Amarone: the ro­bust red that’s ideal for the Christ­mas ta­ble

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Fiona Beck­ett

Some­times, I think we have far too many de­ci­sions to make at Christ­mas – what presents to buy, which cards to send (if you still do), what to feed peo­ple and, fi­nally, what wine to drink. So, in­stead of giv­ing you loads of op­tions this week, I’m go­ing to make it easy for you by con­cen­trat­ing on just one red that I think is quintessen­tially Christ­massy: amarone.

For those of you who aren’t fa­mil­iar with it, amarone is a lush, full-bod­ied, al­most porty red from the Valpo­li­cella re­gion just north of Verona. It’s made from the same grapes as valpo­li­cella (corv­ina, rondinella and moli­nara), but late-picked and dried, which gives the fi­nal wine a dis­tinct sen­sa­tion of sweet­ness. It’s not a wine I buy reg­u­larly (not least be­cause some are su­per­ex­pen­sive), but it’s per­fect at this time of year with a cheese­board (even at 15%, it’s less al­co­holic than port), with a big beefy stew (think ox cheek) or even with the tur­key, es­pe­cially if you’ve got a rich stuff­ing and sides in mind.

Qual­ity varies quite a bit, how­ever, due to the sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion of the re­gion over re­cent years. Amaz­ingly, Aldi has one for just £12.99 that, while it lacks the com­plex­ity of pricier ver­sions, de­liv­ers an im­pres­sive punch. Bet­ter, in­ci­den­tally, than the same store’s valpo­li­cella ri­passo (a style that is a half­way house be­tween valpo­li­cella and amarone, and given ex­tra rich­ness by be­ing fer­mented on amarone skins). The Co-op has a much more im­pres­sive one: No­vare Valpo­li­cella Ri­passo at £11 (13.5%).

At the other end of the price spec­trum, you have pro­duc­ers such as Ber­tani, Dal Forno and Quintarelli that com­mand vast prices due mainly to a bit of a boom for amarone, par­tic­u­larly in the US. That said, £25-£35 – less if you’re lucky and find it on spe­cial of­fer – will buy you a pretty spe­cial bot­tle. If you do come across a deal, buy more than one and stash it away for Christ­mas in five or even 10 years’ time, be­cause amarone re­ally does age well.

If you crave that sweet, slightly porty rich­ness in your reds, but don’t have an amarone bud­get, head far­ther south to Puglia for cheaper al­ter­na­tives made from grapes such as ne­groa­maro and prim­i­tivo (look out for the words apas­si­mento or pas­si­mento on the la­bel). Mor­risons The Best Ne­groa­maro 2017 (14%) is just £6.50, while Setti Muri Brin­disi Ris­erva 2015 (13.5%) is £10 at Tesco – both hit that sweet, Christ­massy spot.

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