Amarone Families

Published by Sally on November 13, 2009

Amarone is one of the topmost recognised and iconic Italian wine styles, and ten family-owned producers have got together with the aim of keeping it at the top of the tree.

Amarone Families

Amarone Families

The ten members of the newly-designated Amarone Families landed in London last month to promote their new group with a tasting of their Amarones from the 2000 vintage. Sandro Boscaini, president of the Amarone Families, and head of Masi said: “In the last 25 years Amarone has enjoyed a good reputation and high appreciation all over the world. With Barolo and Brunello, it is one of the three flagship red wines from Italy.

“Our aim is to be active in a qualitative way, to protect Amarone as a precious wine, and to promote this special, unique wine on the international market.”

The group is concerned that the name of Amarone is being diluted and diminished by overproduction, with too many producers having jumped aboard the Amarone bandwagon, who are driving down prices. Boscaini said “we don’t want to see an aggressive policy to reduce the price and the quality” of Amarone.

“We want to protect the complexity and uniqueness of this amazing wine, which is impossible to find outside this region, with the influence of Lake Garda and the protection of the Dolomites in the north.”

They are not promoting a particular style of Amarone, as the tasting showed, notes below. Boscaini said the families have “traditional and modern practices. Each show their own terroir, style and interpretation of their vineyards.“

According to the Verona Chamber of Commerce, in the last decade the production of grapes for Amarone and Recioto has more than trebled, from around 8 million kilograms in 1999 to 26 million kilograms in 2008.  This equates to an increase in sales from 2.3m bottles to 8.5m bottles in the same time frame.

In 2008, 40% of the grapes grown in the Valpolicella region were used to produce Amarone. This is the highest proportion on record, and one of the reasons for concern by this group.

They’ve predicted that by 2011, 15 million bottles may be available on the market, and they believe the market is already saturated at about the current level of 8 million bottles. Their press release states: “A relevant part of this surplus in production is due to operators and areas recently converted to Amarone.”

These ten families have over 1,600 years of production experience behind them, and they represent more than 40% of the value of Amarone sales. In 2008 they sold 2.1 million bottles of Amarone, 80% of which were exported.

Boscaini also said the group was not fixed: “we are ten families so far, but the association is open to new members who share with us the same principles of making and understanding Amarone,” emphasising the group’s history of Amarone production.

The group has self-applied some extra rules which they say makes their product more Amarone-like.

  1. Minimum alcohol of 15% (compared to 14% in the regulations)
  2. Minimum dry extract of  30g/l  (compared to 22g/l in the regulations)
  3. Minimum 30 months’ ageing, from December 1st of the year of harvest, before release onto the market (compared to 24 months in the regulations)
  4. Opportunity (not compulsion) to declassify (not make Amarone) if the vintage is poor

At a glance – the ten founding members:

  1. Allegrini
  2. Brigaldara
  3. Masi Agricola
  4. Musella, Agricola
  5. Nicolis Angelo e Figli, Soc. Agr.
  6. Sant’Antonio, Tenuta
  7. Speri Viticoltori
  8. Tedeschi, Agricola F.lli
  9. Tommasi Viticoltore
  10. Zenato, Az. Vitivinicola

Tasting notes

RS = residual sugar.

  • All wines were from the 2000 vintage, which was hot and dry, yet with timely additions of rain.  The crop was early with small, healthy grapes. Drying conditions were also good.
  • Generally very little age – colour or flavour development – showing on any of these wines.
  • Also generally showing lovely concentration and power. Amarone should be a wine of full body, richness, density, spiciness and weight. They’re serious wines not for the faint hearted, and can have an intensity and balance to be envied.
  • Generally all are very well balanced, with their signature high alcohols.  Amarone is usually the classic example of high alcohol being entirely integrated and being a necessary (and legally required) component of the wine.
  • Azienda Agricola Musella, Amarone della Valpolicella DOC, 2000
    16.9%,  3.5g/l RS
    Smoke, dark berries, sweet and tarry, rich and muscular, sweet tannins. Tastes sweet on the finish, but coming form alcohol rather than sugar. Crunchy cherry fruit, melding to smokiness. Grip of tannin core to frame the fruit.

    Speri Viticoltori, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000, Vigneto Monte Sant’Urbano
    15%, 4.9g/l RS
    Smooth black cherry, supple edges falling into lush concentrated fruit; primary fruit; lush bitter red cherry on palate. Richness with refreshing dry tannins. Very nice balance, but far too young to be drinking now. Long finish.

    Soc. Agr. Nicolis Angelo e Figli, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000, Ambrosan
    16%, 7.5g/l RS
    Smoky black tarry fruit, fine grain tannin which gives structure; modern style, sweet primary fruit; spicy dry grapes; balance, full bodied, yet seductive with no age showing; firm tannin core. Good length.

    Brigaldara, Amarone DOC, 2000, Case Vecie
    17.5%, 8g/l RS
    Spicy, hint of lifting volatile acidity; gentle red cherry fruit, supple, lots of sweet supporting tannin. Smoke on palate, full, lush body, modern and youthful, big fruit, young balance. Black cherry on palate, with attractive bitter twist; full and densely bodied, long. Rumtoph richness and high alcohol spiciness

    Az. Vitivinicola Zenato, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000
    15.5%, 7gl RS
    sweet, red cherry perfume, medium full body, with attractive stewed red cherry; high glycerol; nicely balanced, but still a bit grippy; decent length.

    Masi Agricola, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000, Costasera
    15.8%, 5.7g/l RS
    Wood spices – cinnamon, allspice. Red berry fruit, least concentrated wine so far in the flight. Medium bodied, driest tasting (but not driest) of the wines so far, fine gritty/grainy tannic; beginning to show some signs of age – hints of savoury notes, not so succulent in fruit terms.

    Agricola F.lli Tedeschi, Amarone della Valpolicella DOC, 2000, Capitel Monte Olmi
    15%, 2g/l RS
    Tarry black notes with dark brooding berry fruit, lush body sweetness backed by plentiful tannins; more traditional style; nicely balanced, doesn’t taste sweet; spicy medium full body, just edging off primary fruit and going into body-building phase. Tannins will meld, currently leave palate cleansed with red fruit coating.

    Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Amarone della Valpolicella DOC, 2000, Campo dei Gigli
    16%, <4g/l RS
    Sweet rumtoph nose, overtly sweet attack, red cherry fruit, light-ish weight palate attack, crunchiness coming through a bit later; plenty tannin, sweet, supple,  modern style – slightly more reductive; late developer in the mouth; quite long finish

    Allegrini, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000
    15.4%, 4g/l RS
    Sweet blackcurrant fruit on nose, noticeable different notes to rest of flight; sweet, plenty of tannin, still with fine-grained grip. Full body, attractive dry note to tannin to counter the sweet fruit; modernist. Harmonious balance with very long finish.

    Tommasi Viticoltore, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2000
    15%, 5g/l RS
    Savoury spice, nose, steeped black and red cherry fuit; some evolution on palate, dry backbone of tannin to support the fruit.  Long finish.

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