Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera is my favorite of all red wines, it has a sweet, fruity, yet it consist of a dry woody flavor, very smooth but rich to the pallet. The grapes are picked in whole bunches and kept in drying rooms (with warm temperatures and low humidity) where they stay for anywhere from three weeks to three months. Traditionally the grapes were dried on straw mats (they are a member of the 'straw wine' family) in the warmest part of the house or winery, but modern technology has replaced straw with steel and lofts with pallets. It is a partial drying process (known as appassimento in Italian) is complete, the grapes are gently pressed and the must is fermented to dry. The grapes' high sugar content means a higher potential alcohol, so a complete fermentation results in a strong wine of 15% or 16% alcohol by volume. This is then aged in barrels (traditional large botti are now being replaced by smaller Slavonian oak barriques) for at least two years before commercial release.
When I was in Rome, Italy, visiting some of my friends; one late afternoon we decided to take a walk through the streets near Piazza Navona. I saw a local wine store and went into the store noticing they had my favorite wine Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera, I had to purchase 4 bottles so I could bring at least two bottles back home in the USA.
My one friend, being a native Italian, who has an excellent sense or palate for good wines never tasted this particular wine. Later in the afternoon we decided to have a few local snacks consisting of antipasti, cold cuts and a kilo of different pieces of pizza, since we were having a typical late dinner. With our late afternoon lunch of delightful Italian antipasti, we opened one of the bottles of Masi Amarone. My friend tasted the wine and joy overwhelmed me as saw his delightful expression; he, being momentarily speechless, as his mouth seemed to drop to the floor and then he shared he never had such an extravagant wine, he could not get over the taste and body of the wine. He stated, "it was the best wine he had ever tasted." We enjoyed having the second bottle of Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera.
Amarone is a full-bodied wine for red meats, game, and tasty and piquant cheeses, like parmesan. Generally considered a wine for meditation, it is a great after-dinner wine.
Wine Maker Notes
Amarone is the product of the ancient wine-making method called "appassimento" (drying of the grapes). At the end of September or the beginnning of October, the best clusters of grapes from the hillside vineyards are picked and placed in wooden boxes or on bamboo racks. The grapes are left to dry for 36 to 48 hours in rooms with controlled atmospheres (controlled humidity and forced ventilation) and then in large rooms in the old farmhouses in the hills until about the middle of January. There are large openings or windows to allow the free flow of air which is vital to the drying of the grapes.
By January the grapes weigh 35-40% less and have a naturally enhanced flavour and a higher concentration of sugar. Just the Corvina is attacked by botrytis ("noble rot"). After a delicate pressing and partial destalking of the grapes, they ferment for about 50 days in large Slavonian oak barrels at low, natural temperatures (natural cold fermentation). The wine is racked off its lees, and transferred into barrels of 30-40 hl where the alcoholic fermentation continues for a further 3-4 months, encouraged by selected "Saccaromices Bayanus” yeasts. In the meantime malolactic fermentation also takes place.
Once the wine is completely dry, it is again rached off its lees and then continues its aging for another 20 to 30 months, partly in large oak barrels and partly in small Allier and Slavonian oak barrels of 600 litres (maximum 3 years old). The wine is then filtered, bottled and aged in bottle for an additional 6 months or more before release.
Amarone and its sweet counterpart, Recioto, have been produced in Valpolicella since Roman times. Virgil, Suetonius, Martial and Pliny the Elder testify to their existence. The original name for these wines was "reticum”, later changed to "acinaticum” by Cassiodorous, minister of King Theodoric. We continue to find historic references during the successive centuries: during the Longobard period, the Middle Ages, the dominion of the Scaligers, as well as during the Most Serene Republic of Venice when this wine was referred to, with great pride, as a "wine of the Doges”. The term "recioto” probably comes from the dialect word "recia” which means the upper and outer parts of the bunches of grapes. These "recie” are the grapes which are ripest and which enjoy the best exposure to the sun. A second hypothesis derives the term "recioto” from the Latin word "racemus” which means bunch. A third hypothesis derives the term from "recisus” which means "cut and dried”. The existence of a dry Recioto wine is attested from antiquity, even if the term "Amarone” did not make its appearance until the 18th century. The marketing of this wine on a large scale is more recent and only started during this century. Amarone is a majestic wine which combines dignity with power and grace.