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