Grappa Di Amarone, The Spirit Of A Sumptuous Wine
Marolo’s Grappa di Amarone respects the identity and traditions of great Veneto red wines through a specific distillation and ageing process. Let’s get to know more about Amarone, the techniques and traditions that have made it a noble, sumptuous wine, one of the world’s jewels of Veneto winemaking.
There are wines that are created in the vineyard, whose grapes are simply pressed and guided from fermentation to bottling. Others are the result of prudent selections in the cellar and meticulously calculated times for maceration, ageing, blending and stay in the bottle. Amarone, on the other hand, originates on the «arele», the frames that traditional Valpolicella wineries have used since time immemorial to “dry” their grapes.
The true nature of Amarone lies in the raisining, an extremely delicate stage where the clusters are laid on wood and bamboo frames for about three months before being selected, pressed, macerated, fermented and finally, aged in wood.
To all effects, Amarone may be considered a passito, or raisin, wine. As opposed to its relative, the Recioto, however, the sugar-rich native Valpolicella wine is not sweet, but dry. This is because fermentation is prolonged until all the sugars naturally present in the grapes have been transformed into alcohol by the action of the yeasts. The result is a special wine: raisining brings out intense, full scents of dried fruit, a remarkable alcohol concentration, and a velvety mellowness. Lengthy low-temperature maceration (Amarone is pressed in January, and not in autumn) contributes to a skin-must contact that enhances the structure of the wine, giving it the flavoursome, velvety, strong tannins that are responsible for that “amaro” or bitter, but still agreeable note which – legend says – gave its name to this wine.
The legend of Amarone tells that in 1936, Adelino Lucchese, cellar master of the Cantina Sociale della Valpolicella, wanted to taste a Recioto forgotten in the barrel. The surprise of a well-preserved wine was added to that of a dry, rich flavour. The sugars had been transformed into alcohol, and the wine so obtained, with that distinctive bitter note on the finish, was called Amarone.
What is striking about Amarone is not just the taste, it is the combination of traditions and behaviours that have been passed down through the generations for centuries in Valpolicella. The technique of raisining – known since the times of Theodoric, king of the Visigoths – begins in the vineyard, and informs the organization of the cellar itself. The grapes are harvested by selecting loosely-packed clusters of berries, which are arranged in a single layer on frames in the fruit-drying rooms, areas of the cellar equipped with large openings to allow the wind to pass through and the slow process of raisining. Winemakers, who still use the traditional method, have to continuously monitor the temperature to ensure that frosts do not destroy the harvest and raisining proceeds at a steady, gentle pace. This is done by constantly turning the clusters and discarding any damaged by mould or rot. The wait for Amarone is lengthy, with low temperature fermentation and maceration conducted slowly, sometimes for as long of several months, to extract colour and tannins, giving the wine the sumptuous, velvety structure that makes it famous among Italian reds.
Grapes for Amarono are of the red varieties typical of Valpolicella. The most significant is Corvina Veronese (45-95%), sometimes substituted by Corvinone (up to 50%), to which are added Rondinella and possibly other non-aromatic local red grapes.
MAROLO’S GRAPPA DI AMARONE
From the pomace of this extraordinary wine, Marolo obtains an equally unique grappa. A spirit which, consistent with the Alba distillery’s values, enhances the identity of the original grape variety. Grappa di Amarone is obtained from selected pomace from small and very small producers in the Valpolicella area who share Marolo’s artisanal spirit and attention to detail. Being pressed in January, Amarone pomaces are the last to be “transformed into spirit”.
Distillation in bain marie stills is conducted very gently at controlled temperatures to obtain a grappa which is not too alcoholic, about 74 percent before dilution. This process ensures that the aromatic quality typical of grapes for Amarone, with scents and fragrances concentrated as a result of raisining, is kept crystal clear. The final alcohol content, around 45 percent, makes Grappa di Amarone a smooth, mellow, very agreeable product. A pure meditation spirit that does not burn the mouth and has a very long finish, that emits fruity notes of cherry, blackberries and dried fruit, with extremely attractive balsamic aromas.
Ageing takes place of oak tonneaux used for ageing white Recioto bianco: another example of attention to the unique nature of this product, not to alter but to underscore the Veneto character of Amarone and its history.