Amarone is one tough nut to crack. It's one of the great wines of Italy (and the world) but seems a bit too foreign for some of our tastes. Corvina is the primary grape of Amarone and it contributes sour cherry flavor and acidity to the blend. The Corvinone and Rondinella grapes both contribute herbal flavors and color while a number of minor grapes may yet be added to round out the blend. All of the constituent grapes are native to the region which explains in part why Amarone has a marketing problem in this country. No one has ever heard of these things.
A big, full-bodied, high alcohol, tannic red wine, Amarone is a far cry from the more common lighter, simpler Valpolicella version. By drying the grapes in the appassimento method, the flavors, colors, and tannins all become concentrated in this rich world class red wine. A sweeter Recioto version is also made as is the Ripasso Valpolicella which may be considered a half-way measure between regular Valpolicella and Amarone.
So how do we get the word out about this stuff?
Sometimes the trees get in the way of seeing the forest. In a WSJ article from January 27-28 of last year Lettie Teague laments the difficulty of pairing Amarone with our typical American cuisine. Me? I thinks she doth anguish unnecessarily. That and we may be missing something fundamental here.
In her position with the WSJ in New York, Teague is probably accustomed to top flight estate Amarones that are in fact more suited to the cuisine of northeastern Italy. Now however half of all Amarone is made in co-ops and those versions are lighter with forward red fruit accents and softer tannins and that makes all of the difference. They're also lower in price and that too makes a heckuva lot of difference for vox populi.
So, in short, traditional Amarone needs traditional Italian foods but also compliments most aged cheeses magnificently and according to Sandro Boscaini, president of Masi Agricola, if you couple that cheese with a teaspoon of acacia honey and chase it with your Amarone, well...Voila! Instant self-actualization! As for the co-op Amarones, try them with any pork dish and other everyday red meat and poultry dishes. Amarone is now accessible!
As for our Nicolis of the post title, that one is great but it is somewhat old world earthy so break out the cheese and honey!