Posted by: tomciocco | August 25, 2010


I know that just the other day I said that I try not to expend too many words on wines that can no longer be had, and I’m going to stick to it…Not no words, just fewer, and especially when in service to illustrate an important point…Tonight, in lieu of a date with the cooker, I picked up some cheese, fruit, bread, and walnuts – the spread I thought would keep the best company with a 1990 vintage Amarone that my intuition told me needed to be drunk… Today was quite cool and rainy, so smoke ’em if you got ’em – After laying out the nuts, slicing up the pears, apples, and bread, I set out three Northern Italian cows’  milk cheeses: Piave, Taleggio, and Roccolo…

But about an hour before, it was something I saw on the wine label that pushed me to bend the aforementioned “rule”. It was just one tiny bit of information. Just three figures. Two numbers and a symbol. 14% (alcohol by volume). Those of you that are fairly familiar with Amarone already clearly see my point, but let me bring it into full focus.

An Amarone from the 1990 vintage represents, in short, the tail end of a different era of wine style. There’s no bold line in time here, but I defy you to find a high-quality, recent vintage Amarone on any wine shop shelf anywhere that’s 14% alcohol.  Double Dare. Most if not all of the examples in commerce are going to weigh in at 15%-16%. So what’s the point? Fashion, friends, fashion. Over the last 20 years, the trend has been to slowly make ever more concentrated and alcoholic wines… there are shipping containers full of California Chardonnays that exceed 14% alcohol for Pete’s sake…AND let me remind you that Amarone is made from partially dried grapes that are obviously sweeter for the drying process. More sugar means more alcohol, making a 14% alcohol Amarone all the more “old school”. NowI won’t sit here and tell you that there haven’t been BIG Amaroni that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed with the right foods(game stews and roasts, and cheese and nuts), but there may be even more to like about RESTRAINT.


Allegrini Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone Classico Superiore 1990

Surprisingly youthful saturated garnet color with a “brown leather” cast. The nose opens with vivid aromas of honeycomb, evolving into notes of brown truffle butter, strawberry and raspberry jam, melted dark chocolate, and warm September earth. The wine is crushed velvet on the palate, and still quite dense with flavors of Darjeeling tea, herb poultry stuffing, black cherry skin, rum punch, and a lengthy finish of dried currants and cranberries


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