Allegrini 2018

“Amarone Opera Prima” 2023: Amarone 2018 at the glass test, looking to Unesco

Intangible Heritage nomination of appassimento brings awareness among Valpolicella producers, toward an increasingly “agile” style

While the Unesco Intangible Heritage nomination of the appassimento technique for grapes continues its process - compacting Amarone producers and creating cultural awareness among people throughout the valley - Valpolicella itself is evolving toward an increasingly young and increasingly sustainable identity, strong with now solid economic stability (more than 600 million euros in wine-related turnover) and prestige recognized worldwide. This is the brief identikit of the Veronese red wine territory par excellence, which celebrated with “Amarone Opera Prima 2023” No. 19, the Appellation’s flagship event held in the monumental 17th-century Gran Guardia palace, overlooking the Arena of Verona. The vintage presented this year of Amarone is 2018, which, from the point of view of seasonal trends, the Protection Consortium considers “on the whole unstable”, with a good water supply and temperatures slightly above the historical average. 64 wineries were present at the technical tasting, 67 wines were tasted, for a result in the glass that was quite fluctuating from a stylistic point of view, but with a trend clearly leaning more and more towards greater drinkability, as Winenews will have the opportunity to tell in the monograph of “I Quaderni di WineNews” dedicated precisely to Amarone della Valpolicella, to be published at the end of February 2023.
The recent completion of the dossier that will initiate the final phase of recognition as a Unesco Intangible Heritage, clearly made the theme of appassimento (grape drying) for the production of Amarone (but also Recioto and Valpolicella Superiore) the protagonist of the kermesse. Both the conference and the masterclass focused on the issue, giving two interesting and complementary views of it, the first anthropological, the second enological: according to professors Pier Luigi Petrillo (professor of public law at the Sapienza University of Rome) and professor Elisabetta Moro (full professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Suor Orsola Benincasa University of Naples), candidacy is a long journey with uncertain outcomes, which, however, acts on the community that pursues it, creating awareness, refreshing the historical memory of a community and giving the tools (including modern ones) to transmit this renewed identity to new generations, trusting in their ability to renew themselves in cherishing a practice that has forged and elevated generations of peasants. Wset educator and Italian wine ambassador JC Viens, on the other hand, attempted to explain-through a vertical tasting of 10 Amarone Riserva, which covered the decade from 2006 to 2016-how the characteristics of the grapes harvested and the withering method chosen (and thus the timing dictated by the experience of individual producers, their knowledge of their vineyards and pandering to certain market demands), significantly influence the result in the glass. Specifically, temperature, humidity, ventilation and duration are the four vintage variables that wineries have in their hands to optimally direct the increase in acidity, polyphenols and anthocyanins (and the possible presence of noble botrytis) that the berry metabolism faces during the drying process, starting of course with the vintage analytical data in terms of ph, acidity, sugars and extract. A combination, in short, of oenological knowledge and geographical and meteorological expertise (in the case of the use of traditional fruit orchards, located in the different valleys of the Appellation), in the hands of the producers, which makes Valpolicella understood as an aggregate of vineyards, wineries, people and cultural and cultivation traditions-unique of its kind.
A strength of identity goes - evidently - hand in hand with an economic one: according to the Nomisma Wine Monitor survey, the king of Valpolicella sets its latest performance with a 7.2% contraction in volume, against a 4% growth in value, at 360 million euros ex cellar. The domestic market-which accounts for 40% of total sales-is better than exports: both volumes (+1.5%) and values (7.4%) were positive for the Italian marketplace; -13%, on the other hand, the quantity exported and value growth of 1.8%. A prestige that in 2022 consolidated the exceptional growth of 2021 in terms of sales, thanks to a “return to normality” in terms of the influx of foreign tourism and out-of-home consumption, especially in the restaurant industry. Export numbers were also satisfying with the United States leading the export value ranking +24% and a 14% share of cross-border sales), closely followed by Canada - which rose in value by 16% - and Switzerland (+2%). Among outlet markets, Uk slightly decreased (-2%); Germany lost its share badly (-15%), while still increasing Sweden (+6%). Emerging China resumes with +22% while Denmark breaks, at -7%.
Amarone della Valpolicella is increasingly proving to be, in essence, the diamond of a powerful territory, in which wine moves a turnover of more than 600 million euros, more than half of which comes from the performance of the top red, whose prices range from 1,000 to 1,200 euros per hectoliter, when it comes to bulk values. A “treasure” that originates from 8,600 hectares of vines in 19 municipalities, between the Classica, Valpantena and Valpolicella DOC areas, and whose value in Valpolicella Classica is also around 500,000 euros per hectare, and which are for the moment “blocked”. And where more than 2,400 wineries-increasingly led by young people (according to the Consortium, in 10 years, growth has been almost 100 percent, and today there are as many as 350) and increasingly eco-sustainable (33 percent, with today’s 2,873 hectares planted with green vines, out of a total of 8,586, compared to 212 in 20129 - produced more than 67 million bottles in 2022, of which 17.2 million of Amarone alone, almost 7% more than the average of the last five years.
The oenological sensitivity and fresh ideas of the new recruits will certainly be useful in dealing with climate change, which Valpolicella is also experiencing. And so we come to deal, finally, with the 2018 vintage year, presented this year by the Consorzio di tutela, which was characterized by a relatively unstable trend, according to the analysis carried out for the Consorzio by Giambattista Tornielli, associate professor of General Arbiculture and Tree Crops at the University of Verona. Copious spring rains rehydrated the drought-prone soils inherited from 2017, and temperatures above the seasonal average allowed for an overall uniform ripening of the berries, with good sugar and anthocyanin content, but with acidity levels in some cases below average. A warm and sunny autumn (as is now repeated with good frequency) allowed a rather rapid drying of the grapes (which started a few days early), without significant phytosanitary problems. On the volume front, grape production was quite abundant with over 971,000 quintals harvested, of which about 335,000 were put to dry for the production of Amarone and Recioto.
Stylistically speaking, accomplice to the tendency to produce increasingly flowing wines and the possibility of affecting several fronts during the long vinification phases of Amarone, the wines on the whole turned out to be finer and easier to drink this year as well, with a certain swing in the results, which showed some excellent peaks, a wide average of good pleasantness and a still present oxidative interpretation for a minority of producers. So here, as usual, are the WineNews staff’s 10 best tastings of Amarone della Valpolicella 2018, tasted at “Amarone Opera Prima 2023”, waiting, as mentioned, for the February 2023 monograph, soon to be released with “I Quaderni di WineNews”.

Bertani, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena 2018

Massimago, Amarone della Valpolicella Conte Gastone 2018

Roccolo Grassi, Amarone della Valpolicella 2018

Fattori, Amarone della Valpolicella Col de la Bastia 2018

Secondo Marco, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018

Monteci, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018

Lavagnoli, Amarone della Valpolicella 2018

Albino Armani, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1607 2018

Pasqua, Amarone della Valpolicella Famiglia Pasqua 2018

Zýmē, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2018

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