Just the day before the official opening of Anteprima Amarone 2010, the Villa de Winckels Hotel Restaurant hosted its traditional edition of “Amarone in Villa”, a big tasting with the most important wineries in Valpolicella.
The event was also the occasion to organize - thanks to the collaboration of Wine Meridian, a new wine magazine online, - an unusual vertical tasting of Amarone della Valpolicella from many different wine producers: from 2003 till 1960, going back in the time.
For any wine lover, this was a must, because it’s really tough to attend to this kind of tasting, I mean, with very old bottles…
Are you wondering why?
Well, likely there is more than one reason, but IMHO the main two are the following.
First: putting aside some bottles every year, in order to taste them years later and appreciate the progression of the wine, is a habit and a cultural factor relatively new: in the past, and up to a few years ago, the wineries tried to sell their whole production of wine rapidly, because it was their only source of income - and the wine itself wasn’t paid so much as nowadays.
Second: differently from other parts in Italy (like Tuscany, for example), the worldwide success of the red wines of Valpolicella is very recent: before it, the most part of people used to sell their wine in bulk or in two-three liters bottles, only a small part of the product was bottled in 0.75 cl. bottles, and a very few of them (the best ones) were kept for tastings or sales in the future…
Later, in more modern times, the wine producers started to preserve some bottles of each vintage, because they realized that bottles are part of the history of their family and their winery. Thus, today it’s not easy to find old bottles, and if you want to really go back in the time, usually there is only one winery that can satisfy your curiosity:
Let’s go back to our vertical tasting: as you can image, the most of the oldest wines we tasted are from private collections of the producers themselves, and no longer for sale.
Only Bertani presented more than a vintage (of course!), and I could bet that you can buy some of these old vintages directly in their winery’s wine shop…
Wineries and vintages:
1998: Villa Canestrari
1997: Valentina Cubi
1996: Romano Dal Forno
Writing about all of them, even only a few lines, it would be boring (ok, you know: we don’t love “classic”, long, detailed tasting notes… but if you are interested in some of them, send me and email, and I’ll send you my tasting note).
However, I cannot skip the wines I loved more.
Speri “Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano” Amarone della Valpolicella 2003: 2003 was an hot and drought year. Due to the high temperatures in August, many vines stopped the ripening process of the phenolic part of the grapes, while the berries were partially dried on the plants. Thus, the wines from this vintages are very alcoholic, very concentrated, with low acidity. However, this Amarone from a renowned cru on the hills of the village of Fumane is well balanced in alcohol, with thin balsamic scents, very long in the mouth.
Ernesto Ruffo Amarone della Valpolicella Doc 2002: 2002 this was a very tricky vintage, cold and rainy, with a very low production everywhere in Italy - and so in Valpolicella. Many wineries gave up to produce Amarone. However, the small winery owned by Ruffo’s family lies on ancient volcanic soils, and its wines are always interesting. This Amarone is excellent: more spicy than fruity, very well balanced in acidity and alcohol, with flavors and taste of dried fruit, and a great drinkability.
Meroni Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2000: 2000 is a “5 stars vintage” for the wines from this area, one of the best in the last 20 years (1990-2010). The climatic trend of the vintage was almost perfect, with a winter just slightly rainy, a sunny spring and a warm summer. The grapes, healthy and ripened and with a thick skin, appeared in their ideal condition to deal with the drying process. This wine is balanced and structured in the mouth, still fruity, with a basket of dried fruit (nuts, hazelnuts) and plum at the nose and in mouth that vanish in tertiary aromas.
Bertani Reciotto Secco Amarone della Valpolicella 1960: the oldest bottle of this row. “Reciotto Secco” was the old name of the Amarone before the change of the production rules in 1990 (but this is a story we’ll tell you, sooner or later…). An emotional wine: austere, with ethereal scents of a great brandy, long and clean in the mouth, silky and elegant. A philosopher wine.