The tenth Anteprima Amarone was held in Verona on 26 and 27 January when 58 producers revealed their wines from the 2009 harvest to the world’s press.
It also provided the Consorzio of Valpolicella with an opportunity to take stock of Amarone’s position in the market and the changing character of the wine itself, writes Helen Savage.
Despite a blip in 2009, as the world economic crisis began to bite, and when according to Christian Marchesini, the President of the Consorzio, “the producers got scared,” the area under vine has continued to grow steadily. He reported that it increased from around 5,200 ha. in 2000 to 7,200 ha. in 2012, with a further 343 ha. planned for 2013/4. Valpolicella as a whole now represents 10% of the total wine production of the Veneto and 47% of red wine production.
Alessandro Bianchi, of the Verona Chamber of Commerce described an increase in turnover of 20% between 2009 and 2011 and an industry in which producers are making healthy profits. The most profitable lines, by far, according to most growers are Amarone and Ripasso,
The export market, on which Amarone depends for around 80% of its sales is growing too, but remains firmly dependant on Germany (which takes around 44% of the export total) and Northern Europe, along with the USA, Canada and the UK.
Bianchi reported that the Russian market is also showing growth, but is still relatively untapped. “I am sure we can expect more growth,” he said, “and we should neither increase nor lower prices. It is not right to increase prices when a product is doing well.” In contrast, the Italian domestic market remains relatively sluggish, and is even in slight decline.
2009 was challenging for winemakers. Daniele Accordini , oenologist and vice-president of the Consorzio, described a fore-shortened season, which resulted in musts with high sugar levels, high pH and low acidity. The winter and early spring was cold and very wet. The vegetative cycle began about a week late. Bud-burst was on April 22. Virtually no rain fell in May and temperatures rose quickly. Flowering began early on 22 May, and after one of the hottest Augusts on record, the harvest began on 22 September, a fortnight earlier than in 2008 with grapes that were thick-skinned and healthy.
Dry weather continued for the start of the drying process, but the second half of October turned cool and wet, which continued through November and into December. Growers relied on their air conditioning in their drying rooms to protect the fruit, but the especially thick skins of the grapes in 2009 also helped to protect them against fungal infections and excessive botrytis (though some welcome a degree of noble rot, especially on grapes intended for Recioto).