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SWA 2011: ITALY - AMARONE

Italy: Amarone
Huge wines and huge prices, this was a category that seemed to be more about ego than elegance

And you thought Barolo was expensive. This is the first year that we decided to separate off the amarones for a section of their own, rather than folding them into the North-East Italian flight. For such a classic wine style, it seemed fairer to give it a stage of its own on which to shine.

So much for the theory. Plenty were sent in, the vast majority at eye-watering prices and with über-serious, ego-stuffed, heavy bottles, but our tasters were not as blown away by them as they had hoped they might be. The quality was very uneven.

There was a lot of everything in the bottles but there were mutterings among the tasters about a lack of balance, with high alcohol, high acidity and occasionally even a lack of ripeness all mentioned in dispatches. At these prices you would expect better.Surprisingly, the cheaper wines (and yes, £19 was ‘cheaper’ in this context) were found to be more approachable by tasters in the early rounds, with a rounder, more generous fruit character and more mellow acidity and tannins. Many of the bigger, higher-priced wines were simply too young, brash and testosterone-filled to put on a list now.

One, however, made it through. Vigna Paradiso’s £33 price tag put it (incredibly) more or less in the middle of the pack of entries price-wise, but value for money wasn’t even
a factor here. It was all about the wine being drinkable now and also having those
classic amarone characters, which it most definitely did.

‘This is a style of wine for hedge-fund managers who are making a recovery. It is
a concentrated but generous wine with an enticing bittersweet edge; big but very drinkable,’ said Frédéric Billet.

“These were at the prices you’d expect from amarone but this was a very varied flight. ”
Frédéric Billet, Marylebone Hotel


GOLD LIST

Pra Vigna paradiso Amarone della Valpolicella 2006, Veneto, Italy
£33.09 @ Boutinot
SWA 2011 Gold List Deep red and brown in colour, this shows fine amarone character, with sour cherry and nice tangy tannins. ‘Very generous on the palate, this has bitter chocolate and coffee, good acidity and grippy tannins. Very good,’ said Angus Macnab. ‘Great with duck,’ said Frédéric Billet.

SILVER

Montresor Amarone del Fondatore 2007, Veneto, Italy
£19.09 @ Boutinot
Huge pleasure to be found with these warm, dark dried fruits with sour cherry notes, spice, savoury and light tobacco hints. ‘There’s a good mouthfeel, with herbaceous hints and balanced acidity,’ said Angus Macnab. ‘Well-structured tannins and length,’ concluded a happy Kyri Sotiri of The Soho Wine Supply.

BRONZE

Alpha zeta ‘a’ Amarone 2008, Veneto, Italy
£17.17 @ Liberty Wines
With savoury notes aplenty alongside tobacco, cherry and almonds, this has fair structure and good length with some light cherry notes and some hints of richness.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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