Amaroned (p.p., adv.): Having had the sudden realization, as in a tasting, you're drinking wine with 15% alcohol and it's too late to start spitting

amorone wineLast night was a dry evening for me, which officially means I got hosed the previous day.

Some insist on the hair of the dog in such cases, but this summer I've learned not to believe old wives' tales. In June, I drank the day after annihilating a Perrin Réserve magnum at a friend's birthday and it was literally sickening. I felt pretty much the same way when I followed up an all access pass at the Wines of New Zealand by barreling headlong into a hasty decision to finish off the remaining half bottles of wine lingering in my fridge.

So this morning, after the benefit of a fully sobering Monday, I present to you Wine with Bill Zacharkiw, the reason I drank 29 bottles of Venetian red wine during a four hour tasting session on Sunday evening.

Well I didn't drink them all myself. I do want to let Bill tell the story in his upcoming Montreal Gazette column (which will be available at the web page linked above), but I should at least say there were three other tasters in addition to Bill. That was reassuring. And a lot was dumped into the spittoon -- also reassuring -- but, ultimately for me, it apparently was not nearly enough.

Bill, ever the gracious host, gave us tasters little reason to leave, bringing out Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses as well as a tray of cured meats when we had finished rating the wines. At this stage, achieving the discipline to spit that I had been searching for all evening was obviously not in the cards. I should've shown greater willpower earlier on when the wines were cheaper and the delicious food didn't beckon the vino.

Just one of many ways that this event was a learning experience for me.

I've had Valpolicellas and Ripassos before so I immediately found it gratifying to directly compare so many back to back (to back). It was a huge opportunity to decipher everyday wines without the bias of food or the kind of mood you happen to in on a given day. But it wasn't just an illuminating experience because I was exposed to two dozen bottles. Here were four winos with great expertise to guide the tasting. Personally, I found it an amazing opportunity to learn from those more experienced than myself.

We started off with a set consisting of four flights of Valpolicella. When I heard my fellow tasters murmuring something about "phenolics" and "residual sugar" -- terms that I could not use to identify a wine -- I got a bit scared. But when I found I was for the most part singling out the same Valpos as the others, I could increasingly parse the professional lingo, and even jotted down some new French terms I had never heard of.

masi costasera amarone della valpolicella classico 2003As the night went on and the set of Ripassos came and went, I not only got a real sense of the Veneto region, but also learned about the differing palates and expectations of those sitting around the table. It turned out agreement wasn't always universal, but honesty and dedication to how one tastes and perceives these reds were.

Finally out came the Amarones. I'd never had Amarone yet there I was one of five votes weighing in on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Ugly Amarone I now know is how you feel the next morning.)

When the Amarone flights started I was tiring, in part because I was deflated I didn't have any experience in what to look for or expect like I did with the other types of wine. I felt kind of useless. But of course I didn't turn down nine different chances to taste a style of wine that in its most inexpensive expressions retails for about $30 (and up). So I dive in.

My first taste was like taking a sip of Port, a wine I am only slightly more aware of than Amarone. And so I noted it and waited for the others to launch into discussion.

"Porty," said Bill almost immediately. And instantly I thought to myself that I can't wait for the next chance to do this.


Joe said...

Well, I was spitting all night and I was still in no condition to take on a flight of Amarone. I think I described them as "I need a Gatorade" and "Somebody poke a stick in me if I fall asleep". I also took a day off...
You are too modest! Cheers!

Sonadora said...

Sounds like a blast of a time to me! I find a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel does the trick for me after a rough night. Perhaps it's psychological, but it brings back excellent memories of Sunday mornings in college!

Marcus said...

Very funny Joe. I don't believe it though -- you were like the most diligent lab partner in Chem class.

Sona, I guess I got the school analogy from you. Will remember your morning-after trick. Hope you get the chance to try it soon!

Hey, by the way blogspotters, looks like Blogger.com is severely hungover this morning. Best of luck posting!

David McDuff said...

Hello Marcus,
I'm curious as to the group's take on the Ripasso grouping of the evening. It's a popular style with the crowds here in the States but it can be a bit of a hot button topic among producers in Valpolicella, some of whom don't "believe" in the style. And btw, more wine doesn't usually help the ill feelings but a cold beer ain't bad....

Marcus said...


Good question. I'm not sure if the Ripasso series provoked any more or less derision than entry-level Valpos that tried to appeal to New World sensibilities. I believe there were comments that some Valpos were gunning for a quasi-international style and were not characteristic of the style. Is that what you are saying Ripassos are often considered, too marketed and soulless?

caveman said...


Great take marcus, you did well my friend. Monday was a bit hazy myself...at least I think it was Monday. Ryan and I finished off a coupel of those bottles after everyone left.

Thanks again for taking part, article comes out on Labour day weekend.


Marcus said...

Bill, thanks for stopping by.

People with praise for your work in the Gazoo are suddenly coming out of the woodwork. Will have to email you some of the positive feedback...


David McDuff said...

That is more or less what I was driving at, Marcus. The feeling held by some producers is that Ripasso is a non-traditional if not illegitimate style, that the process robs Valpolicella of its inherent character, texture and aroma in favor of big, rich fruit. Of course, there are now just as many non-Ripasso wines that are pushed in terms of richness and that see varying levels of oak.... I was mainly curious as to whether you had a strong reaction in one direction or the other.

caveman said...

Interesting question david. While I am not an expert in Valpo, I don't think that Ripasso is necessarily robbing Valpolicella of anything.

From the tasting we did, there were very few similarities between the two styles and I found them to be as different from one another as were the Amarones and Valpos.

While the Classicos were built along acidity and bright fruit, the ripassos had eartheir aromas and much less acidity. I saw them as two distinctly different wines.

And while they may not be traditional, they have been around for close to 50 years, and with their inclusion in the DOC, perhaps the will soon no longer be regarded as a hybrid valpo, or baby amarone. Simply Ripasso.


Marcus said...

Bill, thanks for commenting. (I agree -- Ripassos were quite different in approach and in revisting the Folonari Ripasso this week it's gave me so many qualities I associate with my favourite Midi wines that I sure I could miss that it's from Italy... not to say that they're bland international wines either though.)

In case you haven't see it, Joe's Wine has got a thread on temperature and I see that's the topic you tackled in today's column. Keep this up and you will be the Comment King. Cheers.

It's over here.