Bar Cart: Cantine Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena

The Valpolicella stalwart makes (delicious) amarone for dummies.

Italian wine is difficult to discover in full. With about 350 authorized grape varieties (and some estimates of around 2,000 being cultivated), 20 regions, 500-plus appellations, and thousands of years of history, Italy can have even the most knowledgeable wine scholar shaking their head. Toss in esoteric production techniques, like the appassimento (drying) method used in making amarone, and deciphering what exactly is in your glass is like translating an alien language. Thankfully, Bertani, a 166-year-old winery, is making things a bit easier for consumers, producing a relatively easy-drinking, youthful version of the notoriously austere wine.

Bertani’s Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena comes from one of Valpolicella’s three geographic subzones: Valpantena. Lying just east of the Classico subregion that produces the amarone most consumers are familiar with and within the Estesa (extended) one that tends to produce powerful, high-alcohol, generic versions of amarone, Valpantena generally produces lighter, high-acid wines thanks to its position in a temperature-stabilizing valley with large variations between night and day. Bertani’s Classico and Valpantena amarones have similarities: the same grape varieties (corvina veronese and rondinella) are used in the same proportions (80 per cent and 20 per cent), those grapes all come from vines that are roughly 20 years old, and most importantly, both wines use grapes dried in the appassimento method for extended periods. Where they differ is in taste.

Where Bertani’s Classico is aged for seven years in barrel and at least one in bottle (and often many more at home), its Valpantena sees just two years in barrel and six months in bottle before release. The result is a wine that emphasizes the fruit and acid imparted by the Valpantena valley climate rather than the tertiary flavours developed in the Classico over its many years of aging. Expect ripe red fruits supplemented by sharp, fresh tertiary flavours like pepper and mint. And the best thing about Bertani’s Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena? Unlike many of its Classico and generic counterparts, it’s ready to drink as soon as you’re home from the store.