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.”
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.