What are DOCG Italian wines?
DOCG is the abbreviation for \"Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita\". The origin of DOCG wines is regulated by the Italian government and guaranteed. Compared to DOC wines (\"Denominazione di Origine Controllata\" – wine of designated origin), DOCG wines are classed in the premium segment of the Italian wine industry in terms of quality. DOCG wines must be bottled within their respective winegrowing region, and transport in tanks prior to bottling is strictly prohibited. DOGC status is designated with corresponding banderoles.
There are currently about 70 wines in Italy with DOCG status. In addition to Amarone and three Recioto variations, there are nine other wines in the Venetian region with this status.
The birth of Amarone – an Recioto wine fault
The production of Amarone begins with drying the grapes – the so-called Appassimento takes up to 120 days. Originally this was only practiced in particularly good years in order to produce Recioto - the ultimate wine delicacy of the Valpolicella region. The high-alcohol Recioto has a fruity-sweet aroma similar to portwine. In contrast to Portwine, however, no sugar is added to Recioto in order to keep it sweet and end the fermentation process. Its sweetness derives from the immense concentration of sugar that results from the dessicated grapes. Amarone was created when an error in the production of Recioto occurred. The oldest known Amarone was first mentioned on a shipping document in 1938, and it was officially declared as such on a cask from 1940. The first winery bottling of Amarone began in 1953.
Amarone was first marketed – in Canada?
In the 1930s, a cask of Reciota resumed fermentation in the largest vintner cooperation of winegrowing region Valpolicella Classico - which reduced the residual sugar to only a few grams. Although the vintners had already experienced this sort of undesirable fermentation, it usually only ‘ruined’ small quantities of wine. But this time it affected a cask filled with several thousand litres – instead of the sweet Recioto, they were left with an ultra-heavy, almost dry red wine with an alcohol content between 15 and 16 percent. Ruined Recioto had previously been vernacularized with the term \"Recioto amaro\" – bitter sweet wine. The ‘new’ Italian red wine was therefore given the name Amarone and set to be marketed as quickly as possible. The Valpolicella vintners finally found an eager and enthusiastic market for their product in a country with a large Italian expatriate population: Canada.
More mellow, well-rounded Amarones - modified production process
Even many wine connoisseurs can have their differences with an Amarone at first. The wine is full-bodied and very ripe; it is rich in tannins and has a simultaneously sweet and bitter finish. After the fermentation process, Amarones are matured in oak casks for a minimum of two but often as long as six years. Once in the bottle, some of them can be stored for several decades. Good Amarones have a creamy texture with complex aromas of fruit, tangy notes, tobacco or chocolate. Poor quality versions, in contrast, are distinctly tannin-heavy and taste (too) strongly of alcohol.
Especially newer generations of Amarone producers have embraced the modified process: Before the process of alcoholic fermentation begins, the grapes steep in their own juice, which gently extracts their aroma. Physical agitation of the mash is kept to a minimum during the fermentation process, and the wine is matured in casks made of Slovenian oak, which exude almost no vanilla aromas and can hold up to 5000 litres. Amarones made with this process exhibit a higher fruit intensity and a finer tannin structure. While they too are complex and tangy, they are more mellow, full-bodied and well-rounded than Amarones made with the traditional method.