Amarone is a wine that needs time to develop; though it's usually released 3 years after the harvest, at that point t it's a work in progress, and while it may show grace and elegance, these qualities generally emerge through a filter of disjointed if not screechy youth. Things begin to improve with another 3-5 years of bottle age, when the wine is approaching a decade in age, and in the case of good to very good vintages, the wines can continue to grow for decades.
2001 was a very fine vintage, and this year, in addition to pouring their current vintages, the folks at the Valpolicella Crus stand brought their 2001 Amarone. A perfect occasion to evaluate how it has developed.
Deep black almandine with black reflections and hints of brown in the rim. The bouquet is elegant, with pleasing stewed plum fruit supported by spice, in particular nutmeg, mingled with sandalwood and some sweetness, and supported by slightly mineral acidity and some alcohol, while there is also a licorice root underpinning that provides direction and allure. On the palate it's full and very smooth, with powerful licorice root laced prune fruit supported by deft slightly greenish acidity and by tannins that are velvety, and flow into a long warm prune finish with licorice underpinning and peppery spicy warmth. It's still very young, and while eminently drinkable -- it will be wonderful with a rich Veronese stew along the lines of pastissada -- it also has a great road ahead of it. A timeless delight. 93-5
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and some hints of almandine brownishness in the rim. The bouquet is intense, and rather smoky, with berry fruit laced with hardwood ash and some airy spice, and also warm peppery accents. And as it opens some licorice root as well. It's more hesitant than the Begali, which is eager to explode out of the glass. Here we have a wine that isn't quite as sure that having been opened was a good idea. On the palate it's ample, smooth, and moderately sweet, with prune fruit supported by cooked strawberry prune acidity and by smooth sweet tannins that do have a slight splintery burr, and flow into a warm prune laced finish with lasting warmth that also reveals some licorice root as the fruit fades. It's a less explosive interpretation of Amarone, one that evolves around rich smoothness of fruit, and is quite pleasant though more of a sipping wine than a wine to serve with a richly flavored stew. 2 stars
Deep black almandine with brilliant ruby red and some brown in the rim. The bouquet is intense, and rather exotic, with rather voluptuous stewed prune fruit supported by sandalwood and licorice root, and hints of cocoa and peppery spice as well, and also fairly bright alcohol. Powerful. On the palate it's full, with rich cherry prune fruit supported by warm fairly deft berry fruit acidity and by tannins that are smooth though a touch dry, and have slight cocoa accents. Quite pleasant, and sunny on the palate, with a tannic zestiness that will make it better suited to rich meats dishes -- goulash, or pastissada, for example, than being sipped on its own. It has a lot to say in a sort of sassy key, and is still very young. 90
Deep black garnet with black reflections and some brown to the rim. The bouquet is intense and delicate, with smoky prune fruit supported by nose tingling spice and deft sandalwood, while there is also some licorice root and some underlying alcohol; it takes its time coming out of the glass. No rush., and as it opens some brown sugar also emerges, together with hints of cola, and it becomes more voluptuous. On the palate it's full and fairly sweet, with powerful cherry prune fruit supported by warmth and hints of sandalwood and licorice root, white the tannins are smooth and silky, and flow into a long prune laced finish with some cocoa sweetness from the tannins. Quite pleasant in a seductive slightly more international key, and is a wine that one could sip now, though it will also9 work very well with succulent stews. It's not quite as young as some of the others -- perhaps in second grade rather than first -- but still has a long climb ahead of it 92
Guglielmi di Jago was the ancestor who built the family residence, and this is a special selection of about 3,000 bottles they make with their best grapes. The first vintage was 1998, which they released in 2008 to considerable acclaim, and this is the third vintage, released now. Deep black almandine with almandine reflections and rim paling to brownish orange. The bouquet is intense, with prune fruit laced with hardwood ash and fairly intense sandalwood .-- it's more apparent than in some mingled with sweetness and some licorice root. Heady, and as it opens, voluptuous, and as it opens further delicate nutmeg also emerges supported by cedar. On the palate it's ample, fairly sweet, and very smooth, with rich prune fruit supported by slight smoky accents and moderate mineral acidity, and by tannins that are very smooth on the outset, revealing a slight splintery burr as the fruit fades. It's very pleasant in a rich, ripe, polished key, and is a wine that will work quite nicely with a roast or stew, and will also be a wine that one could drink far from the table, though more in a few years' time than now -- the burr of the tannins is still folding in. With respect to the others it is the most polished, with a ripe smoothness of fruit that makes it slightly more seductive. If you are a wine geek drawn to raw power it won't work quite as well for you, but if you instead like silkier wines it will impress you considerably. 93
Deep pigeon blood ruby with slight almandine accents and almandine rim with hints of brown to it. The bouquet is intense, and distinct, with warm prune fruit supported by some bell pepper jelly and licorice root with slight sandalwood mingled with licorice root and peppery underlying spice. Rich, and displays considerable depth. Quite pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's full, rich, and fairly sweet, with pleasant prune cherry fruit supported by slight licorice root-laced acidity and by tannins that are warm and fairly splintery yet, and flow into a fairly long sandalwood and licorice root laced greenish prune fruit finish with lasting warmth. It's quite elegant, in a graceful slightly greenish spicy key, and will drink well now with stews or roasts. It's quite fresh, and will continue to age for many many more years. 88-90
Deep black garnet with black reflections and garnet rim. The bouquet is more cautious than most, hanging back, and when prodded releases warmth and balsamic accents with hints of lathered horse, which are followed, as it opens, by spicy prune fruit with slight savory accents. It's calm, and in no great hurry. On the palate it's ample and rather dry, with moderate prune fruit supported by dusky tannins that have some sandalwood and slight cedar to them, and flow into a fairly long finish in which licorice root emerges strongly. Of the wines in the flight it's the driest and the one with the least fruit; while the tannins are a bit more apparent than in the other wines. It's a wine that I wouldn't consider sipping far from the table, but because of the tannic structure would perhaps open with a succulent stew or roast. 2 stars
These wines prove what I have often said: Amarone is at its release an unfinished wine that needs time to come together. Not months, but years, and all of these wines were very young and very fresh: they are ready, but are at the beginning of their lives as finished wines, and all are still climbing.
While the give pleasure now, they will give more pleasure a few years' hence, and this is why I suggest those who buy Amarone not do so for the moment, but in the expectation of a happy occasion. Think of them as investments in the future.
NO STAR goes to wines that are correctly made but nothing to get excited about.
ONE STAR goes to wines that are good. TWO STARS go to wines that are very good to excellent. THREE STARS and a POINT SCORE (90-100) go to wines that are superb to extraordinary. And I will give pairing suggestions, which I consider much more important than the scores.