A Valentine's Day Ode to Amarone

Why drink Amarone on Valentines Day? Have you ever stared at a glass of this classic Italian wine from the Veneto, the land of Romeo and Juliet? Its blood red hue --achieved through fermenting dried corvina, rondinella and molinara -- is the color of passion, desire, seduction and thirst. It clings to the side of the glass when you give it a swirl. If you allow your nose to hover over the glass’s bowl, it is filled with aromas of plums, chocolate, black pepper, espresso and earth. Then there is the name, Amarone, (pronounced: a-mar-oh-nay), which sounds so close to amore, the Italian word for “love,” but actually has its roots in amaro, the Italian word for “bitter,” as if to remind us that the two feelings almost always come in pairs. Plus, if you handle Amarone with care, the best bottles will last a century or more.

While I can’t help you find the perfect mate, or even Valentine’s Day date, in recent years it has gotten much simpler to pick a terrific Amarone. In 2011, after decades of overproduction that led to vastly uneven quality among estates, twelve top-tier producers banded together to create an association called the Amarone Families, dedicated to excellence and the preservation of region’s distinctive artisanal winemaking traditions. These producers are voluntarily holding themselves to stricter standards than required by the DOCG. The families include: Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Masi, Musella, Nicolis, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venturini and Zenato.

If you don’t remember these names, all bottles of wine produced by the Amarone Families are all marked with a hologram of the letter “A”. There is an adage in wine that you can judge a producer by the quality of their entry-level offerings. This is particularly true of the Masi Costasera, Tenuta Sant’Antonio Selezione Antonio Castagnedi and all the producers who founded the Amarone Families.