Today we are in Veneto, in Valpolicella, east of Lake Garda. This is the region of Amarone, the deep dark, beguiling balsam of vines. It is one of Italy's three red wine kings, along with Barolo and Brunello del Montalcino, and is exceptional in more ways than one. It starts with the grape varieties, whose names sound like incantations: Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara... These are the protagonists of the great Amarone show.
Carefully harvested by hand, the grapes of these autochthonous varieties undergo a grafting process that is thousands of years old: Apassimento. This is where the magic begins. In a warm, well-ventilated room under the roof of the manor house, the grapes are laid out in large wooden boxes. The bottoms of these boxes are made of loose bamboo sticks, which allow optimal air circulation while maintaining a small contact area. Seemingly insignificant details, which, however, will decide about success and failure, about death or rebirth of the Amarone in the next 4-5 months.
The grapes dry and part of the water contained in the berries evaporates. The "Angel's Share" of the Amarone. After a few months, highly concentrated, raisin-like berries emerge that only remotely resemble their original state. During the drying process, entirely new aromas are formed. Complex molecules, which in the later wine can remind of dried figs, herbal balsam and leather. True alchemy.
The winemaker now decides the timing and duration of the further steps. The grapes must be pressed and fermented together with the skins. After that, the maturation takes place in the barrel. How long and whether in wooden barrels or stainless steel tanks, decisively contributes to the character of the wine.
The result of this effort is a fascinating as well as contradictory drink. At first sweet at the palate, thereby clearly a dry red wine. Overripe cherries dried on the branch, prunes, thyme and cedar wood. Young and mature at the same time. Without corners and edges, but with a dominant character. And during the eternally long finish then the famous bitter chocolate note. Amarone owes its name and the distinctive addiction factor to it. The Cà La Bionda Amarone is despite all oppulence an elegant wine. This opera diva incarnate carries the minerality and fresh fruit across the entire score. Warming, embracing with every sip. Guaranteed bliss delivers the combination with a piece of Parmesan or - true to the origin - Monte Veronese.
The demigod of Valpolicella is Ripasso. Wine from very fresh or slightly dried grapes is married with the marc of the Amarone and ferments a second time. This marriage child unites the parental characteristics in itself: On the one hand the typical and from the Amarone well-known flavours of dried fruits and herbs. Its sweet fullness and persistence. The wine remains slim, fruity and moderate in alcohol. His whole strength plays the Cà La Bionda Ripasso "Malavoglia" as a food companion. Mountain cheese, Apenzeller, Gruyère - also matured - are in good hands with him. In addition, seasonal duck, goose and turkey.
The way to understanding the great metamorphosis begins with the Cà La Bionda Valpolicella Classico. This is the red wine from the typical Amarone varieties but without the alchemy. Harvested, fermented and matured in large wooden barrels. A quite down-to-earth wine, whose relationship to the Amarone can only be guessed. It is bright, delicately fruity and light on its feet. The fresh acidity makes it a good partner for northern Italian sausage and ham specialties.
So that you can understand the metamorphosis for yourself, I have for you two test packages prepared, adapted to the degree of your curiosity:
Man now embark on the journey starting with the Valpolicella Classico over the Ripasso to the Amarone. These wines should be served a little cooler than usual.