While planning an Italian dinner feast with friends, I mentioned that I had the perfect wine that I wanted to pair with our main entrée, a slow cooked shredded beef ragu pasta. When I stated the wine was an Amarone, a friend spoke up and said that she had never heard of it before. That’s all I needed to hear. I started relating the appassimento method in which the wine is made, where the picked grapes are placed on straw mats and aired dried in lofts for up to 3 or 4 months, depending on the winemaker. The grapes then lose approximately 40% of their original liquid, concentrating their sugars and intense flavors. The resulting wine is usually nothing short of the “Necktar of the Gods”.
This particular bottling by Masi, located in the Veneto region of Italy, is their top of the line private reserve. Huge extracted raisony flavors dominate, with cherry, black cherry, black raspberry, and cassis fruit on the back palate. Enticing nuances of clove, black licorice, chocolate, dark roasted coffee beans, tobacco, leather, forest floor minerality and the right balance of oak give this complex wine all the richness one can handle.
The mix of 75% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 5% Molinara grape content, along with a 16 percent alcohol base, make this one of the truly remarkable wines in the world. There are plenty of other Amarone style wines on the market, some thin and weak barely resembling this style of wine, and others that are highly rated and excellent examples that are sure to please. For those who are not willing to spend the money on the usual high price tag of an Amarone, look for a Ripasso style wine, made from the same grapes but through a different winemaking process, at about 1/3rd to half the price. But if you’d like to impress, go with the best. It doesn’t get any better than this exquisite beauty.