Some weeks after my return from Verona, the March meeting of the Wine Media Guild featured the wines of the Amarone Families, the breakaway group whose wines had not been shown at the Valpolicella Anteprima in Italy.
As Sabrina Tedeschi, the president of the Amarone Families, explained, these producers left the Consorzio because they felt that it has to represent the differing interests of all the sorts of growers and producers in the extended Valpolicella zone, all 8,000 hectares of it: small growers and big industrial producers, old-timers and newcomers, growers in the hills and growers in the plain. For the Amarone Families’ 12 members, all of them family firms with a history of Amarone production, this meant that the standards being set for Amarone were not sufficiently stringent, so in 2009 they formed their own association with stricter requirements for Amarone: longer aging, higher alcohol levels, higher extract, and – to my mind the most important requirement – that the wine must be dry, with high acidity.
As I said in my last post, many of the Consorzio’s producers are making fine Amarone – but many are not. The Amarone Families’ approach seems to have eliminated the negatives and provided a set of guidelines that – to judge by the dozen samples I tasted at the meeting – has turned out wines of uniformly high quality. Even more important, all 12 wines, though very, very young by Amarone standards, tasted exactly as this long-time fancier of the breed believes Amarone should: aromatic, velvety on the palate, big in the mouth, with rich but fully dry, sometimes even austere, fruit; hinting and promising the complexity that will come with age, and very long-finishing. This far-from-dirty-dozen all tasted like infant and incipient octogenarians.
Here are the wines, in the order tasted:
- Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone DOCG Classico Riserva 2009
- Venturini Campomasua Amarone DOCG Classico 2009
- Guerrieri Rizzardi Villa Rizzardi Amarone DOCG Classico 2010
- Musella Amarone DOCG Riserva 2010
- Tommasi Amarone DOCG Classico 2010
- Masi Costasera Amarone DOCG Classico 2011
- Brigaldara Casa Vecie Amarone DOCG 2011
- Allegrini Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
- Begali Monte Ca’ Bianca Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
- Speri Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano DOCG Classico 2012
- Zenato Amarone DOCG Classico 2012
- Tenuta Sant’Antonio Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone DOCG 2013
All were surprisingly drinkable for extremely young Amarone. (Normally, I don’t drink Amarone before it is at least 10-15 years old.) The ones I most enjoyed (this particular day, with this particular lunch) were Tommasi, Masi, Speri, Zenato, and Sant’Antonio – the latter the youngest wine of the day, and consequently a real surprise to me.