Just why is Amarone so expensive? Find the answer in the first installment of our Ask The Expert series!
We're excited today to launch our new Ask The Expert series where we ask winemakers, winegrowers and other experts to answer all your questions about wine. In the coming weeks we'll have experts answering all kinds of interesting questions like:
- What's the deal with dirt?
- Why is oak so important?
- Are old vines better?
- How can a wine be organic?
- Do cork enclosures really matter?
- And much, much more!
Today; however, we are honored to have Luigi Boemmi, Winemaker at Cesari, one of the premier producers of Amarone, to answer the question: Why is Amarone so expensive? Here's his response:
One may wonder why Amarone demands the price it does in today’s marketplace. Amarones are indeed some of the more expensive wines to be found on retailers' shelves, and while the bold richness of a well-made Amarone shows the flavor profile US consumers of ultra-premium California Cabernets and other big reds yearn for, it is little understood outside of a rather small subsection of wine drinkers.
Knowing the unique process used to produce this wine, however, I sometimes wonder how Amarone producers make any money at all. While a typical bottle of high-end California wine will more often than not be dominated by costs related to marketing rather than actual wine production, Amarone producers are not so lucky.
First off, to produce a quality Amarone, as with any ultra-premium wine, one must have access to superior fruit. So far so good. In the picking, however, extra care must be taken.
All fruit destined for Amarone production must be picked by hand, and the harvest in the vineyard must be strict. Not only must the individual bunches selected show even ripeness, but they must be carefully selected for having berries not too close to each other, allowing for even air flow during the appassimento, or drying process. It is not so much a harvest as a selection off the vine. This process, as one might imagine, is highly labor-intensive and requires a trained and trusted hand. And the unique and painstaking process of Amarone is only just begun.
For a minimum of 120 days the fruit is placed in a specially prepared facility called a "fruttai", the need and investment for which is unique to the production of Amarone. Here the fruit is left to wither and dry in specially designed baskets which stack while allowing airflow to pass among the bunches. The baskets must be regularly rearranged by hand to allow for inspection during the drying process, removing spoiled, rotting or otherwise damaged fruit.
Once again, specially trained labor is required to ensure that the fruit dries evenly and is not exposed to spoilage. During this process the fruit loses about 40% of its juice. To make a bottle of wine in a normal winery, one normally would need about 1-1.2 kg of fruit; but to make Amarone – because so much of that juice is lost in this process – 2-2.5kg of fruit are needed. This is juice that other wineries in other regions can crush and produce and profit from.
This method also puts Amarone producers 3 to 4 months behind all other wineries in terms of production schedule and this as well incurs added costs. Add to this process the usual costs involved in ageing, cellaring, expensive oak barrels, transport, taxes, marketing, PR and importer and distributor margins and one begins to wonder not why is Amarone so expensive but, frankly, why other wines cost so much!
Special thanks to Luigi Boemmi, Winemaker at Cesari for answering this question. And it sounds like he has a very good question of his own on why other wines cost so much that we'll need to tackle in the future!