How it is produced
Amarones generally contain a minimum of 15% alcohol. They are manufactured by harvesting and traditionally drying well selected grapes on straw mats. This process of drying the grapes is quite distinct in the world and is known as “Appassimento” and traces its roots to the Romans. It is done to concentrate the sugars and flavors of the grapes.
Choosing the grapes assumes an important role in determining the final flavor of the wine. Any grape bunch has a main stem and also two side branches which travel horizontally but angled slightly downward. The grapes in these branches are the ones most exposed to the sun and hence have the most carmelisation in the ripening process. The best vineyards are located on the sides of the hills. As one moves higher up, the dry climate and the poor soil results in vineyards of low yield though the flavors and the sugar concentrations are better. The grapes are usually plucked in fall and the clusters are sorted and placed on bamboo mats. These mats are then placed in temperature controlled rooms for anywhere between two and four months. During this period the grapes lose 35 to 40% of their weight and as their sizes shrink, the sugar content rises.
After drying, during mid February or early March, the shrunk grapes are processed carefully. (The juice which is produced is called “must”) Then begins the two-step fermentation process which is highly aided by the low winter temperatures. The must is poured in huge wooden casks and cold-fermented naturally for about two months. This fermented juice is then emptied into smaller casks and along with special yeast strains, is subjected to secondary fermentation for about 35 to 40 days. This is finally put into large Slovenian or French wooden casks and aged for about six years before being sold. The wine was officially recognized by Italy’s ‘Denominazione di Origine Controllata’ (DOC) as Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone and later this changed to Amarone della Valpolicella.