much by the time they're in bottle and have some age under their belts as to be almost unrecognizable.

I will taste through Poggio al Sole and Fattoria di Rignana at some point this year, however.

Kyle

Anonymous said...

I love Fratelli Vogadori's Amarone, they are a litlle winery in Valpolicella. Do you know something about them?

Nel

Brian said...

I am trying to decide between the 2006 and 2005 Gerardo Cesari Amarone. Does anyone know which was the better vintage?

Kyle Phillips said...

I haven't written up the intro yet -- this week or beginning of next -- but the 2006 vintage was better than the 2005. Significantly, with much warmer temperatures and riper grpaes. As a grou the wines were quite approachable, so I might go with thr 06 unless I was planning to drink it immediately.