Friday, September 28, 2012

American "Amarone" - a bitter drink indeed

I understand everyone needs to make a living. And in America, where free speech is sacrosanct, her citizens have the right to say almost anything. This wine label, however, is misleading, and according to Italian law has been made approximately 6000 miles outside the legal area of production. Let’s take a look at the information from the web site of the winery situated in Texas that has produced this beverage, which they call an American "Amarone":

"This glorious Amarone made with Corvina grapes was partially fermented on the skins for 45 days before being allowed to finish the fermentation in French oak barrels. The aroma has notes of raisins, cherries and toasted oak. The wine has flavors of tobacco and fig, and goes well with game and ripe cheese. Hannibal of Silence of the Lambs fame, of course, had his with fava beans. In the movie version, they had him drinking the more pedestrian Chianti wine type. Try it with stews but because of its richness, it also goes well with cheeses, salads and antipasti. It is one of the great wines to use with light game such as wild boar, venison, pork, and antelope because despite its rich fruity flavor it has the right qualities to cut through and clean the taste of game."

"While some styles of Amarone can be very bitter (that's where the name comes from), newer styles like ours are more fruity. Our Amarone has soft tannins and alcohol of around 14%."

Let’s take a look at the articles 1,2 3 and 7 of Italian laws governing the production of wines named Amarone:

Art. 1
The controlled appellation of origin “Amarone della Valpolicella” already registered as DOC with the DPR 21st August 1968, is reserved to wines meeting the requirements of the following production regulations for the types of wine: “Amarone della Valpolicella” also with specifications “Classico”, “Valpantena” and “Riserva”.

Art.2  - Amarone Grape Varietals
Wines with appellation of origin controlled and guaranteed “Amarone della Valpolicella” must be obtained by a blend of grapes in the following percentages:
- Corvina Veronese (Cruina or Corvina) between 45% and 95%. It is nevertheless allowed a percentage of Corvinone up to 50% in substitution to a similar percentage of Corvina.
- Rondinella between 5% and 30%.

Art. 3 – Amarone Production Territory *
Production area of wines with controlled and guaranteed denomination “Amarone della Valpolicella” includes all or part of the territory of the municipality of: Marano, Fumane, Negrar, S. Ambrogio, S. Pietro in Cariano, Dolce, Verona, San Martino Buon Albergo, Lavagno, Mezzane, Tregnago, Illasi, Colognola ai Colli, Cazzano di Tramigna, Grezzana, Cerro Veronese, San Mauro di Saline and Montecchia di Crosara. Vineyards for the production of “Amarone della Valpoliella” wines should be listed in the DOCG Register.
The production area of wines with controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin “Amarone della Valpolicella” with the specification “Classico” includes the municipality of Negrar, Marano, Fumane, Sant’Ambrogio. S. Pietro in Cariano.

( *Note: Nowhere does it say vineyards in California, Virginia or Texas)

Art.7 Amarone Labeling
1) On the label of wines of the appellation of origin controlled and guaranteed “Amarone della Valpolicella” it is forbidden to add any specification beside those allowed by this production regulation, including worlds such as: “extra”, “fine”, “selected”, etc.
2) It is allowed the use of indications referring to names, companies, private brands and consortiums as long as they do not have any laudatory meaning and are not misleading for consumers.
3) On the label of wines “Amarone della Valpolicella” can be used the indication “vineyard” (vigna) as long as it is followed by the corresponding toponym, the specific vineyard is reported in the DOCG Register of vineyards and the drying, fermentation and ageing of the wine occurs in separated containers.
4) On the label of wines “Amarone della Valpolicella”, for all different typologies, it is mandatory to specify the vintage of the production of grapes.

Here’s what I have to say to winemakers in Texas or California or Italy:

If you want to make an Italian wine, make it in Italy.

 If you want to make a California wine, make it in California.

 And if you want to make wine in Texas, make it from Texas grapes, label it clearly and honestly, and for Heaven’s sake, never, ever try to sell Amarone, real or "imagined", by diminishing another wine (like Chianti). It is against the spirit of all we do and it is ineffably specious.

And when you do make a wine and label it "reserve" how about attaching a vintage to it? NV really doesn't cut the bacon.

Said from one who has made wine in Texas from Texas grapes and knows how bloody hard it is to do. But it is the right thing to do.

Texas, all y'all (who don't know any better) need to put on your big boy pants and get all yourself right with your Lord, your wine-making and your wine-naming. Do it soon.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Samantha Dugan said...

Amen. And there's no California Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis either....dammit.

Thomas said...

This is depressing.

tom hyland said...


Good for you to point this out. These people should be ashamed.

I thought there was a law against labeling such as this. For example, you can use the word fumé for a Sauvignon Blanc, but you can't label it Pouilly-Fumé.

How can they get away with this?

Thomas said...

Yeah, didn't the U.S. sign an agreement with the U.E. recently that put a atop to this kind of nonsense concerning new brands in America?

Call out the polizia vino.

SUAMW said...

"45 days"???

Wine Curmudgeon said...

Some U.S. producers were grandfathered in if they were using European terms when the agreement was signed with the EU in 2005. That's why Korbel can continue to call its sparkling wine Champagne. So if Landon was making a wine it called Amarone before then, it can continue to do so until it changes the label.

Also, until a very recent change by the TTB (last month, I think), no wine that is labeled American can have a vintage. That was federal law. The wine industry wanted to change it for just the reasons you cite.

Antiqua Tours said...

Damn straight!

The Wine Mule said...

I understand everyone's displeasure with the label. But unless I'm missing something, "Amarone" is a style, not an appellation. "della Valpolicella" is an appellation name, and as long as those words don't appear, what they're doing may be misleading, but does not violate any rules.

The Wine Mule said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think"Amarone" is a geographic designation. "della Valpolicella" is. So no rules are being broken. Which in no way lessens my distaste for the misleading use of the word.

In any event, the practice is self-defeating. Calling your product "Chablis" when it is not from Chablis is like hanging a sign on it that says "This wine is so inferior that we have to misrepresent its place of origin."

Unknown said...

Can anyone tell me who else does an Amarone in the US? Need to know for upcoming wine competition.

Anonymous said...

Daniel -

did you read the post or are you daft man?

You Americans need to learn to read.

-Geoffrey Tindwile

Steve Body said...

People here in the US can make any wine they care to and they can call it whatever they want. If this offends you, try not buying it. That'll show the uppity little twits a thing or two. SHOULD people call an American wine made by the Amarone method "Amarone"? Of course not. But it's no more deceptive than all those CA "Champagnes" sitting on shelves everywhere or Gallo "Hearty Burgundy" or all those California and Washington "Ports". And we all somehow survived those atrocities. In Oregon, Gino Cuneo chooses to call his Amarone-style wine "SeccoPassa". Has he now sinned against all these delicate sensibilities because he dared to borrow Italian terminilogy? If so, you might want to picket the Italian wineries calling their Primitivo "Zinfandel". The whole subject of this post is sorta silly. And, not incidentally, feckless. You're not going to change anything, so this is really sort of a tempest in a teapot, isn't it?

Alfonso Cevola said...

Feckless? That's kinda rude, Steve...

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