Zenato Amarone de Valpolicella 2015 $60
What's the Deal? Amarone is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the iconic Italian wines. In a world where the cool kids prize low alcohol percentages, Amarone is routinely 15-16%. Where lightness is currently in vogue in many circles, Amarone is unabashedly lush. But the flipside— it's also the most beloved by the normal consumer. I can't tell you the number of times I've been out for a non-wine industry business dinner where a Barolo has been ordered and I can see the pained look on some of the faces who are not down with that wine's very distinct flavour profile. But when it's an Amarone, those same patrons are over the moon, because it's a wine that delivers on its promise of deliciousness.
What's Inside the Bottle? But that's not to say all Amarones are amazing. In the last two decades many producers doubled down on the richness and fruit and the result was hugely disappointing—and those bottles lurk in plane, waiting to overwhelm your palate with excess. But this bottle from Zeneto is the opposite—even at a whopping 16% alcohol, it maintains balance with the counterpoint of acidity that keeps the fruit in line and focussed. In some ways, this is a bottle that I'd use to test on a layperson to see if they loved "true" Amarone. At around $60 (less in Alberta, of course) it's on the lower end of the price spectrum for this be definition splurge wine and it very clearly highlights what's special about Amarone: that ethereal tension between black fruit and earth, richness and a string of minerality.
Should I Buy? It's a wine that challenges you just enough to keep you interested, but not enough to wonder why you spent all that dough. If you're a hardcore Barbaresco fan this may not be for you, but if you like big California Cabs or haven't revisited Amarones in a while this is a classic producer making a compelling wine.