two bold red wines from the veneto
Italian Wine for october – under $20
Zenato, “Alanera” Rosso Veronese 2012 (about $18)
The Zenato winery was founded in 1960 by Sergio Zenato in San Benedetto di Lugana in the Veneto portion of the southern shore of Lake Garda. In its early years the winery was known for its production of elegant white wines from the native Trebbiano di Lugana variety. However, with the purchase of vineyard property in the Valpolicella Classico area its wine list soon grew to include Valpolicella wines made with native red varieties of that region. Its Valpolicella and Amarone wines soon found favor with wine-savvy consumers and wine critics alike.
Zenato’s “Alanera” Rosso Veronese is an innovative take on the centuries-old appassimento process used to produce Amarone, the Veneto’s premier red wine. However, it differs from the traditional process in two important respects. First, although it utilizes dried grapes only about half of the grapes are dried for any length of time. Second, in addition to the traditional trio of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, the Alanera adds 5 percent each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to the blend.
The wine is aged for a year in oak barrels and spends 3 months in the bottle prior to release for sale.
The result is a wine which has some of the richness and structure of an Amarone complemented with some fresh fruit flavors and good acidity. I would call it a “baby Amarone”, a wine with some distinctive Amarone-like flavors and intensity but more approachable and with a much lower price tag than Amarone.
Zenato’s 2012 Alanera Rosso Veronese has a deep garnet color with red fruit and sweet spice aromas. It has good texture, round and balanced with flavors of prunes and dried cherries, playful acidity, soft tannins and a dry, spicy finish. It is very drinkable and you’ll find yourself coming back for more.
It is a very food-friendly wine that pairs well with a wide range of dishes, from mushroom risotto and even some fish to braised meats and stews. It is a lot of wine for a very modest price.
2012 Cesari Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico (about $40)
Located in the historic Classico zone in the Valpolicella appellation, the Cesari winery has been producing classic Amarone wines since its founding in 1936 by Gerardo Cesari.
Today the Cesari estate produces three versions of Amarone. The Amarone Classico is Cesari’s most affordable and approachable Amarone and the 2012 is Cesari’s most recent Amarone available for sale.
The 2012 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is made from hand-selected Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes that are dried for 4 months in the traditional appassimento process. The dried grapes are gently pressed in mid-January and then undergo a slow, almost month-long fermentation on the grape skins. Following fermentation, the wine is aged in a combination of French oak barriques and large Slavonian oak barrels for a year after which the wines are blended and then aged an additional 18 months in large oak barrels. After bottling, the wine spends an additional 8 months in the bottle prior to release.
The 2012 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Classico is a true pleasure to drink. It is dark plum in color and a gentle swishing of the glass releases raisiny, dark fruit and sweet spice aromas. While young by Amarone standards, the 2012 is already poised and elegant, rich and full-bodied with a velvety mouthfeel. Its sweet dark fruit, dried cherry and coffee flavors are infused with subtle notes of vanilla and oak while discrete acidity and fine tannins provide balance and structure. The lengthy finish has some intriguing candied fruit and kitchen spice notes.
The 2012 Amarone comes in a stylish opaque black bottle embossed with the Cesari name and crest. It is in the best Italian tradition of combining stylish craftsmanship with marketing prowess.
The wine’s aromas and flavors may be shy and reticent even an hour after the bottle is opened. To taste the wine at its best my recommendation is to let the wine breathe for 2 to 3 hours and decant before serving.
Like other Amarone wines the 2012 Cesari Amarone Classico is cellar-worthy and its depth of flavors will evolve and become more intriguing each year over the next 8 to 10 years.
This full-bodied red is best when paired with robust dishes like wild game, braised beef, full-flavored cheeses like Gorgonzola and Pecorino Romano, any dish with truffles or caviar as well as a homely dish of dried fruit and nuts.
October 8, 2016
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