Amarone: from lo­cal to glo­cal


Few land­scapes are as strik­ingly el­e­men­tal as those that host the Amarone vine­yards. Lo­cated to the north­east of Verona and Lake Garda, the 240 square kilo­me­tres of the Valpo­li­cella Clas­sica grow­ing area con­sist of a clus­ter of three main val­leys and a fur­ther six mi­nor ones, each with its own spe­cific soils and cli­matic pe­cu­liar­i­ties shaped by air, fire, earth and wa­ter in the course of sixty mil­lion years.

A rel­a­tively small district with a richly strat­i­fied his­tory, the Valpo­li­cella is what San­dro Boscaini, who heads the Masi win­ery, de­scribes as a “small uni­verse in its own right”. It boasts a re­mark­able num­ber of dis­tinc­tive ter­roirs and a sin­gu­lar tech­nique: ap­pas­si­mento, a method of mak­ing wines from semi-dried grapes that dates back to an­cient Ro­man times.

With its char­ac­ter­is­tic fore­sight in pi­o­neer­ing new con­cepts in wine pro­duc­tion, Masi has de­voted par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to sin­gle-vine­yard wines since the 1950s. Through care­ful se­lec­tion of the finest grow­ing ar­eas, its port­fo­lio to­day com­prises five no­table Amarones, the most ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of any pro­ducer in the Valpo­li­cella Clas­sica.

The Cam­po­longo di Torbe Amarone comes from the up­per reaches of the Ne­grar and Marano val­leys, at an alti­tude of around 400 me­tres above seal level, where the red­dish soils con­sist largely of Eocene lime­stone, in­ter­spersed with basaltic frag­ments of pre­his­toric vol­canic ori­gin. All this con­trib­utes to a prizewin­ning wine that is supremely el­e­gant, with a hint of bit­ter al­mond and cher­ry­stone present in the bou­quet, and great per­sis­tence in the mouth. The sec­ond Masi cru is the Maz­zano

Amarone, which comes from an es­tate iden­ti­fied as early as the 12th cen­tury as a su­perb wine­grow­ing area. This is one of the high­est in the Valpo­li­cella, deeply slop­ing and sup­ported by dry-stone walls. Here brown Cre­ta­ceous marl and ap­pas­si­mento in situ give life to a wine of great depth and struc­ture whose slightly aus­tere no­bil­ity is soft­ened by gen­tle tan­nins.

Vaio Ar­maron, Masi’s third sin­glevine­yard Amarone, is no less im­pres­sive. It comes from the light brown, fri­able soils of a small val­ley some­what lower down, in the his­toric Serego Alighieri es­tate, which has be­longed to the de­scen­dants of the poet Dante since 1353. Al­though the wine­mak­ing side of the prop­erty is run in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Masi, ap­pas­si­mento still takes place in the dry­ing lofts at the villa. More tra­di­tional in style, this Amarone has a com­plex, invit­ing bou­quet and aro­mas of over-ripe cherry and cooked plums. In the mouth the ini­tial im­pact of sweet­ness gives way to plenty of cherry and ripe berries, with a hint of cin­na­mon and vanilla.

Costasera Amarone is made with grapes se­lected from sev­eral hill­sides that all face south­west, where they en­joy the sun’s rays through to sun­set and the ex­tra light re­flected from Lake Garda. It’s an Amarone that re­spects tra­di­tion, but also an­swers the con­tem­po­rary de­mand for wines that can be served with food.

Ris­erva di Costasera is a cu­vée of the same ori­gins, with the ad­di­tion of a small per­cent­age of semi-dried Ose­leta grapes, a va­ri­ety re­cently re­trieved from obliv­ion by Masi, and ap­pas­si­mento that is ex­tended to at least 120 days. Al­though the wine is huge, in­tense and full-bod­ied, it has a re­mark­ably fresh fin­ish, mak­ing it an ideal wine for the end of a meal.

Along­side re­dis­cov­er­ing for­got­ten grape va­ri­eties of great oeno­log­i­cal value, the Masi Tech­ni­cal Group has also de­voted years of re­search to un­der­stand­ing all as­pects of the ap­pas­si­mento process, which in­vests wines with greater con­cen­tra­tion of colour, flavours and aro­mas. Only per­fectly healthy grapes can be used, and they must be laid out to rest on

bam­boo racks in spe­cial dry­ing rooms for over a hun­dred days. “With a pre­mium har­vest and rel­a­tively dry, breezy weather dur­ing the ap­pas­si­mento pe­riod, the re­sult­ing Amarone will be su­perb, wor­thy of our Five Star Rat­ing”, San­dro Boscaini ex­plains. “We have cre­ated a spe­cial col­lec­tion of our finest vin­tages in the

Cantina Pri­vata Boscaini, which we think of as a pre­cious her­itage to en­joy with friends and wine con­nois­seurs.”

Mr Amarone, as Boscaini is known in the trade, also points out that “ap­pas­si­mento isn’t a magic wand that can turn some­thing av­er­age into some­thing mem­o­rable. To help peo­ple un­der­stand how it works and where it is ap­pli­ca­ble we have de­vel­oped an en­joy­able, hands-on form of hos­pi­tal­ity we call the Masi Wine Ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s an open in­vi­ta­tion to see how and where our vines are grown, to visit our cel­lars and taste our wines, pos­si­bly paired with some de­lec­ta­ble food.”

Above: Maz­zano Amarone, the jewel-inthe-crown of Cantina Pri­vata Boscaini

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