The staff at Vino was very pleased to see Passum Grappa (pictured right) in last week’s edition of New York.
“If you’re stuffed,” wrote Rima Suqi in “Thanksgiving without Tears” (“Best Bets”), “a post-dinner snifter of a digestivo will help quiet your stomach… Passum Grappa.”
Passum Grappa is distilled using the pomace (skins and pulp) of grapes that have been pressed to make Passum, widely regarded as the top dried-grape Barbera d’Asti (Piemonte). Represented by the artist’s “p” on the bottle, passum was the Romans’ word for passiti or dried-grape wines. After the Barbera grapes are harvested for the wine, they are dried for up to three months before pressing. Their concentrated sugar makes for a deeply colored and intensely flavored sweet wine, high in alcohol and opulent in the mouth. After a second pressing, the sugar-rich pomace is transformed into a sublime distillate, subtly yet distinctly fragranced, complex in the mouth with multiple layers of flavor.
Winemaker Maria Borio of the Cascina Castle’t winery (Asti, Piedmont) is one of the Italian wine world’s leading women producers. A vibrant, colorful woman, she is known for her creative artist labels and her superior wines, often cited among the best Barbera to hail from Asti.
To purchase Passum Grappa from Cascina Castle’t, please click here.
Fri. & Sat., November 24-25
Gift Pack Tasting
FREE Fri., 5:30-7:30 – Sat. 4:30-6:30 @ Vino
This week’s tastings will feature a variety of wines from the Vino Gift Packs. Please stop by and taste the wines (and maybe even a Negroni!) with us.
Please note that the wines will vary on both days.
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Amarone: Recioto That Got Away
Vino’s Wine Director Charles Scicolone is traveling in Italy for the next few weeks, tasting wines and meeting with some of our favorite producers. Please check back soon for his Wine Opinion.
Although one of Italy’s most coveted and collected wines, Amarone della Valpolicella remains one of the world’s most misunderstood. Made primarily from Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes (indigenous varieties grown exclusively in the Veneto), Amarone — a blended, dried-grape wine made in a dry style — represents a unique winemaking tradition in the panorama of Italian viticulture.
Before pressing, the grapes are dried on straw mats (see dried Corvina grapes pictured right). The winemaker then vinifies each variety separately before tasting and blending according to vintage characteristics to evoke the estate’s style.
Amarone is a remarkably powerful and long-lived wine and has been known to age for upwards of 40 and 50 years if made properly and cellared well. It is traditionally paired with hearty stews (in particular the famous pastissada, a horse-meal stew, a specialty of Verona).
The word Amarone comes from the Italian amaro or “bitter.” The first known reference to the wine as “Amarone” dates back to the 1930s (Amarone appears on an invoice for wine sent to a purchaser in Udine in Friuli by the Cantina Sociale della Valpolicella). Before its appearance, Recioto, made similarly to Amarone but in a sweet style, was the top wine of Valpolicella.
The term recioto comes from recia, Venetian dialect for “ear” (orecchia in Italian): the grapes used to make Recioto are taken from the “ears” of the vine, in other words, the top bunches that enjoy the best exposure and become ripe sooner than the others. For Recioto, fermentation is stopped so that much of the sugar remains and a sweet wine is created.
Legend holds that an absent-minded winemaker in Valpolicella neglected his Recioto’s fermentation, forgetting to stop it (in the olden days, winemakers stopped fermentation by opening the cellar doors and allowing cool air to enter). When he realized what had happened, fermentation had completed, all of the sugar had been consumed by the yeast, and a dry wine had been created. Thus was born what was called a recioto scapa’ in Venetian dialect (recioto scappato in Italian): the recioto that “got away.”
A more plausible explanation of Amarone’s origins points to the fact that during Italy’s period of industrialization in the 1920s and 30s, Italian tastes began to change and Italian winemaking styles began to emulate the drier style of Bordeaux and Burgundy where vintners had been making dry wines for centuries. Most Italian wine was vinified as sweet wine until that time because the wine was easier to conserve. Count Camillo Cavour in Barolo and Baron Bettino Ricasoli in Chianti (united Italy’s first two prime ministers, both winemakers!) were among the first to begin making wines inspired by the dry French style as early as the mid-nineteenth century.
Whether the result of a recioto that “got away” or a natural evolution of a local wine tradition, Amarone stands apart as one of the world’s greatest wines. Its power is unique and its ability to age exceptional. As Vino’s Wine Director Charles Scicolone has pointed out on numerous occasions, Amarone is one of the best wines to pair with holiday meals. Its flavors are so intense that they stand up to “all the trimmings,” yet its tannin and structure so rich that it pairs gorgeously with the heavy main courses of wintry celebrations.
The following wines are just some of Vino’s current selection of Amarone.
Capitel Sant’Eugenio is a label created for this country by the famed Galli family, who produces traditional-style Amarone that is never aged in barrique.
Begali is a small, family-run, artisanal producer. Its excellent wines are done in a moderately modern style, bringing out the classic characterstics of Amarone with spicy overtones.
Adored by American wine writers, Allegrini is the undisputed king of modern-style Amarone. Its wines are luscious, opulent, and simply delicious.
As is made clear by this flight of single-vineyard Amarone stretching back to 1988 (see below), Boscaini is a traditional-style producer that makes long-lived wines. These wines are a classic example of how Amarone achieves a lightness in mouthfeel while retaining its powerful flavors. Look for subtle secondary and teritiary notes in the 1990 and 1988.