Amarone della Valpolicella is an intensely flavored dry red wine made from dried (passito) grapes. It is made in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, and is arguably the region’s most prestigious red wine.
The amarone style developed as Veneto’s winemakers searched for a way to increase the body, complexity and alcohol content of their wines. As demonstrated by modern-day reds Valpolicella and Garda, wines made from locally grown Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara
can sometimes be too light to give satisfaction. These three mainstays of the Valpolicella vineyard are not renowned for their inherent depth (only Corvina is able to produce wines with much body), which is compounded by the cool growing conditions of western Veneto.
In order to concentrate the natural sugars and aromatics in Valpolicella wines, local producers began drying their grapes after harvest.
This technique proved very successful, although initially it was used to produce sweeter styles of wine, such as those now known as Recioto della Valpolicella. The early amarone wines were seen as mistakes – reciotos left to ferment for too long – but eventually the style gained recognition and respect. Amarone comes from the Italian wordamaro (‘bitter’), completed by the -onesuffix which denotes impressive size or volume. When compared to the sweet Recioto which the early amarones were supposed to be, this name is entirely logical.
The grapes used to make modern amarone wines are of the local Corvina variety and its sub-variety Corvinone. They are picked in whole bunches and kept in drying rooms (with warm temperatures and low humidity) where they stay for anywhere from three weeks to three months. Traditionally the grapes were dried on straw mats (they are a member of the ‘straw wine’ family) in the warmest part of the house or winery, but modern technology has replaced straw with steel and lofts with pallets. When the drying process (known as appassimento in Italian) is complete, the grapes are gently pressed and the must is fermented to dry. The grapes’ high sugar content means a higher potential alcohol, so a complete fermentation results in a strong wine of 15% or 16% alcohol by volume. This is then aged in barrels (traditional large botti are now being replaced by smaller Slavonian oakbarriques) for at least two years before commercial release.
Standard Amarone della Valpolicella can be made from anywhere within the wider Valpolicella zone, but those from the viticulturally superior classic and Valpantena sub-zones may be labeled as such.
The amarone production process creates a vinous by-product, of sorts. Rather than discard the dried grape skins (or use them for distillation into grappa), resourceful winemakers use them to add depth and complexity to their standard Valpolicella wines. The wine and grape skins go through a second fermentation together, during which tannins and phenoliccompounds are leached out into the wine, creating Valpolicella Ripasso.
Valpolicella Ripasso is a fruity, complex red wine from the Valpolicella viticultural zone of Veneto, north-eastern Italy.
Because Valpolicella’s wines generally lean towards the lighter end of the scale, for centuries the local winemakers have employed various techniques to improve the depth and complexity of their cuvees. The passito and ripasso methods have been the most successful: the former is used in the Recioto della Valpolicella and Amarone della Valpolicella, while the latter is used to make Valpolicella Ripasso.
For a passito wine, the grapes are dried out for weeks or even months prior to fermentation, during which time their natural sugars and flavors become sufficiently concentrated to produce deeper, more alcoholic wines. Theripasso method is to ‘re-pass’ (re-ferment) the passito grape skins with standard Valpolicella wine, creating a deeper, more character-laden result. The style was granted its own independent DOC title in 2007.
Valpolicella is the most famous red wine to come out of the Veneto wine region in north-eastern Italy (Bardolino is the only other contender). The defining character of all quality Valpolicella is its fragrant, tangy cherry aroma, a quality which is carried through into the ripasso wines.
The grapes used to make Valpolicella are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.
Corvina is generally regarded as the finest of the three, and is certainly the most traditional. Rondinella proved popular in the 1960s and 1970s because of its generous yields, while pale, over-acidic, oxidation-prone
Molinara has declined dramatically since its early surge. Corvina remains the grape of choice for higher-quality Valpolicella, and particularly Amarone della Valpolicella, Recioto della Valpolicella and Valpolicella Ripasso.
On warmer, well-drained slopes, Corvina produces wines with more body than is traditionally expected of Valpolicella, which explains the huge quality differential between regular Valpolicella from the plains and Valpolicella Ripasso Classico from the hills of the traditional classico zone.
Soave is arguably the most famous white-wine DOC in Italy. Granted in 1968, the DOC title covers wines made from Garganega grapes grown on the hillsides east of Verona, in the Veneto wine region of north-eastern Italy. A dry, crisp, fruity white wine, Soave’s naturally refreshing appeal led it to phenomenal popularity in the second half of the 20th century.
Ask any wine drinker to name a well-known Italian wine, and their answer will almost certainly be either Pinot Grigio or Soave. Names such as Gavi, Orvieto and Frascati might also figure on the list, but the sheer volume of Soave which has made its way out of Veneto in recent decades has drowned out the competition. The fact that Pinot Grigio figures alongside Soave as one of the most famous Italian wines is a sign of the times. It is a sign of the power shift from Old World to New World, a change in focus from village to vine, terroir to varietal. For now, though, the DOC system survives, and is adapting year by year to the demands of the variety-led modern wine consumer.
As with Chianti, whose wine might be viewed as Soave’s red equivalent, the quantity of Soave wine produced every vintage is much more consistent than its quality. The natural temptation to drive for higher yields (and thus higher turnover) has led many Soave producers to favor volume over value, to the eventual detriment of the Soave brand. The consequences of this have taken many years to filter through, but the negative effects are now being felt, and change is needed. In the hands of a quality-conscious producer Garganega can make classic white wines, both complex and satisfying; now that Trebbiano Toscano and Pinot Bianco have been removed from the official Soave blend, the variety’s natural potential can shine through. Garganega grapes must now constitute at least 70% of any modern Soave wine, accompanied by a maximum of 30% Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio).
Although Soave is widely thought of as a still wine, there is also a foaming Soave Spumante version. The area also produces sweet wines under the Recioto di Soave DOCG. These are based on the same uvaggio (grape makeup) as standard, still, dry Soave, and the delimited production areas are also roughly the same.
The official catchment area for Soave wine production covers the communes of Monteforte d’Alpone, San Martino Buon Albergo, Mezzane di Sotto, Ronca, Montecchia di Crosara, San Giovanni Ilarione, San Bonifacio, Cazzano di Tramigna, Colognola ai Colli, Caldiero, Illasi, Lavagno and Soave itself.
The production area was significantly expanded when the Soave DOC laws were drawn up, and it now covers about three times its former area. Wines from the original, ‘classic’ Soave vineyard area are distinguished by the title Soave Classico. Wines labeled as Soave Colli Scaligeri are from hillside vineyards whose terroir is considered superior but which lie outside the official Soave Classico zone.
In order to address the falling quality of Soave wines, and to provide distinction between the quality levels, the Soave Superiore DOCG was drafted in October 2001 and put into effect as of the 2002 vintage.
Recioto della Valpolicella is an intensely flavored, sweet red wine made from dried (passito) grapes. It is made in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy and is one of the region’s most idiosyncratic wines, particularly when made in a foaming spumante form.
The recioto wine style came about as Valpolicella winemakers sought a way of increasing the body and complexity of their wines; the Corvina,Rondinella and Molinara varieties struggle to give deep, satisfying wines in the cool climate of western Veneto.
In order to concentrate the natural sugars and aromatics in their wines, Valpolicella’s producers have traditionally dried their grapes out after harvest. This removes water while retaining the sweetness and flavor desired in the finished wine. The technique proved successful, and was later adapted to produce the region’s famous amarone wines – a drier, higher-alcohol version of sweet recioto.
The grapes used to make modern Recioto della Valpolicella wines are of the local Corvina variety and its sub-variety Corvinone. They are picked in whole bunches and kept in drying rooms (with warm temperatures and low humidity) for anywhere from three weeks to three months. Traditionally the grapes were dried on straw mats (they are a member of the ‘straw wine’ family) in the warmest part of the house or winery, but modern technology has replaced straw with steel and lofts with pallets. When the drying process is complete, the grapes are gently pressed and the must is fermented until it reaches the desired balance of alcoholic strength and sweetness. It is then aged in barrels (the traditional large botti once used have now been replaced by smaller Slavonian oak barriques) for at least two years.
Standard Recioto della Valpolicella can be made from anywhere within the wider Valpolicella zone, but those from the viticulturally superior classicoand Valpantena sub-zones may be labeled as such.
The recioto production process creates a vinous by-product, of sorts: dried grape skins. These are often discarded, or used for distillation into grappa, but Valpolicella’s resourceful winemakers have developed the ripasso technique to squeeze every last drop of intrigue out of them. By adding the skins to standard Valpolicella, and putting the mix through a second fermentation (the ripasso), valuable tannins and phenolic compounds are leached out into the wine. The end result is Valpolicella Ripasso.
Raboso del Piave
Raboso is a red wine grape grown in the Veneto region of northern Italy – mostly in the low-lying coastal regions around Piave. It is typically used in blends, but also made in small quantities as a varietal.
The name Raboso is thought to be derived from the Italian word rabbioso, which means angry – this could be a reference to the consumers’ response to the aggressive tannins and acid structure of wines made from this variety. However, it’s more plausible the grape takes its name from the Raboso river which flows through Veneto’s eastern Treviso province.
Raboso is hardy and disease resistant, which makes it ideal for the area in which it is grown – low-lying provinces on the Adriatic coast below the Alps, where the climate is often humid.
The variety is the key ingredient in Piave Malanotte and Bagnoli Friularo wines – where it is known as Raboso Friularo or just Friularo. Piave Malanotte’s DOCG laws explicitly distinguish between the Piave and Veronese strains.
In Raboso Veronese the variety is limited to a 30-percent share, while in Raboso Piave it must make up at least 70 percent of the final blend. In Bagnoli Friularo wines, Raboso (Piave) must make up at least 90 percent of the final wine.
The variety is also used as a minor, mandatory component in the light reds of Bagnoli di Sopra, can be found in the red Corti Benedettine del Padovano and is used an optional ingredient in several other reds from the Veneto province.
In recent decades, Raboso has been displaced by more attractively perfumed red varieties such as Marzemino, with its tangy, sour cherry character, and the trio of varieties, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, used in Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. It has also lost ground to more marketable varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which can now be cultivated in the region thanks to modern viticulture techniques. This trend is starting to wane however. The elevation of the two aforementioned DOCG’s points towards a shift in focus towards production of quality Raboso wines.
Outside Italy, there are small plantings of Raboso in Argentina, presumably following Italian migration patterns during in the 19th Century.
Prosecco is an Italian white sparkling wine, generally a dry or extra dry wine. It is made from Glera grapes, formerly known also as Prosecco, but other grape varieties such as Bianchetta Trevigiana may be included.
The name is derived from that of the Italian village of Prosecco near Trieste, where the grape may have originated. DOC Prosecco is produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, traditionally mainly around Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso.
Prosecco is the main ingredient of the Bellini cocktail and can be a less expensive substitute for Champagne.
Unlike Champagne, its main commercial competitor, Prosecco usually is produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making the wine less expensive to produce. The rules for the DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene also allow the use of the Metodo Classico: secondary fermentation in the bottle.
Approximately 150 million bottles of Italian Prosecco are produced annually. As of 2008, 60 percent of all Prosecco is made in the Conegliano and Valdobbiadene area.
Since the 2000s, Glera (Prosecco) grapes also are cultivated and wine from the grapes is produced in other countries including Brazil, Romania, Argentina, and Australia.
In the region of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene there are more than 150 producers and they form together the Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene (Consorzio per la Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene).
Lugana is a picturesque, white wine-specific viticultural region in northern Italy. The vineyard area straddles the regional border between Lombardy in the west and Veneto in the east. It sits at the southern end of Lake Garda, the vines providing a relatively new addition to the landscape of fishing villages and castle-topped towns.
The name Lugana is thought to come from the Latin lacus lucanus (lake in the woods); until the 12th century, the area’s dense woodlands extended right up to the lake edge. Monastic influence from the Middle Ages is evident in town names such as San Benedetto di Lugana, San Vigilie di Lugana and San Martino di Lugana.
Most of the Lugana vineyards extend from the village of Desenzano up to Peschiera, including parts of Lonato, Pozzolengo and Sirmione. This forms a relatively small production zone of just 1482 acres. The Verdicchio grape variety (aka Trebbiano di Lugana) is the essential ingredient in the area’s bianco (white) wines. It thrives in the zone’s calcareous clay soils, rich in mineral salts which help the fruit to reach high levels of ripeness and organoleptic complexity. All Lugana wines must comprise at least 90% of this variety, and are often praised for their balance, structure and fragrance (similar in that of Soave Classico). They are also characterized by their freshness gained from the soil characteristics, fruit concentration, underlying floral and spice notes, and delicate acidity.
As well as being renowned for its fruity whites, Lugana is noted for its intensely colored
Chiaretto wine, which can be made as either a pale red or dark rose, using Groppello,
Marzemino, Sangiovese and Barbera grapes.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely planted. Although the most highly regarded expressions of the variety are those from
Burgundy and California, many high-quality examples are made in Italy, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America.
Describing the flavors of Chardonnay is no easy task. While many Chardonnay wines have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavors. Because of this high level of winemaker involvement, Chardonnay has become known as the “winemaker’s wine”.
The variety itself (although often said to be relatively flavor-neutral) is responsible for most of the fruity flavors found in Chardonnay wines. These range from the tropical (banana, melon, pineapple and guava) to stonefruits (peach, nectarine and apricot), citrus and apples.
Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavors a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California, Chile and much of Australia tend to give more tropical styles. Temperate zones such as southern Burgundy or northern New Zealand create wines marked out by stonefruit notes. The very coolest Chardonnay vineyards (those in Chablis, Champagne and Germany) lean towards green-apple aromas.
Mineral descriptors such as chalk, wet stones and crushed seashells also find their way into Chardonnay tasting notes. These are sometimes attributed to the soils in the vineyard, although the relationship between soil and wine flavor has become widely exaggerated. The most famously mineral Chardonnay wines are those of Chablis, one of the very few wine regions to focus on a largely un-oaked style of Chardonnay.
Although most famous for its still, dry wines, Chardonnay is used to produce an impressively diverse range of wine styles. The variety is put to use in sparkling wines all over the world (most famously Champagne), when it is usually paired with Pinot Noir. Canada even produces sweet Chardonnay ice wines.
Chardonnay is particularly popular with wine producers, not least because it has a reliable market of keen consumers. The variety produces relatively high yields, will grow in a broad spectrum of climates and can be made into wine of acceptable quality with relative ease. In poor vintages, deficiencies can be covered up with oak flavors, reducing the financial impact of a bad harvest.
In the vineyard, Chardonnay presents a few viticultural challenges, but none that can’t be solved with age-old techniques or a little help from technology. (Were this not the case, the variety would certainly not be as successful as it is.) In very warm climates, Chardonnay grapes tend to lose their natural acidity, resulting in flat, overblown wines. This can be partially corrected with a simple addition of acid, or by harvesting early and compensating for lack of flavor by using oak and malolactic fermentation. Vignerons in cooler climates have a quite different problem with the variety, as the vines bud and flower early in the season, making them susceptible to spring frosts. Vignerons in Burgundy (particularly in Chablis) have traditionally mitigated this with braziers between the vine rows. These are not just for warmth – they also create frost-preventing air currents.
Sauvignon del Veneto
Sauvignon blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”) due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of Savagnin. Sauvignon blanc is planted in many of the world’s wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Washington and California. Some New World Sauvignon blancs, particularly from California, may also be called “Fume Blanc”.
Depending on the climate, the flavor can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and “green flavors” of grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit (such as passion fruit) and floral (such as elderflower) notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes but risk losing a lot of aromatics from over-ripeness, leaving only slight grapefruit and tree fruit (such as peach) notes
Wine experts have used the phrase “crisp, elegant, and fresh” as a favorable description of Sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly Chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.
Along with Riesling, Sauvignon blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, as varietal Sauvignon blanc tend to develop vegetal aromas reminiscent of peas and asparagus with extended aging.
Sauvignon blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process.
Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. Warmer fermentations (around 16-18 °C) brings out the mineral flavors in the wine while colder temperatures bring out more fruit and tropical flavors.
Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavors and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape.