A Bit Amore Amarone
Canada’s love affair with Italy’s Amarone wine was documented in a Tidings story that ran a while back. We at Tidings certainly love this deep, concentrated and powerful red wine made from air-dried grapes harvested from the hillside vineyards of the Veneto region. So our response was practically automatic when an invite to join Dott. Sandro Boscaini, “The Godfather of Amarone” for a special tasting in the now legendary cellar of Toronto’s Barberian’s Steakhouse.
Boscaini, President and Owner of Masi Agricola as well as the “Famiglie dell’Amarone d’Arte” (Amarone Families), was in town to showcase wines from the Cantina Privata Boscaini – single vineyard (mostly) Amarones from his collection of older vintages. A selection of tasty hors d’oeuvres whetted the appetites of the gaggle of journalist (practically a “who’s who” of Toronto-area wine scribes) along with the white Masi Masianco 2010 and red Masi Campofiorin 2008 – a well-known and widely available pair of Masi staples. We were then lead into the Barberian’s cavernous, multi-story cellar for a spectacular tasting and equally spectacular dinner.
The formal part of the tasting included the Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone Classico 2004, Masi Mazzano Amarone Classico 2004, Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2000, Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 1998 and finally, the Masi Amarone Classico 1995.
Though the production methods for each wine are essentially the same – the fully mature grapes are naturally air-dried to concentrate them prior to fermentation – the different soils and microclimates of the individual vineyard sites gave each wine a distinct personality. “Terroir is very important,” Boscaini noted, adding that fruit from different vineyard sites ripen at different rates, which also impacts the overall flavour and structure of the wines. Wines from the later-ripening Mazzano vineyard, for example, showed more austerity than the fleshier wines from the Campolongo site where the fruit ripens earlier.
He also commented on the importance of naturally air-dried grapes and the presence of some botrytis – or “noble rot” – on the end quality of the wines. “The drying process has to be natural,” Boscaini explains. “In doing so, the water evaporates slowly, preserving while at the same time concentrating the flavour and aromatic components. Forced drying is used for substandard grapes that are not fully ripened.”
Which brings us to the “garbage-in-garbage-out” reality of wines made from concentrated grapes. If the fruit is under ripe or dilute from being over-cropped, the resulting wine will lack structure, elegance and complexity. Forced drying will still yield a wine with similar deficiencies, albeit with a tad more concentration. That is why Boscaini fears for the future of ripasso – a sort of “baby Amarone” pioneered by Masi in 1964. “Ripasso is going to be destroyed,” he laments, citing huge increase in yields of substandard fruit from less than ideal vineyards.
Rather than printing exhaustive notes of the wines tasted (which you will no doubt be able to find from others in attendance), we’ll offer the following summation: the Amarones tasted were a far cry from some of the overly stewed/pruney numbers of yester year. Instead, they were multifaceted powerhouses laced with (depending on the particular wine) notes of mocha, currant, exotic spice, mineral, smoke and black cherry. Dense and chewy, they also displayed remarkable finesse, balance and length. They also age extremely well. All the more reason why we are innamorati di Amarone.
For more information on the availability and price of the wines in the Masi portfolio, contact Authentic Wine & Spirits Merchants.