by Lake Khera for Noble Estates.
Photo credit: Erika Mirabelli.
It almost seems like a natural reflex: chilled rosés in the warmer months, and more substantial reds when the snow begins to fall. In the cold months, we want wines that warm from the inside out. This is the time of year we seek out those wines that give us the same sense of completeness as the cozy fireplace we drink them next to, and the good company we share them with.
It is no surprise that Amarone has come to be the classic holiday red. Known for its exceptional intensity of flavour and colour, it is the perfect accompaniment to hearty holiday fare. Its long-term cellaring ability also makes it a popular and always welcomed gift for any wine lover.
Because the grapes are semi-dried before pressing, losing 30-40% of their weight, these wines can be quite costly to make. However, it is this same drying process – known as apassimento in Italian – that gives Amarone its characteristic depth and richness.
Just in time for the first frost, we were graced with a visit from Riccardo Tedeschi of Fratelli Tedeschi, whose family has been a renowned producer of wines in the Valpolicella region for over four centuries. He was paired up with our friends at Rowan Oak Catering to create the most rib-sticking holiday pairing for a few tastings we hosted around the Toronto area.
Tedeschi’s Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Vintages#: 433417, $42.95 /750 ml) – a Vintages Essential, meaning that a constant supply is available year-round – was the pour of the day. An amazing value for the quality, this Amarone consistently over delivers bottle after bottle and year after year. Keep an eye out for their Capitel Monte Olmi – a single-vineyard version made from one of Tedeschi’s prime plots (Vintages# 964403, $79.95 /750ml). Forty cases of the anticipated 2009 are currently available through Vintages Classics.
Chef Erika Mirabelli of Rowan Oak cooked us Amarone Braised Short Ribs with Thyme and Butter Braised Mushroom Parmesan Polenta Cubes with an Amarone Reduction. This recipe was created specifically with the Tedeschi Amarone in mind. The deep, raisin like flavours of Amarone are in perfect harmony with the rich low-notes that have been coaxed from the beef through low and slow cooking. Crispy cubes of Parmesan-laden polenta aren’t just a vehicle for what’s on top, but add another layer of texture and a delicate nuttiness that runs throughout every bite.
For those looking for a red to pour at a holiday party that is perhaps too big to share your precious Amarone with, think about trying one of Tedeschi’s more modestly-priced offerings available now at Vintages. Capitel dei Nicalò (Vintages#: 984997, $17.95 /750ml) is made using a similar blend of grapes as Amarone, but the apassimento process is significantly shorter. Capitel San Rocco is a “ripasso” wine, meaning that the flavour and aroma-rich skins and seeds left over from Amarone production are used to give this wine an added complexity. Currently available in magnum format (Vintages#: 424549, $44.95 /1500ml), the 2013 vintage was released on December 12th in standard format (Vintages#: 719294, $21.95 /750ml).
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