Newly-minted wine lovers often begin with Amarone. Its sweeter, richer profile is attractive to many North American drinkers and its recognizability make it a frequent go-to for those seeking gifts. With experience, however, it becomes more common to turn away from these wines – the expense, high alcohol, and lack of versatility for food pairing push somms and geeks away. The few very top bottles with hard to deny quality also have hard to deny price tags in the hundreds of dollars. So it is that most of us experienced drinkers virtually never imbibe one of Italy’s most famous wines.
I have generally followed this trend in my wine drinking experience, but there are two producers who make Amarone in a traditional, less sweet manner with superb quality but without the Quintarelli / Dal Forno premium. One of these producers is Roccolo Grassi.
Elegance in Amarone
Roccolo Grassi only started bottling their own wine in 1996. So it is remarkable how quickly they have vaulted to the ranks of the very best producers in the Veneto. For my money, their Valpolicella is a go-to Italian selection for its finesse and depth of fruit. Their Amarone is best left for special occasions and will not pair with as many foods, but it is undeniably a great wine.
What makes the Amarone so special? The purity and elegance of its fruit. This is not an Amarone dominated by raisinated flavours and heavy mouthfeel. Despite its 17% alcohol, the wine offers drinkers Bordeaux-like elegance with great typicity in the corvina fruit – really quite a surprising achievement given Amarone’s production methods. There is a complete spectrum of mouthfeel, fruit and aromatics with no underlying harshness or heaviness. I prefer this wine over Dal Forno’s version, perhaps due to the fermentation in botti and used french oak (Dal Forno’s Amarone can be overly tannic and laden with oak-influence). All of this for the price of a more typical luxury wine. Save yourself the $400 and go with Roccolo Grassi.
$118 + tax speculative order through Trialto (you may find a bottle or two at the top private stores in Vancouver)