The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Nicolis and Dal Forno Romano

Posted on | March 10, 2016 | Written by Camacho Vidal | No Comments

CamachoThe first day of spring is soon approaching and I already have a list of wines I want to explore for the coming season. But in the meantime, I wanted to take advantage and pour some Amarone before the weather changes. Amarone and Valpolicciela come from the Veneto in the northeastern corner of Italy. Although sweet Recioto wine has been made in the area since Roman times, Amarone did not become popular until the 1950s, but in this short time it has become one of Italy’s great wines. Under the larger umbrella category of Amarone, there are five DOC classifications: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Superiore, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso, Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella. All must contain indigenous grapes Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella, but because of grape harvest time and production style, you get something different from each of the classifications.

Makers of Valpolicella almost always harvests the grapes, crushes and ferments them immediately. When producers make Amarone, on the other hand, they use the appassimento method, which means that the grapes are harvested late, usually mid-October. Then they are spread out on straw mats and left to dry. When at least 40% of the grapes moisture has evaporated, then they are crushed and fermented. The ageing requirement for Amarone is two years in wood but some producers go as far as five years. Appassimento provides an intense concentrated wine with opulent aromas on the nose and full on the palate.

This weekend I poured both an Amarone and a Valpolicella Superiore. I encourage you to open a few Amarone or Valpolicella before the weather starts asking for crisp whites and refreshing rosé wines.

Nicolis 2007 Amarone della Valpolicella Ambrosan $89.70
This Amarone is rich and elegant with a nose full black fruit. Cherry, plum, black licorice and hints of cinnamon give way to some herbal notes, cigar wrapper and earthy cedar. The palate is dense, soft, and silky with that deceptively dry Amarone raisened fruits; this wine has chewy, round tannins and it finishes with chocolate and spice. Nicolis is a small family operation that only makes approximately 600 cases of this cru Amarone a year. Drink now to 2022.

Dal Forno Romano 2009 Valpolicella Superiore $109.99
This Valpolicella is produced by Dal Foro Romano, who worked under Guiseppi Quintarelli for about twelve years, and I consider this wine to be a true baby Amarone as Dal Forno uses Amarone protocol in making it. It’s dark, dense and concentrated with a nose full of black cherry, plum and licorice, followed minerality and notes of olives and herbs; as the wine opens in the glass, aromas of chocolate and coffee emerge. The palate is equally as dense because Dal Forno dried the grapes for 45 days in the appassimento method for this Valpolicella, allowing for a concentrated, almost Amarone-like palate. This wine has a velvety texture and a finish studded with tannins that are spicy and sweet at the same time. Drink now to 2025.

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