Week 10 – Corvina

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week is showing up the imperfection of our grape scheduling skills. This grape in this style would have been an ideal winter warmer during last week’s “Beast from the East”. I hope you will forgive us. Although those at other sides of the world may disagree.

Corvina is the main grape used in the Valpolicella region; blended with lesser proportions of Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Whichever version you are tasting, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso or Amarone, all will have mostly Corvina grape. The differences between those wines will take a little time to explain. Valpolicella is the red wine made like most other reds, so no explanation needed there; usually bright cherry fruit, fresh and lively tasting. Then there is the local tradition of taking whole bunches of grapes and drying them slowly over a period of months so the water inside the grape evaporates a little and the grapes concentrate. Whole bunches of these dried grapes are used to create Amarone which as a result is high in sugar and produces intense and quite alcoholic wines. Ripasso is the in between version where some dried grapes are added to regular grape juice; with the result being a more intense version of the standard wine. The method of drying grapes before making wine is called Ripasso.

Onto the wine we are tasting today “Torre D’Orti Amarone” £36. Before I give you my thoughts on this wine I confess I’m not a massive fan of these heavily concentrated and high alcohol reds; probably because I don’t have the stamina to handle them. There is also a problem with some of these reds where the process means they can get a bit oxidative and lack freshness, plus the concentrated grapes can produce heavy tannin resulting in a wine that can feel dry.

I’ve tasted this Amarone before, and I was astonished at how it converted me; and re-tasting today confirmed this. The aroma is beautifully perfumed, pruney intensity with a cherry liqueur fragrance and mint leaf notes; not at all Port-y or stewed in character. On the taste it is big but incredibly smooth and luscious, lots of black cherries, strong dark chocolate and wild herb notes. Yes, you feel the warmth which isn’t surprising at 16.5% ABV, but it doesn’t feel spirit-y or harsh. The thing that stands out is the fruit still has this vivacity and freshness which is amazing if you think the fruit has been drying so long. A wine with a high price, but certainly worth it as a winter warmer treat.”

Andy says: “I’ve done my fair share of stupid alcohol – shots of this and that, insanely flammable cocktails (Nuclear Daiquiri, anyone?) and ridiculously strong beers etc.

This I think is the first time I’ve tasted a wine that has made me visibly wince, and utter something along the lines of ‘oh boy’, but a little more ‘post-watershed’ if you catch my drift. The reason being it’s 16.5% – quite possibly the strongest wine I’ve ever tasted, and I wasn’t expecting it. I left it sitting for ten minutes or so before braving it again.

With expectations re-calibrated, this was a reasonably pleasant red. I’m still yet to find the grape or the style that’s for me. Knowing it was an Amarone (and therefore from dried/raisined grapes), I could definitely taste the fruit richness and intensity, with a very mild grip from the tannins. Warming and liqueur like in its texture, I’m wondering if it could be used in a cocktail as a substitute for something like Chambord. I guess I’ll never find out as it’s all gone, and at £36 it’s something of an expensive experiment.

Onwards to next week and future reds – the quest continues.”

Buying Guide

Corvina is an Italian red grape but it tends to be labelled by the region of Valpolicella where it comes from; or by a specific style of wine it makes called Amarone. We are going to be trying an Amarone since this is a special style of wine that involves the grapes being left to raisin after being picked. It is so unique it seemed only right to try that. Most large retailers stock Amarone, so head for the Italian red section and look for a wine labelled with that name.

15 thoughts to “Week 10 – Corvina”

  1. (Catch-up!)

    Wine -Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella 2010 (M&M Vintners £35)
    Bottle says – “Jason, learn Italian”

    This was a bottle I’d had in the cellar for a couple of years, so this week was all the excuse I needed to open it up. It was a lovely reddy-brown colour, and benefitted from a couple of hours decanting. The main aroma was of raisins, this dominated everything, and it’s effect was really rich and opulent. Raisins were also the dominant flavour initially but giving way to dark chocolate, soft leather and spice.
    This was delicious with porchetta and herby potatoes, but I finished the bottle off later, on its own, where it was a little rich, and thus went down well in very small sips! This is a great wine, and one I would recommend to go with food, the weight of the wine would match most rich meals, but would overpower something more delicate. Wish I’d bought more.

  2. Last night was saturday night and ‘steak night’ in our house so it was time to uncork the Amarone. Amarone Classico ‘Vigneti do Roccolo’ Cantina Negrar 2014. This is a blend of corvina, molinara and rondinella – two grapes in there that I’d never heard of.

    The bottle suggests uncorking for an hour before drinking, I couldn’t wait a full hour so used a new toy I’d picked up last week, an aerator, and passed the wine through the aerator and into a decanter.

    Garnet red in colour, this is a very rich, full and flavoursome wine, soft velvety tannins, with ripe red fruit and a bit of spice coming through. At 15% I chose not to finish the bottle but will ensure it does t go to waste today.

    I’m not sure I can do this wine justice….Dark ruby red color and BIG legs. Generous flavors of baked fruit, cherries, chocolate and pepper.
    Light to medium tannin and just slight acid touch. At 17% alcohol it takes one on a journey and you don’t want to come back! Ordered 3 more bottles for the cellar.

  4. Valpolicella is one of my favourite wines- a reasonable priced easy drinking wine so I was excited to be trying a £16 bottle of Amarone – Della Valpolicella how disappointing. Couldn’t get past an off putting nose and didn’t get the blackberry
    Will be sticking to my £5 bottle of Valpolicella I think!!

  5. Torre D’Ore Amaronre
    I really liked this wine. A lovely smooth, and very rich fruity tasting wine, with great after taste

    It is a shame the wine is a bit on the expensive side, but it does show what good taste I have !!!

  6. I was on a ski trip to Italy this week and wasn’t sure I’d be able to find an Amarone half way up a mountain so I snuck a bottle of good value supermarket stuff in my suitcase. It felt a bit like taking coals to Newcastle but proved worthwhile as, true to Italian form, only local wines were to be had in the little resort and I didn’t want to jump the gun on the Nebbiolo!

    I tried the Marco Dell’Eva Amarone 2012 from Sainsbury’s (£16.00, 14.5%) and I wholeheartedly agree that it was a perfect winter warmer to drink in the snow.

    Plums, cherries, prunes and Ribena on the nose with a touch of leather/tobacco (I couldn’t make out which, but definitely one or the other!). To taste it was not as sweet as expected – quite dry with some acidity. Cherries, blackcurrant and tannin. The bottle promised chocolate but I didn’t get any. It was quite heavy bodied but, given the strength, lusciously velvety and smooth.

    Overall, I’m sure it wasn’t as spectacular as more expensive Amarones. But it was nice, deeply fruity, balanced and warming – great value for the price.

    1. Hey Will, I love your dedication, I love the fact you had to take an Italian wine to a ski resort in the same country! It always makes me smile when I see how regionally people drink or eat in other parts of Europe. If it was the same here we’d really struggle to get through 52 grapes. And I agree that Amarone can have that paradox of being dry and luscious at the same time. The concentrated tannin of dried grapes can do that. Generally the better the version the smoother it is.

  7. My attitude to Amarone is similar to Emma’s. I generally don’t go for massive wines. I generally find elegance in any wine, white or red. But I make an exception for the Amarone bottlings of Quintarelli and I have a few in my cellar. But it is quite warm here in South Australia and so I settled for “only” a Valpolicella, a solid ripasso, from Quintarelli, the 2004. There is tannin, and alcohol, and acid but all are barely perceptible because of the massive fruit. I must admit I never see cherries in these wines, and the fruit flavours are a little cooked but a remarkable and eccentric wine style that I really enjoy, but I couldn’t drink frequently.

    1. Hi Ian, Quintarelli is indeed a great choice. And I don’t blame you for going for a ripasso being at the other side of the world. I hope the Chenin this week proves a better match for the warmth!

  8. I was lucky enough to share a bottle of 2015 Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini with friends over dinner at the BFI this week. I really liked this wine. It was fruity but not overpowering, very easy to drink. Cherries and plum came through to me, and the color was almost purple. It went great with my gnocchi dish. I’ll definitely add this wine to my buy list for the future.

    1. Hi Sonia, I think I may have known one of those friends 🙂 Allegrini is really a fantastic producer, I’d encourage you to try more of their wines. Their Amarone is great too.

  9. Just joined you guys this week – what a great idea!!
    We decided to try a standard Valpolicella Classic (2016) first.
    I love the nose – wet newspaper strawberries, it’s quite acidic and I feel it works best with food.
    It’s quite fruity – strawberries and raspberries. Could imagine drinking this while sitting outside on a sunny day…
    Overall, though, I don’t love it, but would happily have a glass with some food in the sun ?

  10. Valpolicella Ripasso 2015 13.5%

    Absolutely no way that I was coughing up for an Amarone, but I was delighted to find this Ripasso in the M&S Food in our local BP garage.

    The wine is clean and bright and Ribena in colour. Fabulous legs!

    The nose is great. The alcohol wafts out, carrying tannins and rich fruit flavours. Definitely honeyed cherries there.

    On the palate I am getting mellow raisiny fruit, with woody hints, but the overall effect is very pleasing.

    The finish is surprisingly short, but pleasantly satisfying.

    Stilton to finish off with tonight and this wine is just right.

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