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2008 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella vertical tasting

02262008.jpgI’m pretty excited about some of the tastings I’ll be attending at this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival… most of all the one I participated in today, the Bertani Amarone Vertical. I’ll let their words do the talking:

Carefully selected grape bunches are hand-harvested in Bertani’s best Valpolicella vineyards in Fumane, Marano and the Novare Valley. Unlike most leading Amarone producers, who buy grapes from outside growers, Bertani’s harvest originates entirely in the firm’s own vineyards. With their marly-calcerous soil sheltered by surrounding woodland, these vineyards offer the ideal terroir for nurturing the quality of grapes necessary for producing a world-class Amarone. Light appetizers will be served at the end of the tasting, which takes guests all the way back to the 1964 vintage.

That’s 1964 people… I can’t say I’ve ever had a wine older than me, so I was pretty worked up over the chance to taste these wines. What can I say? They lived up to my expectations.

Bertani has been around in the Verona area of Italy since 1857 and started making Amarone somewhere back around 1957 (the presentation at the tasting mentioned 1957, ’58 and ’59). I knew that Amarone is made from choice grapes (for Bertani this is usually a blend of 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella) dried on mats for up to 4 months, but I didn’t know that after a 50-day fermentation in glass-lined cement vats, they spend 6 years – many of the older wines spent 10 years or more – in large (5,000 litre) Slovenian oak barrels before being bottled and spending another year aging at the winery before release.

02272008.jpgToday, Lorenzo from the winery took us through wines from the 2000, 1990, 1983, 1975, 1973, 1967 and 1964 vintages. All of them had a still-vibrant red colour with a slight brick-ish orange edge to the older ones. Here are my quick notes:

2000 vintage: The youngest of the bunch and still tight. The nose was all spicy violets, raisins and cherry. The tasty flavours showed intense spicy cherry candy along with licorice spice leading into a firm tannic finish. (4 – 4.5 stars)

1990 vintage: The nose was a sexy mix of dark plum, ripe cherry and spice. The flavours were spicy dark cherry, leather and dark chocolate-coated raisins, which lead into a cherry brandy finish. Tasty stuff! (4.5 stars)

1983 vintage: An intense and perfectly-aged nose of dark chocolate, raisin and licorice-edged dark cherry cola. The flavours were soft dark cherry fruit with leather and spice. Complex stuff. (4.5 stars)

1975 vintage: Pretty different from the ’83… it actually seemed younger. Its nose was a fresh and intense mix of plum, raisin, walnut/cherry liqueur and spice. At this point I was thinking, “Jesus, I love Amarone!“. The flavours pretty much mirrored the nose with walnuts, cherry liqueur and bitter chocolate with a finish that went on for minutes. (4.5 stars)

1973 vintage: This actually seemed younger than the ’75… Its nose had a schwack of cherry brandy, prune and a meaty edge to its spice. Wow. Still young! Complex and sexy. (4.5 stars)

1967 vintage: The wine seemed to really change with the next 2… there were new layers of flavours and aromas. The fruit started to disappear a bit, being replaced with the leather, nut, spice and herbs. This was one gorgeous bunch of grape juice! There was a distinct walnut edge to the cherry brandy and the long luxurious finish. I want to drink this every day. (4.5 – 5 stars)

1964 vintage: This one was really interesting. I got a bit of burnt rubber on the nose… of course it also had the cherry brandy/raisin thing going on, but the nuts, tobacco, leather and spice were really evident. I loved it.

In order, here are my picks:

  1. 1967
  2. 1964
  3. 1973
  4. 1983
  5. 1990
  6. 1975
  7. 2000

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit the folks at Bertani when I’m in the Verona area at the beginning of April. I’d love to see what else they have stored away. I’ll say it again. I love Amarone.

The wines are available in Vancouver through Select Wine Merchants Ltd. (www.selectwines.ca). The prices for these ones? Well, let’s just say that if you have to ask…

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