Monday Musings: Amarone, Grana Padano

This Monday I am feeling happy. Partly because of the election certification, partly because of the vaccine’s arrival on US shores and partly because it’s the holidays and most of my family is fine. That’s no small deal in this crazy year and I take nothing for granted. To celebrate, I had a glass or two of a beautiful wine, an Amarone della Valpolicella from Sartori di Verona.

Amarone comes from the Veneto, specifically from the area of Valpolicella. In the 4th century after Christ, Cassiodorus, a minister of Theodoric king of the Visigoths, described in a letter, a wine obtained with a special grape-drying technique. It was then called “Acinatico” and produced in a territory known under the name of Valpolicella (according to some people this name would came from Latin “Vallis-polis-cellae” and might mean “valleys with many cellars”) . Acinatico was without any doubts a forefather of Amarone. In the past they only wine produced in Valpolicella was Recioto, a sweet velvety wine (whose name comes from the vernacular word “recia, meaning “ear” because originally only the upper and better exposed part of the bunches were used).

As time went by, owing to fermentation, the grapes started giving a much drier wine, rather bitter. Such was the birth of Amarone that owes its name to the characteristic bitterness and was first bottled in the early years of the 20th century for family use or for friends; it was put on the market only after the Second World War and in 1968 it received the controlled designation of origin (DOC).

Veneto Map

Grapes are dried for 90 to 120 days and can be hung on stings, or laid out on arele or put into crates then put into Fruttaio. the grapes lose 35-40% of their water which concentrates sugars, aromas, polyphenols. Air conditioning systems operating at the same temperature of the traditional drying process is sometimes allowed during the crucial period of drying in situations if humidity could damage the grapes compromising their soundness. Grapes are then destemmed and crushed, put into  fermenting vats for 30-40 days of maceration and then Amarone is drawn off and aged in oak.

The Sartori aroma is a blend of 50% Corvina which brings Structure, Aroma, Softness and 30% Corvinone – which adds aromatic complexity, spice, structure, tannin, 15% Rondinella that adds color, sapidity, and is disease resistant, and 5% Oseleta which is good for drying, adds color, disease resistant, and structure. The Sartori family has a long history, since 1898, but their wines are a classic, modern interpretation of Amarone. The Amarone from Corte Bra will be considered a Riserva from the next vintage. It had great notes of black and red fruit, bramble, dried herbs and layers of cider earth. The tannins were fine and silky.

The grapes for this wine came from the “Corte Brà” estate and were carefully selected, put into small plastic crates and dried in well ventilated rooms for about 3-4 months. They fermented in stainless steel tanks for 30 days, malolactic fermentation then takes place in concrete. Aged in medium- and small-sized oak casks for about 4 years + 6 months in the bottle, the grapes grow on clay, calcareous soils.

It was a wonderful wine with my penne alla bolognese and was perfect with some cheese that arrived as a gift this weekend. I received a beautiful package, filled with cheeses from Northern Italy from I have written about the Montasio but not yet about some of the other wonderful fresh and aged cheeses that were included. Today’s cheese is Grana Padano, a PDO made from raw cow’s milk. It comes from five regions in the North. There are three versions: aged from 10 to 16 months, aged over 16 months and Riserva Oro del Tempo over 20 months.

The manufacturing tradition of Grana Padano cheese has been passed down for centuries. Created in 1954, the Consorzio Tutela Grana Padano protects the cheese which was given Protected Designation of Origin status by the European Union in 1996. Grana Padano at many parts of the meal but with this Amarone, it was a perfect end to this day. An excellent end of the meal and a perfect end to a long day.

Today’s charity:

The only sad thing today is that it is the 8th anniversary of the massacre of elementary school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Together with a few other days, that ranks among the worst things I have ever heard of and being a mom to an elementary school child, I think of those families very often. Some of the parents created an amazing organization called Sandy Hook Promise. I donate to them often. I hope you join me in supporting their important work.

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