2017 Ettore Valpolicella Classico
Ettore Righetti is a man who knows Amarone through and through – for almost 30 years he has been the President and Director of the Catina di Negar, a cooperative of small growers throughout the commune Negar in Valpolicella, Italy. It is here that Ettore makes Valpolicella’s famous vino da meditazione “meditation wine”: Amarone.
Now cooperatives are generally not thought of as amazing wine producers (there are a few famous exceptions). And while Ettore took great pride in his work, I doubt he would say that the wines he made there were the absolute height of Amarone. What he would say is that being the director gave him a chance to fully learn the land: to scope out and learn which little vineyards, and which kinks in the land got the grapes riper, which slight variance in soil type gave just a little more to the finished wine. All of that, plus letting him support his family and put away an itsy-bitsy amount of money each year for the future.
In 2011, after 30 years at the co-op, Ettore was finally able to restart his grandfather’s ancient winery. Using that small nest egg, he bought new equipment and sourced the absolute cream of the crop of Negar’s best vineyards. The results are two outstanding wines we have on special today.
The first is a Valpolicella Classico – the “fresh” wine of Valpolicella. This Classico uses all of the same grapes as Amarone, they just don’t undergo the drying process of Amarone. The result is a wine that Zinfandel lovers should definitely take note of – powerful aromas of bramble fruits, plum, baking spices and mocha all effusively dance from the glass. While all of these aromas would naturally lead the imbiber to expect a thick palate, with this Classico there is instead a beautiful freshness that lightly prances across the tongue. Its super easy drinking with its mixture of fruit and spices, and once the bottle is open, trust me, you’ll completely finish it. And yes, this pairs perfectly with an Italian-themed Thanksgiving meal.
The main event is, of course, Ettore’s Amarone. Let’s just step back for a second and review what Amarone is: It’s essentially taking the grapes of Valpolicella Classico and after picking them, laying them on straw mats to dry for up to 90 days. You can imagine the difference between making wine with grapes versus raisins. Raisins give you maximum concentration, extraction, and power. And Ettore’s Amarone is exceptional:
If a top-shelf Napa Cabernet could somehow mate with a maximum-power Cornas, you’d come quite close to the nose and palate of this prodigious wine. It opens with blueberry compote, toasted bread, earthy notes, extraordinarily ripe black cherries, loads of spices and minerality. This Amarone is judicious in its proportions and, while it comes on full-bore, there is nothing here that could be construed as sweetness. The wine’s lushness blends impressively with richly textured tannins. This is truly a great representation of Italy’s heavyweight champion of a wine and while you can drink it now, I have no doubt that this is on an exquisite course for 50-year aging. If you are going to drink it now, feel free to start decanting in the morning – it will grow and grow and be even better on day two! Go ahead and spank that turkey right off the table with this magnificent Amarone.
Like many of our special offers, we didn’t get much of these wines. For lovers of big bold red wine, don’t hesitate.