Amarone: from the ancient Romans to today

The history of Amarone is closely tied to that of Recioto and the ancient Romans. The Romans were the first to understand the real potential of this land for making wine.

The history of Amarone is closely tied to that of Recioto and the ancient Romans. The Romans were the first to understand the real potential of this land for making wine. The grapes they had in those days did not, however, provide wine with the high levels of alcohol needed to satisfy the requirements of the Romans, that is, it had to survive the long journeys over the huge expanse of their empire. Our ancestors already made a velvety wine that contained more alcohol by using grapes they left to wilt on the vine, which thus acquired a higher sugar content. Although the southern practice of letting grapes wilt on the vine or in the hot sun after being harvested provided some great results, in northern Italy’s Valpolicella area things were a bit different. The climate around Verona is much cooler and more humid, the conditions were hardly ideal. Nonetheless, a solution was found: let the grapes wilt in especially designed structures. The end result was a wine considered a close relative of what we now call Recioto, a sweet wine whose fermentation process is halted before all of the sugars are exhausted, that is, before it becomes a dry wine. 

Legend has it that Amarone came about from a neglected barrel of Recioto. Left to its own devices, the fermentation process continued and, when it was finally found by the wine maker, it turned out to be a dry wine that was amazingly mellow and aromatic. The grape varieties used to make Amarone are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The regulations governing its production allow winemakers to adjust the final result by adding minimal percentages of other grapes grown within the approved production district. The grapes are very carefully selected when harvest time comes around, only perfectly healthy bunches with intact grapes are used. The harvest is slightly earlier than tradition may dictate so that there is a bit more acidity, vital to the wine’s harmonious final balance. Once the grapes have been cut from the vine they are placed in wooden crates that hold five or six kilograms each and taken to where they will be left to wilt. This process is very delicate and takes from 60 to 100 days, the temperature and humidity is very carefully controlled during the entire time. It is here that the grapes lose weight and the sugar content increases, allowing the Amarone to reach the right percentage of alcohol and give it all the aromatic and flavourful characteristics that distinguish it.

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