Amarone della Valpolicella
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Just outside the historic city center, north and west towards Lake Garda, you will come across the rolling hills of the Valpolicella region, whose name probably originates from the Greek meaning of "valley of the many cellars". This region is the second largest producer of quality wines (DOC). The Valpolicella area includes several adjoining valleys comprised of 7 different villages.
When it comes to red wine, Valpolicella is focused on the production of four grape varieties: Corvinone, Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella. However, due to the process in between when the grapes are picked and what is done to them afterwards, these wines can be surprisingly different in the bottle.
The style of creating the amarone developed when the winemakers of Veneto were looking for a way to increase the body, alcohol content and complexity of their wines. As evidenced by today's red wines Garda and Valpolicella, wines made from locally grown Corvina, Corvinone (today identified as a separate variety), Rondinella, the invigorating Oseleta and the increasingly phased out Molinara can sometimes be too light to be satisfying. These three pillars of the Valpolicella vineyard are not known for their inherent depth — a shortcoming that is exacerbated by the cool growing conditions of the West of Veneto. In order to concentrate the natural sugars and aromas in the Valpolicella wines, the local producers started to dry their grapes after harvesting to extract water from the berries while preserving their sweetness and flavor.
The grapes are picked in whole bunches and stored in drying rooms (with warm temperatures and low humidity) where they stay for three weeks up to three months. Traditionally, these grapes were dried on straw mats (belonging to the straw wine family) in the warmest part of the house or winery, but modern technology has replaced the straw with steel and the lofts with pallets. When the drying process — known in Italian as appassimento — is completed, the grapes are gently pressed and its must is fermented. The high sugar content of the grapes results in a higher alcohol potential, so complete fermentation shows up in a strong wine of 15 or 16 percent alcohol by volume. It is then aged in barrels for at least two years before being marketed.
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