Amarone: a rich red wine that pairs perfectly with winter dishes

You can expect to pay about €50 for a bottle of good amarone from the Veneto region of Italy; here’s why it is worth it

A visit to the venerable house of Masi in Valpolicella, which was celebrating its 250th anniversary, provided proof that quality amarone ages very well. We tasted 35 wines, some single vineyard, covering seven decades. The 1958 and the 1990 were just two of many highlights. Sandro Boscaini, the fifth generation of the family, has fought for decades to ensure that the name amarone is not abused by inferior, inexpensive wines.

Our wine shops and supermarkets are full of wines labelled “appassimento”. These wines are made using grapes that have been dried for a period to increase sugar levels and therefore alcohol, as well as intensifying flavour. The percentage of dried grapes used and the length of time spent drying varies. As the grapes dry they lose volume, so producers have an interest in keeping the drying period short.

The original appassimento is recioto della valpolicella, a sweet wine. Amarone is the dry version. It is made only in the Valpolicella zone of northwest Italy, west of Verona, using local grape varieties. Quality producers will dry their grapes on straw mats for an extended period, usually up to three months, losing 30-40 per cent of their weight, before gently pressing and then fermenting the juice. Cheaper wines, both in Valpolicella and elsewhere, may have only a few weeks’ drying.

You can expect to pay about €50 for a bottle of good Amarone. It will typically have about 15 per cent alcohol. Ripasso is a halfway house, made by refermenting a valpolicella wine on used amarone skins. It has some of the richness of an amarone and the fruit of a valpolicella. The Masi campofiorin was the first ripasso, although they no longer use the term on the label.


Traditionally amarone is enjoyed at the end of a meal with some aged Parmesan, possibly some gorgonzola, and crackers. However, it goes perfectly with a wide range of cold-weather dishes, including roast red meats, game, rich pasta dishes and risotto, including risotto all’amarone.

There is no shortage of alternatives to Masi; producers such as Allegrini, Stefano Accordini, Zenato, Tedeschi, Quintarelli, Terri di Pietra, Musella, Rizzardi, Ca’ Rugate and Corte Sant’Alda Cantina Negrar, Tommasi, all make high-quality amarone.

Specially Selected Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2019

13.5 per cent, €9.99

Smooth lightly spicy red cherry fruits. Tomato-based pasta dishes and pizza.

From Aldi

Masi Campofiorin 20, Rosso del Veronese

13 per cent, €18.99, €16 on promotion

Smooth elegant red cherry fruits with a spicy, earthy edge.

Widely available in independent wine shops, and O’Briens, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Centra, Tesco, Carry Out

Masi Costasera Amarone Classico, 2017 — current vintage

15 per cent, €49.99, €40 on promotion

Rich and smooth with slightly raisined plums and red cherries, and subtle milk chocolate.

Widely available in independent wine shops, and O’Briens, Dunnes Stores, SuperValu, Centra, Tesco, Carry Out

Tedeschi Marne 180 Amarone della Valpolicella 2018

16.5 per cent, €55

Rich, dark, smooth morello cherries and raisins with subtle vanilla. With aged parmesan or a roast beef.

From: Blackrock Cellar, Deveney’s; Jus de Vine, La Touche Wines, Nectar Wines, World Wide Wines Waterford