The SOMM Journal

December 2017 / January 2018

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Page 20 of 124

20 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2017/2018 { the ransom report } The Ransom Report is a column by The Somm Journal's East Coast Editor David Ransom. In each issue, David will discuss what's currently on his mind and in his glass gathered from conversations and experiences in the world of wine, spirits, and hospitality. { the ransom report } AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA and Sforzato di Valtellina must be two of Italy's most tantalizing—and quite possibly its most underutilized—red wines. Both are made by the appassimento process, which involves drying whole clusters of hand- sorted red grapes for three to four months before pressing off the concentrated juice to start fermentation and aging. Both are also cherished for their ripe flavor profiles that marry so well with winter's rich and hearty fare, but how often do we actually open up a bottle to enjoy them? Not often enough, in my opinion. A recent outing to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the famed Valtellina winery Nino Negri left me with a newfound respect for the rich and layered Sforzato di Valtellina (aka Valtellina Sfursat). It's made by winemaker Casimiro Maule, who has been coaxing Chiavennasca—the local name for Nebbiolo—from the impossibly-steep terraces of the valley of Valtellina in northern Lombardy for almost 50 years. As part of the festivities, Maule presented a six-vintage verti - cal of Nino Negri "5 Stelle Sfursat." The tasting went from the 2013—the current and excellent vintage—to the 2009, followed by the amazing 2001 (which was awarded wine of the year by the Italian magazine Gambero Rosso) to a 1999 and 1997 (these three in Magnum format), and lastly, a 1989. Interestingly, Maule did not pick wines he considered to be the top representative vintages of the 5 Stelle label, but vintages he thought best represented the significant evolution of Sforzato itself as a wine style over the past 30 years. It was a fascinating exercise that instilled in me a new appreciation for this rare and complex wine. Made in the same style further southeast in the Veneto, Amarone della Valpolicella is more well-known and made from different grapes—usually 45–95% Corvina that is blended with Rondinella. The grapes Negara, Oseleta, and Molinar may also be used, but cannot exceed 15%. Whatever the blend, Amarone spends roughly the same time drying as Sfursat, with pressing taking place in January. There are a number of well-known Amarone producers, including Bertani, Masi, Santi, and Tommasi. Christian Ridolfi served as Bertani's winemaker for 16 years before moving to Santi; there, he's spearheading a team charged with raising the perception of the wine program and building Santi into a benchmark property in the region. His Amarones from Bertani were fabulous, and I can't wait to see his experi - ence utilized as he digs in at Santi. This winter, let's enjoy those Cabernets and Pinots—but every once in a while, let's also open a bottle of Amarone or Sforzato and savor truly incomparable wine made from the appassimento process. It's a truly festive way to change up your holiday traditions. THE STARS OF NORTHERN ITALY'S APPASSIMENTO PROCESS story and photos by David Ransom A Taste for Amarone & Sforzato The Santi 2006 "Proemio" Estate Amarone della Valpolicella. Santi's Christian Ridolfi discusses the appas- simento process in front of approximately 200,000 racks of drying grapes. The lineup of "5 Stelle Sfursat" at Nino Negri's 120th anniversary celebration in Milan, Italy.

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