Even though the scorching 2003 vintage was considered difficult in most of Italy, it appears to have produced at least one pocket of excellence. Amarone, the Veneto’s robust red that is made from dried grapes, fared surprisingly well and many are calling it “an excellent, albeit rare vintage.” 2003 Amarone was presented by the Consorzio di Tutela dei Vini Valpolicella at an anteprima tasting held in Verona Feb 9-11.
“2003 represents a higher notch in a collective, upward spiral in quality,” said Consorzio President Emilio Pedron. “This vintage will help achieve the market consolidation that we need so badly.” He said 2003 produced 35 million pounds of dried grapes, which yields 8 million bottles of Amarone. In comparison, 2006 (also “excellent”) produced 52 million pounds of dried grapes.
Agronomist Paolo Fiorini detailed climatic conditions for 2003: “The hot, African air in the spring destroyed many flowers resulting in lower yields. In September, wide differences between nighttime and daytime temperatures helped achieve a beautiful evolution of color and concentration.” He said vineyards in flatland areas experienced heat stress but, overall, producers who dropped fruit had excellent results. “In Amarone, drought equals health and the hot conditions assured that no mold formed and that the grapes were healthy during appassimento.”
Amarone is expected to receive a DOCG (it is currently a DOC) classification and Mr. Pedron said that several measures were being implemented to ease the transition. For one, all Amarone must be bottled within the appellation zone. In addition, Ripasso is now an official category of Valpolicella: It can’t be released before one year after the harvest and the word “Ripasso” cannot appear bigger than the word “Valpolicella” on the label. Many produced did not make Amarone in 2002 because of rain and hail and the 2003 wines are being released now until September in the U.S.
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