As much as I adore Amarone della Valpolicella, and for that matter Recioto della Valpolicella, I just don’t drink it with the frequency of other appellations. It strikes me as a wine style best suited for cooler weather and optimally when paired with wild game and red meat dishes. It was January 2020, the temps were perfect for these huge wines, and a small group of Italiaphiles gathered to peek at a handful of sample bottlings from this great appellation.

Prior to the tasting, all the bottles except for the Quintarelli, were SO’d for the day. Wine was then served directly from bottle, but with slow, gentle pours as there was significant sediment in all of the wines. If you’re not skilled on pouring gently I highly suggest decanting immediately prior to serving. Nothing is worse than a sediment filled glass. Note: the Quintarelli was popped and poured. The results were most impressive, although I remind readers that these were the “best of the best”, a sampling of Veneto’s finest producers on display in terms of quality and top bottlings. Yes, there are other topnotch producers, but we wanted to focus this evening a just a few great wines.

The Bussola ended up being my favorite wine of the night, but make no mistake, they were all world class wines. Note to self: I need to drink more Amarone!

Note: these wines were consumed at a dinner I hosted with friends in early December 2020, while the 2000 Bussola was drunk for New Year’s Eve 2020 and was added here for completeness.

2005 Bussola, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, TB Vigneto Alto (RT97+) With its whopping 17.5% alcohol, it reveals supple magnificence. Dark, dense and deeply hued, this ruby dominated monster shows a penetrating cornucopia of fall nuances with notes of dried cherry, dried red raspberry, cinnamon, leather and energized late season florals. There is a decided freshness that plays counterpoint to the bouquet and the palate is bright and layered with clean fruit sandwiched between beautiful acidity and endless, super ripe tannins. The finish goes on and on. An incredible showing for this single vineyard bottling, the flagship wine of Bussola that will cellar seamlessly for many decades. Drink now-2045+

2000 Bussola, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, TB Vigneto Alto (RT95) Like the 2005, the Bussola 2000 Vigneto Alto is deep, dark and intensely pigmented, showing little sign of age as it edges past 19 years. The bouquet revealing an alluring composition of fall nuances with a sweet, blue fruit core. Everything is singing in harmony as notes of apassimento-dried berries, spiced fruit cake, roasted chestnuts and dried figs play center stage. The palate is magnificently balanced with heavy weight fruit, bright acidity and beautiful sweet tannins. A fabulous showing for this world class Amarone with the polish and precision that makes it a wine to seek out! Drink now-2040+

1998 Giuseppi Quintarelli, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (RT96) A modest 16.5% alcohol provides a slightly more subtle profile than the Bussola. Showing a slight bit more age with its ruby garnet hue, but still dark and dense, refined focused aromas of late Fall emerge with a blanket of sous bois (forest floor), dried smoky berries, charcuterie, and damp earth creating a centerstage on which subtle late harvest notes play in the background. The palate is exceptionally pure and finessed, balanced with an alluring fruit component that’s accented with mineral notes, sweet ripe tannins and a long, long finish. A gorgeous, traditionally crafted Amarone from the acknowledged master, powerful, yet sublime. Magnificent at age 21, this is just now moving into its peak drinking window. Drink now-2042+

1990 Masi, Amarone di Valpollicella, Campolongo di Torbe (RT97) 9980 bottles produced and showed a declared 16% alcohol (could be higher?), as it approaches age 30 this wine has developed a captivating golden garnet hue yet remains amazingly youthful. Dried plum, orange peel, pomegranate and desiccated rose petal create a delicate fabric on which wild game and Thanksgiving spice adds dimension and depth. The palate is superbly balanced as it teeters between fresh and aged. This has evolved like royalty. The fruit, acid and sweet tannin keep you coming back for another sip. A stunning Amarone that is beautiful beyond measure, bravo Masi! Drink now-2035+

2006 Bussola, Recioto della Valpolicella, TB (RT95+) We wrapped up the evening with one of the all-time great Veneto dessert wines and this did not disappoint in any way. With a mere 12/5% alcohol, the dark, dense nearly impenetrable hue wafts up multi-strata of sweet blue berries, blackberries and spice as background notes of dried figs and dates create a captivating bouquet. The palate is slightly sweet resembling nectar of the gods displaying perfect balance and exquisite elegance. This is a magical wine and one of my favorite red dessert wines. Bravo Bussola! In a word, wowzah! Drink now-2046+