It's been a while. I'm afraid I've been busy enjoying myself! The last 2 weekends have been all about the wife and I celebrating entry in to our 4th decade. Our birthdays are 6 days apart, so a normal year is busy. This being our 30th, was even more so. We've been very lucky to have full weekends with both sides of our respective families. This has meant that, although I've drunk some great wines in this time, I have had little time for writing anything about wine at all.
So, to get back in the writing saddle, so to speak, i'll start with a quick wine review.
I was given a bottle of wine last week, not necessarily as a birthday present, but a gift nonetheless. I know little about Italian wines, other than the famous international names likes Barolo, Barbaresco and Chianti, and so hadn't come across this one before. The wine in question was an Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico. The reason for this unexpected gift was actually for my opinion, with the main question being asked; is it worth it?!
So the story goes, a friend of this friend buys 'Amorone' at £40 to £50 a bottle, and raves about it. So having spotted an 'Amarone' in Lidl, at half that price (approximately £20), the friend asks me if it's any good. Now, as described above, I know relatively little about Italian wines, so I decided to do a bit of investigating.
The internet tells me that: Amarone Della Valpolicella is a wine-producing sub-region in Northern Italy. It is part of the larger, classified region of Veneto, surrounding Verona. According to Wikipedia, AdV (as I'll call it for ease) was classified as a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in 1990, and upgraded to a DOCG (added Guarantee) in 2009. The Classico addition to the label means that it comes from a smaller, more traditional area, renowned for making this style of wine, and should denote better quality. As can be seen on this particular bottle of wine, it may have been made just before the re-classification to DOCG, as the 'G' is missing from it's title.
So, the 2009 AdV from Tenuta Pule (pictured above), should have been made from grapes that were left to dry, post harvest, in a shed (or similar container/housing). This could have been anything from a couple of weeks, to several months. The purpose of this process is to reduce the water content in the grapes, and therefore concentrate the sugars and the, some might say more important, flavour and aroma compounds also. This should result in a fuller-bodied, concentrated and very aromatic wine, that has a higher-than-normal alcohol level.
Having researched this wine, I was quite excited about trying an AdV for the first time. I like fuller bodied red wines, with pungent noses and fruit-bomb palates, so this sounded right up my street!
Upon opening the bottle, and pouring, the wine actually seemed a little thin-bodied and flat.The initial nose didn't reveal much at all, and the first taste was quite disappointing. I sensed sweetness on the nose, and the alcohol stood out on the palate. At this point, I happened to be chatting to my Dad on the phone, and naively relayed this to him. As it turns out, I should have waited a little longer before judging it. After about half an hour, maybe a little longer, the wine opened-up. I'm normally one for decanting and waiting for wines, so i don't know why I was in such a hurry on this occasion!? The wine developed a quite complex nose, of blackberries, sweet cherries, green peppers, a hint of vanilla, but, most of all, sweet violets! This was actually really lovely. On the palate, the wine had a good texture, medium to full-bodied. The sweet fruit flavours had a jammy quality that I could imagine a lot of people wouldn't like, if they're into lighter reds. I think this wine had a lot of residual sugar, which gives the taste a slightly port-like quality. The finish was fairly long and lingering, with a little of that green pepper spice. In my opinion, the alcohol was a little overpowering on the palate, and in the finish. The balance of soft tannins (not too chewy at all) and acidity was good, but the alcohol dominated. This is an unfortunate downside for this wine. I liked it, but it's not quite there!
Back to the original question, "is it worth it?". Well, I was a little disappointed. I've tasted big Aussie Shiraz, and this AdV didn't have the same concentrated fruit flavours at all, it delivered on the nose (eventually) but not in flavour. I was expecting much more from this wine. I think this was probably down to it's billing, and the research I'd done. Maybe this was wrong of me?! Having said that, £20 is a fair amount to be spending on a bottle of wine. I would say that if you're spending that much per bottle, you want it to be a little bit special. I have plenty of bottles in the cellar, that I would say are better than this AdV, and cost (a little) less than £20! We should also remember that this wine came from Lidl, which, as I understand it, should be providing it's patrons with value, at lower prices!
To conclude then, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this wine. It is perfectly drinkable, and has some excellent points to it when considering the complexity of aromas on the nose. It went particularly well with a rump steak and chips! However, I don't really think it's worth it's supposed price-tag of £20. If I'd bought this for £8-£10, I'd be pretty pleased with myself. I wouldn't feel hard-done-by if I'd have paid £15 for it. £20 though, in my opinion, is a touch too much. I can only assume that the original 'Amarone' that started this mini-saga, which cost over £40, must have been from a different producer. From what I've read, these wines have the potential to be quite exquisite, and also as age-worthy as the best Cabernet from Bordeaux. I hope that I may have the fortune to try one of these some day. But, for now, I shall simply thank my friend for giving me a lovely bottle of wine! To me, it was free, and therefore, was absolutely worth every bit of it!!