A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Get To Know Your Grapes: Corvina

The Veneto’s most prestigious wine is Amarone della Valpolicella; a rich wine with aromas of raisins and spice.  Amarone, derived from the Italian word, “amaro”, meaning “bitter” is produced from grapes that after the harvest are dried on straw mats or are hung from overheard rafters.  Although up to fifteen grape varieties are permitted in the production of Amarone, most wines are based on the native grape, Corvina.

Corvina grapes hangin' on the vine

Corvina grapes hangin' on the vine

For roughly five months, the grapes shrivel as the water inside the skins evaporates, thereby concentrating the sugars.  The grapes are then pressed and fermented in normal fashion.  The end wine is powerful and slightly more alcoholic than most table wines one may be used to drinking.  Typically, Amarone wines exhibit aromas of rubber and raisins with a distinct bitter quality and gentle spice flavors.

Amarone della Valpolicella owes its existence to the dessert wine, Recioto della Valpolicella.  “Recioto” translates roughly to “little ears” referring to the outer bunches of grapes from each cluster that were picked for their supreme balance of sugar and

Masi is one of the oldest producers of Amarone, with a variety of different Amarone offerings

Masi is one of the oldest producers of Amarone, with a variety of different Amarone offerings

acidity.  Similarly, recioto grapes are dried after the harvest and then undergo a partial fermentation producing sweet, raisinated dessert wines.  Legend has it that one barrel of recioto was misplaced and allowed to ferment to full dryness meaning all the sugar in the wine was fermented into alcohol, thus; Amarone was born.

Grapes for Recioto wines generally derive from southwest facing vineyards with higher sugar levels, while grapes for Amarone are selected from east facing vineyards where a slower ripening season produces grapes with more balanced levels of sugars and acids.  Recently, in December, 2009, Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto Della Valpolicella were granted Italy’s highest designation for wine labeling, DOCG.

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