Affordable Amarone doesn't mean cheap because if you really want to, you can find 16 euro Amarone in the Autogrill outlets on the Italian autostrada. But that's not a criticism of the Autogrill chain in Italy because we seem to stop at the Autogrill a lot and their coffee is really good and their lunchtime sandwiches are not bad either. But it is a criticism of dirt cheap Amarone.
You can pay well over 100 euros for Amarone but we won't because in the 25-40 euros range there are some very good bottles to be found.
Brigaldara - Cavolo 2015 - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (16% alcohol)
59% Corvina, 21% Corvinone, 17% Rondinella, 3% others. The grapes are dried for 120 days and aged in barrels for 4 years (2 years in small barrels and 2 years in large barrels). The 'Cavolo' is designed to be a step up in quality from the 'Classico' Amarone (which was not part of this tasting flight).
Powerful nose of panforte which seemed appropriate as this was consumed over Christmas. Notes of figs, candied orange and spices all conveying a richness that followed through on the palate with additional notes of dried cherry. Being slightly sweet on the nose but perfectly dry on the palate is a great combination for an Amarone and makes for an ideal winter wine that paired beautifully with roast beef. I don't know how you beat this for value at a price of 25 euros given the quality of the wine and the extended aging period.
Brigaldara - Case Vecie 2015 - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (16.5% alcohol)
39% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 31% Rondinella. The Case Vecie wine is from a higher vineyard at almost 1,500 feet enabling a later harvest in early-mid October which in turn allows for a longer and slower drying period in a cooler part of the year. Aged in barrels for 4 years in the same way as the Cavolo above.
The Case Vecie has a similar nose to the other Brigaldara bottling above but with a flavor more redolent of toasted almonds and overcooked orange marmalade. Unfortunately this is nowhere near as good as the Cavolo yet costs significantly more at 41 euros. I would buy the Cavolo all day long at a price of 25 euros because this Case Vecie was disappointing by comparison.
Tenuta Sant'Antonio - Selezione Antonio Castagnedi 2016 - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (15% alcohol)
Corvina 70%, Rondinella 20%, Croatina 5%, Oseleta 5%. From vineyards at 1,000 feet just north-east of Verona. 90 days drying and 2 years aging in 500 liter new French oak tonneaux
Toffee and figs on the nose with a slightly disappointing burnt or reductive flavor on the palate and a finish that was a little bitter. Not a great wine unfortunately and contained in a very heavy bottle that seems too much like a marketing gimmick. 26 euros is not enough to buy you an Amarone worth drinking it seems except for the remarkably good Brigaldara Cavolo above which is looking like the exception that proves the rule.
Zenato - Classico 2016 - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG (16.5%)
80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 10% Croatina and Oseleta. From vineyards at 1,000 feet in the Classico zone in the comune di Sant'Ambrogio. 120 days drying and 3 years aging in large Slavonian botti.
I can see this being a crowd pleaser but for me it's made in a style that's a little too close to Port. However if your preferred style of Amarone is big, full and rich with a touch of sweetness than this is an ideal wine and there's no question that it's well made and quite opulent. It is also a well-balanced wine, which at 16.5% alcohol is not always easy to accomplish. There's plenty of mature fruit and spices, particularly cinnamon and nutmeg, and paired with a dish of steak and artichokes it more than held its own against a difficult match up and probably the slight sweetness was the key. At the end of the meal it came into its own and at 34 euros it's not expensive for an Amarone of this quality.
Corte Adami - Amarone della Valpolicella 2014 - A. d. V. DOCG (15.5% alcohol)
The respective Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella percentages are not disclosed. The grapes undergo 100 days drying and the wine spends 2 years aging in barrels. 2014 was a wet and cold year everywhere in Italy, including Veneto. Despite the adverse weather this is a powerful but balanced wine with notes of mature fruit, cacao and spices. On the palate it's completely dry with a long finish and seems fully mature and unlikely to improve further. A very good result for a year like 2014 and good value at 30 euros.
Corte Adami - Amarone della Valpolicella 2016 - A. d. V. DOCG (15.5% alcohol)
This is a much richer wine than the 2014. On the nose there are notes of cherry, blueberry and licorice overlayed with spices. It's an elegant and balanced wine on the palate with interesting flavors of chestnut honey and also a touch of coffee and the welcome acidity prevents the 'liqueur' characteristic of the wine descending into sweetness. The finish is dry and persistent with a slight cherry bitterness that makes it ideal with food. Very good value at 32 euros.