Amarone della Valpolicella

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1 In two decades, these rich, dark heady reds have gone from obscurity to stardom. Michael Garner looks at reasons behind their increase in popularity and production Over the Past 20 years, the land under vine in the Valpolicella region has risen by more than 45%, from 5,365 hectares in 1997 to just under 8,000 hectares today; concurrently the size of a typical harvest has increased by just under 70%. Most tellingly of all though, the quantity of grapes set aside for the appassimento process (the drying of grapes for the production of Amarone and Recioto) grew from 48,509 quintals in 1997 to 362,194 in 2015 (1 quintal = 100kg), a staggering increase of more than 700%! Meanwhile, where the vast majority of those semi-dried grapes end up, has gone from being a little-known niche wine to one with a stellar international reputation. The wine drinking world has found a new flame even in an age where lighter wines are in vogue and consumers advised to moderate their alcohol intake: Amarone can vary from anywhere between 14%abv, the minimum required under DOCG rules, to 17.5% without fortification. Despite its strength, Amarone is not a difficult wine to appreciate: there is an instant charm in those beguiling aromas of black cherry, fig, dark chocolate, molasses, orange and cloves, and the rich, ripe, dense and velvety palate that can carry more than just a hint of sweetness. The production area Three geographical sub-zones make up the production area which lies a stone s throw to the north of the city of Verona. The western limits are defined by the original classico district, more or less the three heartland valleys of Fumane, Marano and Negrar, while to the east the larger, so-called extended zone, or Valpolicella Est as it is also known, overlaps with Soave. This area received official recognition in 1968 when Valpolicella itself was in its heyday. Sandwiched between the two is the narrow Valpantena valley where the firm instrumental in first putting Veronese red wines on the international map, Bertani, is still based. Wines have been produced here since before Roman times, and the history of using semidried grapes to make them is equally as ancient. But the process of appassimento has altered radically in the past 20 years, which partly explains the explosion in production figures. What used to be a laborious and precarious manual process storing the fruit on wooden racks for up to three months and more, carefully turning them regularly to check for rot has now become a major business in itself. Gone are the days when an outbreak of grey rot could ruin the whole of the growing season s work. Inside industrial-sized warehouses filled with plastic crates full of grapes, giant fans and dehumidifying machines maintain ideal ambient storage conditions. The key question is: have such significant changes had a negative impact on the quality and character of this sensuous and uniquely styled wine? Lake Garda Garda Caprino Veronese BARDOLINO Bardolino Cavaion Veronese BARDOLINO CLASSICO CUSTOZA N River Adige CLASSICO FUMANE VALLEY Fumane San Pietro in Cariano Milan MARANO VALLEY VENETO ITALY Lake Garda BARDOLINO Mazzano NEGRAR VALLEY Negrar Pedemonte kilometres Verona Amarone: know your vintages 2013 Just released: a rather patchy vintage compromised by rain and some hail in September. On the whole, these are lighter-styled, fruity and aromatic wines for early consumption A hot, dry summer produced big and full wines with generally low acidity levels. Drink within the next few years Another hot vintage giving ripe and forward wines. Drink them now or keep for up to five years A cooler vintage gave balanced wines of good aromas. Starting to drink well now but no need to rush A hot and dry vintage: the harvest had high sugar and low acidity levels. Mostly ready, drink soon Mediumweight, elegant wines now that are now approaching their peak. Verona VENETO VALPANTENA River Adige River Adige Venice Adriatic Sea Mezzane di Sotto Amarone the facts VAL D ILLASI SOAVE Illasi Valpolicella production zone 30,000ha Area under vine 7,844ha, from Valpolicella DOC (4,141ha), Valpolicella Classico (3,444ha) and Valpantena (259ha) Amarone (a DOCG since 2010) is made throughout three sub-zones Amarone producers 2,286 growers, 286 bottlers, seven co-operatives Amarone production 15,000,000 bottles/year Minimum alcohol 14% Maximum sugar levels 12g/l at 14%abv up to 16g/l for higher-alcohol wines Michael Garner is a DWWA Regional co-chair for Italy and an author, whose second book, on the wines of Verona, will be published this year Map: Maggie Nelson DECANTER May

2 The results With more than 65% of wines Recommended and above, this was a fine tasting that emphasised vintage variation and importance of producer name, says Amy Wislocki Our tasters were cheeringly upbeat after tasting their way through 166 Amarones by definition a high-alcohol and robust style. There were some excellent wines here, and the tasting was surprisingly easy to enjoy, with well-tamed alcohol and good balance in most of the wines, said Andrea Briccarello. The quality was there, and there was typicity. It was the classico and classico riserva wines that surprised Briccarello most: These showed particularly well, benefiting from the better terroir, producer know-how and longer ageing that goes into these wines, he said. When you open a bottle of classico, you can definitely tell the difference. This doesn t mean you should write off wines from the non-classico, extended zone, says Michael Garner. Sure, there is a greater proportion of top producers in the classico zone, but that s largely because there is a longer tradition of producing fine wine there, he said. There is enormous potential in the extended zone. Susan Hulme MW agreed that producer name is vital pointing out that this drives pricing more than whether or not a wine is classico. Amarone is about winemaking as much as anything else. Decisions around drying the grapes, length of appassimento, and time fermenting on skins make dramatic differences to style and quality. The top wines have amazing ageing potential, said Garner, but in general he wouldn t advise long-term cellaring. One of the great things about Amarone is its approachability. There are a few long-distance runners, but they re more about palate roundness, ripe softness and richness. Drink them within 10 years of the vintage. This is particularly true of the 2013 vintage, which was decent quality but lighter in style and not suited to long ageing, continued Garner. Running through the others, 2012 was hotter, and uneven in quality; 2011 is a lovely vintage and was showing very well here; the 2010s have lovely acidity and balance; 2009 was hotter The judges Andrea Briccarello Briccarello is wine buyer for the Galvin restaurant group in London and the winner of Best Wine List at the 2011 National Restaurant Awards. He was previously group sommelier and wine buyer for Corrigan s Mayfair and Bentley s Oyster Bar & Grill, and has also worked at Michelin-starred Umu. 80 May 2017 DECANTER These have great approachability. Amarone is about palate roundness, ripe softness and richness Michael Garner again, and the wines are more forward than the 2010s. Hulme agreed about 2009 and 2010 I d give 2009 a miss, buy 2010 if I wanted something to lay down, and 2013 if I wanted a wine to drink now. She wasn t as keen as Garner on 2011: They have nice purity of fruit and coolness, but I don t like the crunchy, green tannins. Briccarello s issue with the 2013s was that many just weren t Amarone enough. I know it s a light vintage, but these could be straight Valpolicellas, he said. When you re paying for Amarone, you want a wow factor a big, chunky wine. I think people may be disappointed. The other winemaking issue discussed was residual sugar. Amarone is almost too dependent on it these days, complained Garner. Some would argue that you need a good dose in these big, high-alcohol wines, as a balance, but I m not convinced. Briccarello agreed: Some of them are almost like Port, he exclaimed. The oak is also too prominent in some wines, said Garner, when they should be about the semi-dried fruit. There s an immediate attraction to oak, but with Amarone, everything is magnified by the alcohol and sugar, expanded Hulme. So if you have some vanilla, it s even more prominent. She identified three distinct styles of Amarone today: a modernist, vanilla and coconut style; a more severe, often earthy, traditional style; and those in between, with a firm structure and nice aromatics. There s also another style emerging from new producers which takes more risks. Enjoy these wines at the end of a meal, said our tasters, or with Oriental food, where the residual sugar will contrast with and even magnify the spice. Michael Garner Garner is a DWWA Regional co-chair for Italy and has specialised in Italian wine for more than 30 years. He works for specialist importer Tria Wines and taught for many years for the WSET. Garner co-wrote Barolo: Tar and Roses with Paul Merritt, and his second book, on the wines of Verona, is due for publication in Susan Hulme MW The scores 166 wines tasted Exceptional 0 Outstanding 2 Highly Recommended 25 Recommended 82 Commended 46 Fair 11 Poor 0 Faulty 0 Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their latest-release Amarone della Valpolicella wines (including classico, riserva and classico riserva styles). Hulme is a wine writer, judge and educator who specialises in Italian wines. She became a Master of Wine in 2005, winning the medal for outstanding performance in the tasting exam and today runs Vintuition, a wine education and consultancy company. Hulme is a former chairman of the Association of Wine Educators and edits its newsletter. Outstanding 95 97pts Cà dei Maghi, Decanter average score: 95/100pts Individual judges scores: Andrea Briccarello 95 Michael Garner 95 Susan Hulme MW 95 Just 2,000 bottles a year are produced from 2ha in one of Fumane s top vineyards, Monte Sant Urbano. While the average age of the vines is about 50 years old, winemaker Paolo Creazzi notes that some are planted on their original, pre-phylloxera rootstocks and therefore easily centenarians. The elegant, spicy and aromatic style shows the classic traits of Fumane valley wines. Creazzi s first Amarone vintage was 2009, so this tiny 4.5ha estate is already showing great promise. Andrea Briccarello The nose here is reminiscent of lovely Morello cherries mixed with chocolate cake. It is extremely elegant a rich and powerful red forest fruit explosion with the perfect amount of juice, sweetness and alcohol. A real bobby-dazzler! Michael Garner This is full, ripe and dense with spicy-toned black fruit aromas. The rich and broad palate has bold, juicy flavours and a seductive, fleshy mouthfeel. A very convincing wine. Susan Hulme MW A minty, aromatic intensity unfolds onto balsamic and dark chocolate notes underpinned by alluring sweet fruit. It has a lovely melting texture with super-fine tannins and an incredibly long finish. Drink Alcohol 16% Highly Recommended 90 94pts Bottega, Prêt à Porter, Classico Riserva AB 92 MG 94 SH Catalyst Brands, Hard to Fine Wines, Le Bon Vin Immediately vanilla and creamy blackcurrant aromas spring forth from the glass. These are followed by intense plums and chocolate in a sensual mix with caramel, prunes and smoked almonds. Mouthwatering acidity brings it all together. Drink Alc 16.5% Tommasi, Ca Florian, Classico Riserva AB 95 MG 95 SH Cambridge Wine Merchants, Hard to Find Wines The Ca Florian vineyard lies on the limestone soils of the hill separating the valleys of Marano and Negrar at the heart of the classico area. From the terraced vineyard planted to the ancient pergola system to the use of the ancient arele (slatted bamboo racks) for the appassimento process, the long, slow fermentation and the four-year ageing period in wood (mainly in old Slavonian oak botte), this wine is the epitome of traditional Amarone. AB You can sense the maturity on the nose here, with its balsamic and shoe-polish characters. The sour cherries and blackberries poke through gradually in a very traditional style, giving this wine great personality and balance. MG Fresh and edgy with a slightly volatile cordial fruit nose, this evokes aromas of cherry stones and irises. It displays a juicy freshness alongside its brisk acidity and cedar flavours. SH Smoky, autumnal aromas and flavours float around the glass. On first impression it is super silky, with mature notes of liquorice, raisin, brown sugar and molasses. Fine chalky tannins but with no hard edges, this is a mature wine at its best. Drink Alc 15.5% Guerrieri Rizzardi, Calcarole, 93 AB 92 MG 92 SH Dulwich Vintners, Harvey Nichols, Hay Wines, Hedonism A really delightful, textbook Amarone here. Oak and aniseed aromas contrast with rosehip syrup, rhubarb and violets. This intensity unfolds gracefully on the palate into balsamic cherries and jammy plums, supported by refined and textured tannins. Drink Alc 16% Alpha Zeta, A AB 92 MG 92 SH Cambridge Wine Merchants, Exel Wines, Liberty Wines, Peter Osbourne A melange of sweet vanilla oak, plums and cherry stones are complemented by herbs and a touch of treacle. These flavours are offset by well-judged, gravelly tannins and bright acidity. A really pretty young wine. Drink Alc 15% Don t miss Decanter s Mediterranean & Balkan Fine Wine Encounter Saturday 13 May 2017, 11am-5pm Taste more than 300 fine wines from the Mediterranean and Balkans as over 50 top producers showcase a diverse array of styles from these exciting areas. Compare and enjoy a fascinating line-up of wines as you journey back to the roots of winemaking. Tickets 50. Book your tickets today, at Decanter.com/events, or call +44 (0)

3 Highly Recommended (continued) 90 94pts Campagnola, Classico AB 90 MG 92 SH Eurowines, Hard to Find Wines The nose on this wine certainly has a wow factor; wild berries, cherry and menthol unravel onto the palate, which adds sweet oak spice and creamy cinnamon. Fresh acidity carries it through to a perfumed finish of pepper and clove. Drink Alc 15% Salvaterra, Classico Riserva AB 92 MG 93 SH 90 Poised ripe strawberries and bruised red fruits give a real intensity to the nose here. Pomegranate and cranberries come through on the palate, while it also shows a bit of age with a dried fruit, chocolate and raisin character. Drink Alc 15.5% Corteforte, Terre di San Zeno, Classico AB 91 MG 91 SH Sommelier s Choice A wild and gamey wine that is showing a touch of brett and rusticity, yet the blackberries and juicy fruits still show some youth. Musky leathery notes waft over the cedar and green herbs in a firmly extracted style. Drink Alc 15% Crosarola, Classico AB 90 MG 92 SH 90 Wine Walker This is an aromatic and joyful Amarone, full to the brim with cherries, figs and an intense blueberry compote note. This is juxtaposed with a hint of pepper and bark, with evident oak to the finish. Drink Alc 15.5% When you open a bottle of classico, you can definitely tell the difference Andrea Briccarello I Campi, Campo Marna Cinquecento AB 92 MG 90 SH 90 The Vintner A plethora of aromas and flavours. Alcoholsoaked damsons and blueberries give a spice and fruit cake character. Then come cinnamon and pecan, bitter chocolate and roasted coffee, while also edging on a vermouth/ quinine character. Drink Alc 16% Pietro Zardini, Leone, Riserva AB 91 MG 92 SH Ake & Humphris Tar and overripe plums dominate the aromas here, followed by bitter chocolate and wood smoke. Slightly off-dry on first impression the residual sugar feels noticeable but is balanced by bright, vibrant acidity and firmly structured tannins. Drink Alc 16% Zenato, Classico AB 90 MG 90 SH Bon Coeur, Christopher Piper, Eurowines, Hard to Find Wines, Good Wine Online, Inverarity Morton, Surrey Wine Cellar, Wine Service Pronounced aromas of raspberry and blackberry coulis with a flash of smoke and cedar. The tannins are firm but textured and there is lots of fruit to support. Powerful with good potential. Drink Alc 16.5% Carlo Boscaini, S Giorgio Classico AB 90 MG 90 SH 90 A complex and rich example. The infinite aromas and flavours include heady tobacco and cinnamon spice on top of charred wood, coffee and chocolate. It is rather sweet and heavy, with a green olive twist and a Port-like finish. Drink Alc 15.5% Le Bignele, Classico AB 90 MG 90 SH 90 Wine Boutique A modern style that is stylish and appealing. Sweet oak spice dominates the nose, while intriguing crushed rose petal notes come through. This is full of sweet liqueur fruit, refreshing acidity and fine textured tannins. Drink Alc 15% Le Salette, Classico AB 88 MG 89 SH Astrum, Planet Of The Grapes, Vinoteca There is a great persistence, purity and focus to this wine. Blackcurrant and cranberries are interwoven with cream and gentle oak spice. An edgy, sweet-and-sour fruit character creeps through. This is fresh and very drinkable. Drink Alc 15% Le Salette, La Marega, Classico AB 90 MG 86 SH Astrum, Field & Fawcett, Planet Of The Grapes, Vini Italiani A nicely balanced wine in a lighter style that reflects the 2013 vintage. Lavender, bitter cherry and wild herb combine with vanilla, and there s noticeable residual sugar on the finish. Drink Alc 15.5% 82 May 2017 DECANTER

4 Highly Recommended (continued) 90 94pts Recommended 86 89pts Wine Score AB MG SH Tasting note Alc Drink Price Stockists Cantina di Soave, Rocca Sveva, Riserva A commercial style with some incense-like spice on the nose alongside charred red pepper and caper tones, with a salty flourish at the end Continental Wine & Food Corteforte, Classico Riserva Chocolate-coated figs and prunes are dominant, with meaty iron tones underneath. It gives a sweeter impression overall with a spicy finish. Sommelier's Choice Masi, Riserva Costasera, Classico Riserva AB 90 MG 92 SH AG Wines, Berkmann, Exel Wines, Hard to Find Wines, Portland Wine Co Wild berries, plums, chocolate and tar give a Port-like character to this wine. Lots of charred oak flavours and aromas threaten to overpower the delicate fruit, but it is still bold and appealing. Drink Alc 15.5% Monteci, Costa delle Corone, Classico AB 90 MG 92 SH 88 This is displaying a pungent nose of menthol and cherry, leading onto pomegranate and overripe plums on the palate. There are some tarry flavours on the finish in quite an austere, firm style; this will soften up in a few years. Drink Alc 16% Nicolis, Ambrosan, Classico AB 90 MG 90 SH There are classic currant and raisin fruit characters coming from this wine, with dried cranberry too. It is fleshy and full and still has firm upright tannins. Brown sugar and molasses mix with pepper and camphor tones on the finish. Drink Alc 16% Fattori Sweet-and-sour cherries meld with cola and apple characters to give a beguiling, well-poised wine with slightly tart acidity. La Collina dei Ciliegi Coconut oak and plum coulis aromas and flavours are balanced by nicely managed chalky-textured tannins and a moderate concentration. Luigi Righetti, Classico Lighter style overall as is typical of many 2013s, but very nicely balanced and judged. More ripasso style than Amarone but a decent effort. Luigi Righetti, Capitel del Roari, Classico 2013 Monte del Frà, Scarnocchio, Enticing, heady aromas of perfumed violets intermingle with wood smoke and a touch of SO 2 up front. It is not a huge wine but is very harmonious There is a lot of oak here, giving crème brûlée characters on top of the jammy forest fruits and aniseed spice (2012) Naked Wines Vini Italiani Gerrard Seel Gerrard Seel Fields Morris & Verdin Remo Farina, Montefante, Classico Riserva AB 92 MG 91 SH 88 Robb Bros Lifted balsamic aromas twinned with incense and pretty lavender oil. It is still youthful and complex; blueberry muffins and raspberry and white chocolate biscuit flavours make this very appealing. Drink Alc 15.5% Decisions around drying the grapes, length of appassimento, and time fermenting on skins make dramatic differences to style and quality Susan Hulme MW Romano Dal Forno AB 89 MG 92 SH (2010) Armit Wines A huge wine that is dense and mouthfilling. It expresses charcoal, smoke and tar characters which contrast seductively with treacle, orange and clove. The extraction is almost overpowering, so this will benefit from ageing. Drink Alc 17% Nicolis, Classico An intense cocktail of violets and rhubarb in an engaging, modern style with a long, aromatic finish of raspberry and clove. Novaia, Le Balze, Classico Riserva 2011 Recchia, Masùa di Jago, Classico 2013 Recchia, Ca' Bertoldi, Classico A drier style that would be suited to food pairings, this shows an alluring Indian spice mix character with a flutter of dried flowers and white pepper Really quite supple and charming, this wine displays burnt sugar and clove characters in a lighter, lively style A simple, appealing Amarone that has a voluptuous charm and round, juicy rhubarb flavours mixing with cherry and aniseed. San Cassiano Meaty, savoury notes supported by firm, slightly chewy tannins with a persistent, perfumed quality to the fruit which lingers on the finish. Tedeschi, Capitel Monte Olmi, Classico Riserva Mature tertiary aromas give a beefy character to this wine. It is an attractive, savoury style with autumnal dried fruits and chalky-textured tannins C&O Wines Tria Wines Tria Wines, Waitrose Cellar Marcato Direct Fine & Rare, Hailsham Cellars, The Wine Library, Quintessentially Wine Tenuta Santa Maria di Gaetano Bertani, Classico A tiny touch of reduction opens out into a rhubarb and game palate with a leathery lavender veneer and a flash of toasted nuts. Annessa Imports Villa Canestrari, Plenum A very spicy nose full of whiffs of cardamom and Chinese five spice. The chocolate and raisin Amarone personality comes through powerfully Salgari, Rabieto, Classico AB 90 MG 94 SH 86 There is a positive texture and structure to this wine. It is bursting with figs and butterscotch with a leafy, green olive undertone and some charred spice notes. There is a wild and animal element to the finish. Drink Alc 15.5% San Rustico, 90 AB 89 MG 93 SH 89 This will still need some time but it is currently showing blackberry and creamy oak notes running alongside mocha and plums. It has a decent weight to it which is balanced by juicy acidity and a herbal-toned finish. Drink Alc 15.5% Santa Sofia, Gioè, 90 AB 89 MG 86 SH Mondial Wine Sour cherry and plum notes are followed by a very lifted palate of cooler blueberry and rhubarb fruit. It is rather volatile, but the tannins are super refined and the overall impression is of a meltingly silky texture. Drink Alc 16% Villa Canestrari, 1888, Riserva Sweet and rather gluey nose with rampant oak leads onto an orange-zested palate with tarry, chargrilled fruit flavours reflecting the hot 2009 vintage. Villa Spinosa, Classico Luscious cooked fruit and bonfire notes dominate the aromas and flavours here, with a good amount of residual sugar on the finish. Agricola Cottini, Classico An ethereal nose of dried fruits and black pepper that is perhaps a little overworked and rustic but displays good fruit potential. Bussola, Classico There is a lot of residual sugar here but it is supported by toasted nuts and edgy black fruits with a heady varnish note to the finish. Bussola, TB, Classico An impressively appealing mouthful of molasses, fruit cake and balsamic notes of flamboyant proportions that is starting to dry out slightly. 17.5% La Fromagerie Mille Gusti 40 Boutinot 105 Laytons Ca La Bionda, Vigneti di Ravazzol, A little dusty and closed at first, but the leather and game notes come through followed by liqueur fruits and Christmas pudding. 58 Selfridges, Top Selection Sartori, Corte Brà, Classico AB 89 MG 92 SH 88 Villa Canestrari, Dieci Anni, Riserva AB 91 MG 90 SH 89 The nose is hot and rather jammy. It tastes impressively youthful despite its age, full of vivid flavours of crunchy blackberry and greengage with firm tannins and oak spice. Drink Alc 16% Villabella, Fracastoro, Classico Riserva AB 90 MG 92 SH 89 Campagnola, Caterina Zardini, Cantina di Soave, Rocca Alata A well-made, modern style with lots of strawberry jam and white pepper notes. The palate has decent concentration and nicely judged ripe tannins Intense violets and roses start off the bouquet, which evolves into blueberry jam. There are leafy notes and a green touch to the tannins though. 14.5% Eurowines 15 Tesco 40 Enotria & Coe Chunky, robust tannins on this wine are immediately evident. Notes of camphor and clove seep through and are joined harmoniously by strawberry jam and white pepper. This could still develop a little. Drink Alc 15.5% Piccola Cellar In an honest, straightforward style, this wine offers roses and violets on the first sniff followed by bitter chocolate and charming forest fruits. It has lively, youthful fruit despite its age. Drink Alc 15.5% Cantina Negrar, Classico Notes of maraschino cherries give an immediate appeal to this wine, with creamy vanilla and cacao following suit but ending with evident alcohol. Cantina Valpantena, Torre del Falasco 2013 Cecilia Beretta, Terre di Cariano, Classico Riserva Cherry menthol notes combine with an intricate mixture of violets and roses. There are a lot of oak tannins and green blackberry characters A juicy mix of plums and dark cherries that are a little subdued on the palate by some smoky, tarry notes and a raw element to the tannins Boutinot, Cambridge Wine Merchants Liberty Wines Corney & Barrow 84 May 2017 DECANTER DECANTER May

5 Recommended (continued) 86 89pts Recommended (continued) 86 89pts Wine Score AB MG SH Tasting note Alc Drink Price Stockists Wine Score AB MG SH Tasting note Alc Drink Price Stockists Corte Aleardi, Classico Riserva The alcohol and the impression of sweetness are very noticeable here, but notes of cranberry, fig and nutty dark chocolate give a lot of pleasure (2010) Friarwood Lenotti, A wine that is admirably pieced together with sour cherries and plums and clove and aniseed spice coming through underneath. 32 For The Love of Wine, Le Bon Vin Corte Gioliare, Classico The nose is a little shy at first, but with a very attractive purity and a cool quality to fruit on the palate. Montresor, Capitel della Crosara, Classico Heady volatile notes of lavender on the nose dissolve into seasoned wood and charred spice tones. It still has a very youthful feeling despite its age Cheers Wine Merchants, D Byrne Corte Moschina This a charming, straightforward, honest wine that is not overextracted nor overoaked, just a touch spirity. Salvaterra, Classico A real balancing act between dense and chewy fruit and some freshness and lift. It is simple and a little overstretched but well balanced. Damoli, Checo, Classico A faintly balsamic and oxidative style with a musky spice and lavender oil fragrance. Lovely cigar box aftertaste but a little drying on the finish Jascots Sartori Rino, Classico Herbaceous tones flood the nose, but on the palate the wine is alive and kicking with redcurrants and pomegranates in a thick viscous texture. Dario e Fabio Bonazzi, Ca Volpare, Riserva Despite some very firm tannins, this wine shows depth with its smoky bitter cherry combined with a distinct fruit chutney note. Spada, Firmus, Classico Woodsmoke and sweet tobacco combine well with summer fruit pudding notes. It could do with more finesse but it is a hearty style. Faccioli, Maral, The nose is showing some development through its wet woodland and wild strawberry undertones. It is a commercial style, yet with a lot of flesh to it Disotto Foods Speri, Monte Sant'Urbano, Classico A firm, serious style but the fruit is subdued by the structure. A hint of tobacco spice and a medicinal edge brings it to a smooth close. Bacco Wine Famiglia Pasqua, Riserva A broad and oaky example with some volatile acidity evident. Nutmeg and vanilla swirl across the palate, but the sweetness is nicely integrated. The Society of Vintners Stefano Accordini, Acinatico, Classico An initial flash of SO 2 is followed by plums and a luscious sweet-and-sour fruit element. The finish is savoury with a rustic edge Enotria & Coe, Exel Wines Fratelli Vogadori, Classico Toffee and treacle meld with mushrooms and truffles, adding considerable complexity. It just lacks some finesse with the chewy tannins. Valentina Cubi, Morar, Classico The tertiary aromas of beef stock and balsamic reflect the age on this wine. Autumnal flavours prevail, yet there is still a dried cranberry note in there too The Winery La Giuva A heady example full of new oak spice, cinnamon and tobacco. This has plenty of appeal due to the considerable residual sugar levels Exel Wines, Liberty Wines Villa Annaberta A little pongy and reduced at first but the palate displays raspberry jam and white pepper flavours backed up by refreshing acidity Co-Op Le Marognole, Camporocco I Corsi, Classico Savoury game notes give this wine power and structure. It is an enjoyable example full of rich mocha, chocolate and some spicy tannins. 35 La Mia Italia Villa San Carlo, Riserva On first impression the nose puts forth earthy, almost garrigue notes. The palate is dark and chocolatey but has quite an oaky, drying finish. 55 Eat In Italy Monte Santoccio, Classico Smoky and mineral morello cherries mix with coconut and soft vanilla, followed by grippy tannins and earthy notes at the end. 47 (2011) Swig Biscardo, Classico A simple and traditional style with heaps of dried fruits, exotic spice and white chocolate tapering to upright, clipped tannins on the finish Alliance, Drinksman, R&H Fine Wines Saltari, I Saltari Still a little young and impenetrable but the smoked almonds, hint of chocolate and cigar finish give an idea to what this wine is about. 45 Enotria & Coe, Inverarity Morton Brigaldara, Case Vecie A dusty, earthy tone overwhelms the subtle pomegranate and blueberry fruit, but it is still a convincing and persuasive style. 16.5% Vinumterra San Rustico, Gaso, Classico Quite a wild and animal style, with a hint of strawberries, fresh straw and some dense, chewy tannins. Cà dei Frati, Pietro dal Cero Sun-dried fruit reflect a hot vintage; this is balanced by notes of capers and dry plum skin tannins, with a savoury, saline finish Eton Vintners, Harvey Nichols, Liberty Wines Tenuta Vignega, Vino Biologico, Riserva Pomegranate and plums are the dominant fruits here, with chocolate and coffee on the back palate and a subtle bitter cherry finish. Ca Rugate Pockets of plums and liquorice appear on the nose and palate, with broad sweeping alcohol. It has a decent length but not a lot of impact. 14.5% Kevin O'Rourke, Harperwells, Mr & Mrs, Oval Fine Wines, Prestige Wine, Strictly Wine, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, Wineman Tinazzi, Tenuta Valleselle, Black forest gateau on the nose mingles with a flattering swish of creamy Aureum Acinum, Classico 2012 vanilla oak and liquorice coffee flavours to give a very appealing style. Continental Wine & Food Castelforte Surprisingly tertiary for a young wine, with earthy, gamey notes suppressing fruit aromas. It already feels quite drying. 17 Inverarity Morton, Moreno Wines Zenato, Sergio Zenato, Classico Riserva On first impression the sweet rhubarb and cinnamon flavours dominate; however, a meaty, roasted coffee bean note shines through after a while Eurowines, Harrods, Inverarity Morton Corte Rugolin, Monte Danieli, Stewed red fruits to start, with fresh earth and spice notes alongside chewy tannins. A little rustic but there are some attractive strawberry jam flavours. Allegrini, Classico A robustly structured wine displaying balsamic and leather characters that slightly mask the mixed cranberry and cherry fruit Harrods, Liberty Wines, Selfridges Gino Fasoli, Alteo Heady, lifted alcohol-soaked cherries on the nose. The first impression is sweet, followed by greener flavours and some unripe tannins. 17.5% Vinceremos Allegrini, Fieramonte, Classico Riserva A wine showing great structure yet with some overpowering fruit on the nose and bitter green olive flavours on the finish. Liberty Wines Gusti, Classico Sweet brambles waft past on the lifted nose. An off-dry impression which is balanced by crunchy green fruit flavours and tannins. Antiche Terre Venete Homely spiced plum compote aromas spring forth from the glass; this is not a blockbuster but it is well balanced and ripe. Le Bertarole, Podere Cariano, A robust and hearty style that is evident from the lifted balsamic nose and raw edge to the tannins. Still, a great textured wine Caves de Pierre, Vinothentic Bixio Poderi, Classico The residual sugar really lifts this wine and complements the tomato leaf and sweet spice aromatics, but it leaves a slight beef stock taste on the finish. Le Guaite di Noemi Smoky, leafy, autumnal notes meld with sweet raisins, dark chocolate and burned toast flavours. This is appealing in a darker style. Cantina di Soave, Cadis A little too leathery and mature for a 2013, but there s a summer pudding cocktail of plums and damsons giving considerable length. 14.5% Morrison's Le Ragose, Caloetto, Classico Heady violet notes on the nose are followed by savoury, beefy, tarry flavours and a meaty kick. Cantina Negrar, Vigneti di Roccolo, Classico A forward beefy nose unfolds on to fresh earth and orange peel flavours, with lively acidity driving all the way through Majestic Le Salette, Pergole Vece, Classico A closed and reductive nose but with aeration it reveals layers of tarry, dark fruit and liquorice aromas with wet ash on a lingering finish Astrum, Bottle Apostle, Dorset Wine Co Corte Canella A red pepper and cherry combo with a truckload of spices and lashings of oak. It is a powerful style with high alcohol and a modern twist. 17% Mizzon, Classico This starts with earthy, green, wet woodland notes and a quinine, almost vermouth character, leading to decadent bruised fruit on the palate. Corteforte, Vigneti di Osan, Classico A soft, earthy wine with a full, ripe, fleshy palate and toasty charred oak but slightly crunchy, green tannins. 45 (2006) Sommellier's Choice Monte del Frà, Classico Medicinal, herbal notes on nose lead to strawberry cheesecake and fig notes on the palate. Lacks some ripeness and generosity of fruit. Fields Morris & Verdin Dal Cero In Valpolicella A touch of reduction on the nose leads onto a chunky palate with a robust concentration of red cherries supported by grippy tannins. 15.5% Philip Von Nell Novaia, Corte Vaona, Classico Super-ripe cherry and cream aromas initially are very enticing, but the palate veers towards being overly firm and closed at the moment. C&O Wines Le Bertarole, Podere Le Marognole, Intense roses dance around the nose and infuse the smooth palate alongside liquorice and tobacco. A straightforward example but gratifying nonetheless. Roccolo Grassi There is a cooler element to the fruit here, with brambles and a Bloody Mary character. The tannins are better managed firm but not raw Hallgarten, Wineman.co.uk Le Ragose, Marta Galli, Classico Stewed fruit underpinned by charred notes and gutsy gamey characters. It lacks some nuance of flavour but it is still pleasurable. Tedeschi There is a savoury, drier feel on the palate here, with vibrant acidity and firm chalky-textured tannins. A traditional, serious style of Amarone Aged In Oak, Bargain Booze, Hailsham Cellars, Hoults, Latitude Wine, Liquorice, Loki, Taste Fine Wines, Vins de Bordeaux 86 May 2017 DECANTER DECANTER May

6 Recommended (continued) 86 89pts Wine Score AB MG SH Tasting note Alc Drink Price Stockists Tenuta Vignega, Vino Biologico 2011 Commended 83-85pts n Bolla, Rhetico, Classico , 16.5%, 2017-, 24 Matthew Clark n Bolla, Le Origini, Classico Riserva , 16.5%, 2017-, 37 Matthew Clark n Cantina Negrar, Domini Veneti, Classico , 15.5%, 2017-, 25 Alivini, Inverarity Morton n Corte Aleardi, 85, 16.5%, 2017-, (2010) Friarwood n Dario e Fabio Bonazzi, Monte Gradela, 85, 15.5%, 2017-, n Fabiano, Classico , 15.5%, 2017-, AC Gallie, Alexander Hadleigh, Alexander Wines, Bablake, Corks Out, Ellis of Richmond, Ex Cellar, Field & Fawcett, George Hill, Old Butcher s Wine Cellars, RS Wines, Sandhams, Stainton Wines, Soho Wines, The Wine Reserve, Woburn Wine Cellar n Guerrieri Rizzardi, 3 Cru, Classico , 16%, 2017-, Field & Fawcett, Oxford Wine Co, Wines with Attitude n Guerrieri Rizzardi, Villa Rizzardi, Classico , 15.5%, 2017-, Amazon, Dulwich Vintners, Vinotopia n Latium Morini, Campo Léon , 16%, 2018-, Alliance, Bowland Forrest Vitners, Somerset Wine Co n Lavarini, Maximus , 15.5%, 2017-, N/A UK n Monteci, 85, 16%, 2017-, n Novacorte, 85, 14.5%, 2017-, www. domusvini.eu n Pagani ,, n Pieropan, Vigna Garzon , 16.5%, 2018-, Liberty Wines, Valvona & Crolla n Pietro Zanoni, Zovo , 16.5%, 2018-, n Santa Sofia, Classico Subdued notes of cola hint at oxidation while the fruit has a liquorice spice and leather quality to it. It seems quite tired. Vigneti di Ettore, Classico Overripe cherries and soft sloes combine with clove and wood smoke in a drier, leaner style , 15%, 2017-, Mondial Wines n Santi, Classico , 15.5%, , Mondial Wines n Santi, Proemio, 85, 16.5%, 2018-, Mondial Wines n Tedeschi, La Fabriseria, Classico Riserva , 17%, 2017-, Fells, Vintage Marque n Tommasi, Classico , 15.5%, , Cambridge Wine Merchants, Ellis of Richmond, Harrods, Harrogate Fine Wine Co, Inverarity Morton, Le Vignoble, ND John, Wholefoods n Villa Erbice, Tremenel , 15.5%, 2018-, n Villa San Carlo , 16%, , 35 Eat In Italy n Zonin , 15%, 2017-, 36 Grantham s, Zonin n Aristocratico , 15%, 2017-, n Cantina Negrar, La Tirela, Classico , 15.5%, 2017-, Direct Wines n La Dama, Classico , 16%, 2017-, Virgin Wines n Monte Tondo , 16%, 2018-, Carte Blanche n Sartori, Reius, 84, 15%, 2017-, 35 Enotria & Coe n Scriani, Classico , 16%, 2017-, Europe Marca n Villa Rinaldi, Corpus, Classico , 16%, , n Villa Spinosa, Guglielmi di Jago 10 Anni, Classico , 16.5%, n Zymè, Classico , 15.5%, 2017-, Fine & Rare n Allegrini, Corte Giara , 15%, 2018-, Liberty Wines, Marks & Spencer, Valvona & Crolla n Bertani, Classico , 15%, 2017-, 75 Enotria & Coe, Millesima n Bottega, Il Vino degli Dei , 16%, 2018-, Catalyst Brands n Brigaldara, Classico , 17%, 2017-, Vinumterra n Corte Sant Alda, Valmezzane , 15.5%, 2017-, (2010) Lay & Wheeler n Dario e Fabio Bonazzi, Ca Comparsi, Classico , 15%, , n Fattori, Col de la Bastia , 15.5%, 2017-, Naked Wines n Gamba, Campedel, Classico Riserva , 16.5%, 2017-, (2007) Whitmore & White n Lavarini, Classico , 16%, 2017-, n Monte Zovo , 16%, , Jeroboams, Laytons n Montigoli , 15%, , Waitrose n Sartori , 15%, , 30 Enotria & Coe n Tenuta Casaletti , 15%, , com n Villa Mattielli , 15%, , Bottle Apostle, Corks of Cotham, Thirty Nine 10, Top Selection Fair 76-82pts n Bertani n Bixio Poderi, Abadin, Classico Riserva n Brigaldara, Riserva n Buglioni, Il Lussurioso, Classico n Bussola, TB Vigneto Alto, Classico n Cantina Negrar, Domini Veneti Vigneti di Jago, 82 n Corte Adami n Gino Fasoli, Corte del Pozzo n I Campi, Campi Lunghi n Valentina Cubi, Morar Biologico n Villa Rinaldi, Rinaldi Maior For full UK stockist details, see p Expert summary: Michael Garner Well-managed oak and volatile acidity as well as balanced alcohols helped to ensure a solid set of results that delivered a few surprises from established and new names Michael Garner is a DWWA Regional co-chair for Italy and an author, whose second book, on the wines of Verona, is set to be published in 2017 This was a good set of results where standards were well above average, with just a handful of wines that failed to generate much excitement. As expected, most of the top scorers came from the classico area with a decent showing for riserva wines. There is simply more experience and a longer tradition of Amarone production in classico, though Romano Dal Forno s inclusion among the leading lights is, while predictable enough, a clear indication of the great potential of the so-called extended zone. As ever, there were a few surprises in store but it is always a good measure of the overall health of a denomination like Amarone to check how some of the smaller, lesser-known names fare. So it bodes well when wineries that often pass under the radar such as Carlo Boscaini, who produces authentic and traditional if somewhat rustic wines achieve impressive scores. Meanwhile, a few wines from hallowed names like Allegrini, Accordini, Corte Sant Alda, Speri, Tedeschi and Zyme performed rather less well than expected. A number of Amarone s determining characteristics can prove contentious. Firstly alcohol levels: with just one exception (Romano Dal Forno), all the wines that achieved Highly Recommended or Oustanding ratings fell into the bracket between 15% and 16.5%. It is also interesting to note that no wines with an alcohol level of less than 15% came into our top 44 (wines scoring 89 or more). It seems the middle ground is the place to be. Amarone usually spends many years in cask: these days much of the wood is French and of smaller capacity than the traditional Slovenian botti. While it is tempting to lapse into nostalgia about the subtle, seasoned notes large old barrels impart, it seems those toasty aromas of vanilla and spice are here to stay as part of the Amarone make-up. On the whole the use of oak was quite carefully managed, as were levels of volatile acidity, which can often bedevil a wine that spends so long in wood. While it is slightly disappointing to register only two Outstanding and no Exceptional wines, Amarone more or less lived up its burgeoning reputation. D Most of the top scorers came from the classico area with a decent showing for riserva wines My top three Andrea Briccarello My top three Michael Garner My top three Susan Hulme MW Amarone Recommended Wine Amarone Recommended Wine n Guerrieri Rizzardi, Calcarole, This single-vineyard Amarone has all the pedigree of a champion. Hand harvested from very old vines, it is made only in great vintages. Long and structured with spiced plums, balsamic and mocha. 92 Drink n Alpha Zeta, A 2013 Created in 1999 by David Gleave MW of UK merchant Liberty Wines and flying winemaker Matt Thompson. Aged in a mixture of large botti and barriques, it has classic aromas and a muscular finish. Stunning and great value. 92 Drink n I Campi, Campo Marna Cinquecento 2006 Made by rising star Flavio Prà at this family-run winery shows really the best of Veneto s grape. The Cinquecento refers to the altitude of the vineyards at 500 metres. This is both austere yet complex. 92 Drink n Tommasi, Ca Florian, Classico Riserva 2009 No surprise Tommasi has done so well here: Ca Florian (9,000 bottles a year) is a serious, traditionally styled wine made in lots. The 2009 is approaching full maturity and shows off the voluptuous character so typical of good Amarone. 95 Drink n Ca La Bionda, Vigneti di Ravazzol, From lowyielding 70-year-old vines in limestone soils, this fleshy and indulgent Amarone is starting to drink beautifully. The fruit has a lengthy drying period on traditional wooden racks. 93 Drink n Romano Dal Forno 2011 This is always a singular wine, outstripping the competition for sheer muscle and power. Dal Forno s wines aim for longevity above all and this is still years from full maturity. 92 Drink NB: the tasters top wines are not necessarily their top-scoring, rather those which, on learning the wines identity, they feel are the most notable given their provenance, price or other factors n Le Salette, La Marega, Classico 2013 A producer new to me but I was impressed by the precise expression of flavours and effortless weight and flow, expressing the lighter but charming 2013 vintage. The La Marenga vineyard is in Fumane, a valley that is further west and nearer to the cooling effects of Lake Garda. 95 Drink n Tommasi, Ca Florian, Classico Riserva 2009 Ca Florian is a 5ha single hillside vineyard which has been in the Tommasi family since The vines are 30 years old so deeper roots and a cooler, more water-retaining clay soil may have played their part in coping with this hot vintage. 95 Drink n Guerrieri Rizzardi, Calcarole, From the Calcarole vineyard where 30-year-old vines grow in free-draining limestone subsoil. The family shortens the grape drying period when needed. Perfumed and seamlessly silky; a joy to drink. 94 Drink Cà Dei Maghi Via Cà dei Maghi 5, Fumane (VR) ITALY E: Contact: Paolo Creazzi T: Looking for importer in UK OUTSTANDING 95 POINTS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED 90 POINTS Santa Sofia a.com E: a.com UK: Mondial Wines, Croydon CR0 4TU T E: Vinitaly: Hall 5 Stand D4 88 May 2017 DECANTER

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