Amarone della Valpolicella: the geography behind the wines
Amarone, the most famous of Italy’s dry wines made from dried grapes (as opposed to sweet wines made from dried grapes), is produced in Valpolicella over the northern hills of Verona, between Lake Garda and the Lessini mountains in northern Italy. It is precisely this combination of lake and mountains that contributes to the perfect environment for the growing of grapes and the drying process that follows (pictured, right).
The region is like a warren of valleys where Lake Garda mitigates the climate, fostering the most northerly olive oil produced in Italy, while Monte Baldo and the Lessini range provide protection against prevailing cold from the Eastern Alps. This environment is particularly true for the Valpolicella Classico sub-region to the west, closest to Lake Garda, compared to Valpantena (central) and Valpolicella Orientale (eastern).
The Classico area is influenced by the light reflected from the water, which increases the photosynthesis of the vines and the maturity of the grapes. The growing season here can be shorter than in the Orientale, the red fruit of the wines even brighter and the sugar concentration richer in areas such as Sant’Ambrogio, which has a western exposure directly towards the lake. Fumane, in comparison, a little to the northeast of Sant’Ambrogio, is known to be a cooler valley producing a fresher, black cherry- driven style with higher acidity and an intense black pepper note typical of slightly unripe Corvina grapes. The commune of Negrar, at the eastern end of Valpolicella Classico, shows darker and richer bramble fruits as well as black pepper, with almost no cherry at all.
The soil in the Classico area is volcanic in origin and composed of a limestone dolomite stone mix and basalt. More than half of the production of Amarone wine comes from the vines situated on the hills that the producers of the Famiglie Storiche group claim are the most suitable for the production of Classico wine of the highest quality.
The eastern Valpolicella Orientale area, however, from Montorio to Montecchia di Crosara, including the Marcellise and Illasi valleys, is based mostly on colder morainic soil and has a longer growing season, producing more structured wines. Throughout the Orientale, there is more Corvinone planted, which also increases the structure of the wines. This is compared to Valpolicella Classico, where the same grape can lend spiciness to the wine, or even at times a green character.