Monday, December 7, 2009

#11 - Brisket & '06 Amarone

I took off work Sunday because the vibe Saturday night did terrible things to my psyche. The trend was not my friend.

So Mrs. Ney whipped up a brisket using a mysterious sauce long ago put in the freezer unlabeled that tasted somewhat like homemade barbecue sauce.

Possible wine selections went all over the map. Shiraz, Zinfandel, Rhone?

One of her friends at work took a trip to Northern Italy recently. We gave her some money, asking for a bottle of cheap Amarone we probably couldn't get here.

What we got was an Italian supermarket Amarone.

Last year, for a work Christmas party at Piccolo Sogno, we had a stellar Amarone (2004 Poggio Amarone della Valpolicella) that showed us the wonders to be had from the style.

That wine, and Amarone in general, has such an unmatched density with a pronounced raisiny character and hints of vanilla. It's a wine like no other.

This, unfortunately, was not like that Amarone...or Amarone in general.

Food: Beef Brisket with rosemary potatoes and shaved Brussels sprouts with bacon

Braised in the mystery freezer sauce with five-spice and vanilla bean. Thick, syrupy and spicy. Good stuff. Potatoes with mayo for dipping and shaved Brussels sprouts done in butter, bacon and bacon fat. My new-found and inexplicable love for Brussels sprouts continues.

Wine: 2006 Conte di Bregonzo Amarone della Valpolicella

It was Italian supermarket wine. Get what you pay for.

So, instead of talking about the ordinariness of this wine (read: dull), just some facts about Amarone.

It's a dry, rich red wine made from dried grapes in the Veneto region of Italy. Using the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes (all indigenous to the region and rarely seen elsewhere), the grapes are harvested fully ripe and then dried in drying chambers (traditionally it was done on straw mats in the sun), intensifying the juices and creating a hugely rich, dry red with very little acid that's high in alcohol (14% minimum with many much higher).

I've only had a few Amarones but the fruit is usually all deep cherry with spice and the previously mentioned raisin and vanilla. 2004 was the vintage of a generation according to most and they usually aren't released until five years after the vintage (hence the bland Italian supermarket wine).

Valpolicella is the viticultural zone in the province of Verona that makes table wine by the tons and Amarone is the good stuff in the provincial pool. To be called Amarone della Valpolicella, the percentage of each grape in the blend has to be exact and is governed by the DOC Italian wine laws.

Amarone itself is a form of straw wine. I have little experience with it outside of Amarone and another great dessert wine called Passito de Pantelleria (picture left), a dessert wine made from the Muscat grape on the small island of Pantelleria in the southern Mediterranean.

It's a concentrated wine with flavors of figs, candied oranges, caramel and spices. Great stuff.

If you can find it, by all means, get one. You won't be disappointed.

Pairing: Nothing interesting to speak of

Only tasted like Amarone on occasion. When it didn't, it could have been anything. Mostly, it just tasted like table wine. Nothing too offensive outside of an oakiness here and there with some moderately nice tart cherry. Did nothing exciting with the food. The Amarone character came with the potatoes but nothing much with the brisket.

More Amarone will be drunk soon. Just not this one.

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