Rich, syrupy and dry, Amarone pairs best with duck, lamb, venison, beef short ribs, liver and onions, braised beef, hearty stews and rich pasta like beef stroganoff. Loaded with rich flavours of bitter chocolate, cherries, raisins, leather, vanilla, coffee and smoke, Amarone is best enjoyed on special occasions with hearty homemade food.
Amarone is produced by pressing grapes which have been left out to dry on straw mats. The drying process creates a shrivelled-up grape that has a dramatic increase in sugar without losing any of its tannin or acidity. The wine this then fermented, using up most of the sugar, leaving you with a powerful and dry red wine that is high in alcohol but so rich in flavour you’ll never even notice until the room starts to spin.
Depending on how it’s produced, the styles of Amarone can range from a rich, thick and syrupy port-like wine (modern style) to wines that have more dried fruit flavours, and spicy flavours (traditional style). Serve traditional style Amarone with foods that are slow cooked, flavourful but delicate, such as beef short ribs, osso buco and lamb shanks. Modern Amarone that is syrupy and port like will crush anything slow-cooked, so reserve this powerful wine for rich pasta, stew or hearty cuts of beef.
Lamb has fallen out of style in North America, but nobody denies that it is a great meat. As lamb is much more expensive than beef and has a gamier flavour, I feel people just don’t know what to do with it, given the cost of the meat. Thus, lamb in North America is often enjoyed at Middle Eastern restaurants rather than at home, as this culture knows how to cook and season Lamb to perfection.
If you want to try cooking lamb at home, go for an inexpensive cut of Lamb such as a Lamb Shank. This cut of meat is ideal for pot roasting on a chilly Sunday afternoon for several hours and served beside buttery mashed potatoes, fluffy rice, or on flatbread. Slow cooking tenderizes this tough cut of meat (the shank is from the shin region of the lamb) as it breaks down all the connective tissue and tougher flesh. The meat becomes so tender, it slides right off the bone and is perfect for an epic way to end the weekend.
When you braise roasted lamb shanks, the meat will be cooked to well-done, but the flavours will remain loud, big and gamy. Amarone pairs well with Lamb Shanks as the wine’s its complex notes of bitter chocolate, plum, raisin, and dried cherry, hold up to the delicious lamb flavours while also masking the gamey side of the meat. There’s also plenty of protein in lamb to tame the tannin in this wine, allowing it to better showcase its more complex flavours of leather, smoke, mocha and tobacco.
Amarone & Roasted Duck with a Reduction Sauce
Amarone is produced in a style where the grapes are reduced by being dried out, it pairs amazing with roast duck, drizzled with a reduction sauce containing the Amarone. The food would mirror the wine, leaving your mouth in a heavenly state.
Here you’ll want a more traditional style of Amarone, which consists of dried fruit flavours and a medium body. Modern styles of Amarone are nice with their lush and syrupy fruit flavours, however, the traditional style, with its earthy notes and have flavours of dried cherry and plum that are better suited to the rich flavours of roast duck.
Roquefort Cheese & Amarone Pairing
Roquefort cheese is a flavourful blue cheese that is salty and flavorful, with notes of sweet burnt caramel and bitter almond. Amarone has just the proper amount of oomph to hold its own against these sharp Roquefort Cheese flavours without overwhelming the cheese. This aggressive cheese will be easily tamed by the thick fig and raisin flavours, and the tannin in Amarone is further smoothed out by the fats and proteins found in your cheese.
Venison Steak & Amarone Pairing
Venison Steak is often served with a fruit sauce to help mask the gaminess of the meat that not everyone appreciates. With Amarone and its dried fruit flavours, you can skip or ease up on the sauce. This allows you to enjoy how the grippy tannin of Amarone breaks down the protein molecules in the Venison, allowing the meat to taste even more flavourful. The protein and fat in your Venison steak also soften the Amarone up, allowing it to release its bouquet of complex vanilla, mocha, date, smoke and leathery flavours.
Amarone and Pasta Pairing
Being an Italian wine, I’d be crazy not to talk about pairing Pasta with Amarone. You don’t want a traditional tomato sauce pasta, mind you, instead, you want something rich, thick, gamey and meaty, like a wild boar, duck or a rabbit sauce. The tannin found in Amarone loves the protein and fat in these rich sauces, which softens that tannin and helps you enjoy the complex flavours of the wine. Meanwhile, the notes of cherry, plum, fig and raspberry help mask the gamy flavour of the meat sauce.
What Does Amarone della Valpolicella Mean?
Amarone derives from amar meaning ‘bitter’ and one meaning ‘big’. Valpolicella is the region of Northern Italy where Amarone is produced. Valpolicella has its own nickname – The Valley of Many Cellars.
What Grapes are Amarone Made From?
Amarone is made from the best Corvina, Rondinella grapes (and perhaps along with smaller amounts of Molinara, Croatina, Negrara and Dindareella).
Is Amarone Sweet?
Amarone is dry, however it has a perceived sweetness due to its syrupy body and loud flavours of chocolate, cherry and raisin.
Why is Amarone So Expensive?
Amarone della Valpolicella is expensive because the winemakers select their best grapes for this wine. The grapes are then dried for a few months, meaning they lose more than half their juice. The time it takes to dry the grapes, plus the juice lost due to the process means winemakers have to sell the wine at a higher cost.
If budget is an issue, give Ripasso a try, which is a red wine that uses the left over grapes of Amarone, and combines it with Valpolicella for a fruity but structured red wine.
Who Makes the Best Amarone?
I’ve never had a bad Amarone, and there are dozens of notable producers to choose from, including, Quintarelli, Speri, Tedeschi, Zenato, Brunelli, Bolla, Bertani, Tommasi, and Le Salette. Amarone is not cheap, so expect to pay big bucks for a bottle. If budget is an issue, go for a Ripasso, which is made from the repressed grapes used to make Amarone.