If you somehow had stumbled upon my Instagram (carol forest aka drunken.dragon) this summer, you may had spotted my visit at the beautiful Musella Winery, and my summery walk through of their experimental yet traditional wine making process with Maddalena in their vineyard and cellar.
When one hear about the word “Amarone”, most would related it to “heavy” “sweet” “high alcohol” “too much for summer”etc. it is indeed one of the most peculiar collectible wines in the world. Sometimes big, sometimes elegant, and often deceptively both.
Created through the appassimento process, where Grapes such as corvina and Rondinella are laid to dry for several months post-harvest and pre-fermentation, Amarone, literally means “the Great Bitter” in Italian, (which originally was named to distinguish it from the Recioto produced in the same region, which is sweeter in taste) is nothing bitter about it. The wine’s dark herbaceous tones with the impression of sweetness from alcohol makes its a unique wine to taste.
History of Amarone
Amarone’s birth was actually quite recent. Legend has it that Amarone came into being when a forgotten barrel of Recioto della Valpolicella (which is made of raisinated grapes, a way of wine making in the Veneto area since the 5th century ) continued to ferment to dryness. Traditionally, a Recioto did not require any action on the part of a winemaker to maintain its sweetness. The yeasts, overwhelmed by high sugar and alcohol levels, would simply stop metabolizing or die, especially during the colder months. Amarone did not exist as a commercial wine until the 1950s, when producers such as Bolla and Bertani brought the category to market. Over the following decades, Amarone continued to earn a reputation as one of Italy’s signature red wines and gaining international recognition especially a few great artisan families continued refining the appassimento tradition.
A Musella Night
It was my honor to present to some of the HK collectors their amarone wines with the amazing “witch” of Biodynamic – Maddalena & Roberto Pasqua di Bisceglie from Musella, sharing their winemaking passion and savoir-faire, at the Grand Hyatt Steak House thanks to the team of Julien Peros.
We were also there to celebrate the launch of this rare 900 bottles only Senza Titolo Amarone 2009 Landing in Hong Kong, presented side by side with their good friends, madda’s mentors Quintarelli and Dal Forno Romano (which I also had a chance visiting the amazing king, Dal Forno Romano this summer and learning their meticulous way of winemaking). If you know how great these two wineries are (some may say they are the DRC of Amarone, or even in Italy) you would know how brave, how confident of Madda and how proud it is for Musella to be served them side by side with these 2 giants (all 2009).
To me, it was quite personal, and as well, for quite a few guests coming to the dinner. It was to explore the stylistic differences between these 3 houses, (for the “traditionists” so they were called, Quintarelli and Senza Titolo, élevage took place in large Slavonian oak botti, leaving a diminished impact of wood on the Amarone. ncorporate new barrels into their program. While “mordernist” Dal Forno using French and American oak barrique, famously ages their wines in 100% new ones, medium toasted). A great opportunity to discover what people’s loves in an amarone with different way of winemaking and the result was definitely interesting.
Some prefer the full-on luscious well structured Dal Forno and some (mostly burgundy lovers) were totally in love with the elegant and stylish, easily accessable Senza Titolo from Musella as well loving the always surreal and soulful Quintarelli, which to me, wasn’t showing it full best during the night, a bit shut down despite it was opened since 3pm (6 hours+ before consumption). These 3 wines are all very different in style which tailor to different palates.
For the Musella Amarone Riserva we had 2006/2007/2011, most enjoyed the 2007 very much, I did as well and 2011 was fresh and fruit forward would be amazing to see how it will age. Wines were fab and crowd were having lots of fun with there amarone Riserva, and one thing I noticed, no one ever complains about the “high alcohol content of roughly 16%”; when wine is balance, with great concentration and tannins, a few degree of alcohol may only be a topics for Somms.
Amarone is a wine deserves great respect. It’s such a labor intensive (taking longer appassimento process from 80-120 days) and expensive (losing a lot of grape mass from drying ) wine to produce, especially when some of the great Amarone Riserva are only selling at those humble USD 40 price point makes this tradition not making sense in today wine making world. A lot may say this indeed is a meditation wine that best consume alone, a wine for reflection, I concur.
Musella’s amarone Riserva is indeed a hidden gem with great QPV. Surely doesn’t hurt to have a great night of enjoyment by this artisan anytime anywhere (Musella Amarone Riserva 2007 around USD 60 / Senza Titolo 2009 at USD 120 / Quintarelli and Dal Forno Amarone 2009 at around USD 250-300/bottle).
Musella can be found at Watson’s Wine in HK