The Amarone Wine

Amarone is the finest wine made in Verona province and has recently become one of the most important Italian products, exported and appreciated by wine enthusiasts all over the world.
Thank to many years of experience in wine tours of the Valpolicella area, our guides are among the most knowledgeable Amarone experts in the world. They will be able to tell and show you everything you need to know about this great wine, even secrets that wineries do not want you to know. Our Amarone gurus will give you thoughtful advise, helping in selecting wineries that suits your taste and expectations and helping out in case you want to buy and ship few bottles back home.

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The History of Amarone

amarone grapes drying or racks

The roots of Amarone history extend back into ancient Roman times and beyond. Cato the Censor (234–149 BC), Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD) and Suetonius (69 - 122 AD) all wrote about vinum raeticum, the wine from Raetia, the region in northern Italy that included Verona, and whose grapes could only thrive when grown in the valleys around the city. Apparently the emperor Augustus loved it.
cassiodorusIn 5th century AD Cassiodorus, minister of Theoderic the Great, king of  the Visigoths, in one of his letters wrote about a very special sweet wine named Acinatico, made not far from Verona with semi-dried grapes. Cassiodorus was definitely talking about Recioto, the dessert wine still produced today and considered the ancestor of Amarone.
Making sweet wine with old techniques wasn't easy. They had to move the wine from one vat to another hoping that all the yeasts remained on the bottom, thus stopping the fermentation and leaving a higher residual sugar in the final product. Nevertheless yeasts sometimes remained and fermentation gradually continued ending up in a dry wine. If your palate feels dryness while your brain expects sweetness, the first sensation will be of a bitter wine, "amaro" in Italian.
The legend says that in 1930s the wine maker of Villa Novare forgot a barrel of Recioto in the cellar. A few years later he realized his mistake, tasted the wine and yelled that that wasn't a bitter wine (amaro in Italian) but a great bitter wine: "Amarone!" (in Italian the ending "one" is an augmentative and ameliorative). Gradually they started producing Amarone intentionally and, as consumers palate changed appreciating dry wines more than sweet ones, Amarone slowly replaced Recioto in popularity becoming the most important product of Valpolicella.

Wine Making

Grape Varietals and Selection

vineyard with grapes for Amarone

All Valpolicella wines, including Amarone, are made with a blend of traditional local grape varietals: Corvina, Corvinone (a clone of Corvina with bigger berries) and Rondinella. The Corvina grapes generally account for 60-80% of the blend, while Rondinella is around 20-30%. Each wine maker has also the possibility allowed by the production regulations of the DOCG (the denomination authority), to add up to 15% of additional varietals chosen from a list of approved grapes. These typically include the indigenous Molinara, Oseleta, Negrara, Pelara, Forsellina, etc. and even few other Italian and international ones.
One of the most important moment in the production of Amarone is the selection of the grapes during the harvest, that typically takes place between mid-September and mid-October. In order to sustain the drying process without rotting, clusters must to be fully ripe, with perfectly intact skin, not too big and loosely packed so that air is allowed to circulate inside the cluster. That is why it is fundamental that harvest is done by hand by experienced staff.


Amarone drying Corvina grapesWhat makes Amarone such a unique wine is a very special wine making technique called Appassimento: literally "withering". After picking, grapes are laid on plastic or wooden trays, or on traditional racks made of  river reeds ("arele"), always in a single layer to avoid overlapping of clusters that could damage berries and reduce the uniformity of drying. Crates full of grapes are stacked and left to dry for around 100 days in "fruttaio", large, well ventilated lofts above wine cellars. Grapes picked in September remain on drying racks until January, a period in which the weight of grapes is reduced by half, the acidity decreases and sugar content rises by 30%.
This is also the best period to schedule a wine tour in Valpolicella. You will be able to see all the stages of the production: harvest with the selection of the clusters and fragrant drying lofts that gradually fill with grapes.
Thank to appassimento grapes not only concentrate sugar, poliphenols and glycerin but also develop additional aromatic substances that are unique to Valpolicella varietals.
When grapes reach the optimum point of concentration they are crushed. Since fermentation takes generally place in January when temperatures are low, it is a very slow process, with a long skin contact that gives Amarone its beautiful deep color, flavors and perfumes.

Barrel Ageing

barrels of Amarone inside a cellarAfter fermentation and decanting, the aging process is another fundamental part in the making of Amarone. It is generally done in traditional big Slavonia oak casks of minimum 25 hectoliters, or in French oak 225 liters barriques, although there are few producers that are experimenting with American oak, cherry wood barrels, chestnut, acacia, etc.
During the tour of an Amarone winery it is always a very thrilling moment entering the underground cellars with the multitude of small barriques or the huge traditional casks that can have capacities of 10,000 liters or even more.
According to production regulations, Amarone must age in barrels a minimum of two years, but most quality producers leave the wine for 3, 5 years or even more in order to achieve more complexity, smoothness and longevity.

Tasting, Pairing, Storage

Amarone tasting and pairingThank to these producing methods Amarone becomes an absolutely unique and inimitable wine, with an intense color and aromas that for young vintages remind of cherry, redcurrant jam, chocolate, licorice and, in older bottles, evolve into tobacco, coffee, leather, spices and earthy aromas. The palate is rich, full bodied and yet soft, round an balanced.
Pairing Amarone with food depends a lot on the style of the winery. Elegant Amarones can be paired with almost anything, from a pasta with a rich sauce, to a nice juicy steak. Powerful Amarones need more intense food like game, braised meat with a spicy gravy, longed aged cheese. An old vintage or a particularly complex Amarone is probably better on its own, just to enjoy the wine without pairing it with food that could cover some of its multiple nuances. In Italian they call this type of bottle "meditation wine".
Unlike some of the great Italian red wines like Barolo or Brunello that need long ageing in bottle to soften the harsh tannins, Amarone is a very enjoyable wine from the very beginning, but it also has an incredible longevity in the cellar. Amarone will continue to evolve, getting even smoother and more complex after 10, 15 or, for outstanding vintages, 20 or more years.

Cellar Tours

Villa Giona Amarone

Nowadays there are more than 350 wineries in Valpolicella. They range from big companies producing millions of bottles per year in modern plants using cutting-edge technologies (Masi, Tommasi, Sartori, Pasqua, Allegrini), to small, family run wineries still using traditional methods in creating craftsman like wine (Meroni, Vogadori, Valentina tasting room in a cellarCubi, Marognole, Le Bignele), or even historical cellars inside gorgeous Renaissance and Baroque style villas (Mosconi Bertani, Santa Sofia, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Serego Alighieri).
In our wine tours, unless we have specific requests from clients, we select wineries trying to show our guests this wide variety of styles and different wine making approaches. Let us know what type of wine you like and we will able to select cellars for the tour to suit your personal taste.
The tour in a winery includes a walk in the vineyards, a visit to grapes drying lofts, barrel cellars and a tasting of a selection of  Valpolicella and Amarone wines. An English speaking, wine expert guide will allow you to interact with cellar owners and wine makers.

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