Amarone della Valpolicella "La Stropa"
50% Corvina/20% Corvinone/20% Rondinella/10% Molinara & Dindarella. While DOCG law allows a grower to use up to half of its crop for the vaunted Amarone appellation, Carlo and Alessandra choose to keep it to 15-20% at most. The source of the fruit is their core estate vineyard, from which come the grapes for their Saseti Valp. Classico and Saustò Valp. Superiore as well: 25-year-old pergola-trained, co-planted, biodynamically farmed vines of only traditional varieties. Counter-intuitive though it may be, those precious bunches for the Amarone are the first to be harvested. Four people spend 3 weeks selecting the most perfect, healthy, ripe-but-not-overripe bunches with still-bright acidity.
The bunches are laid out in single layers in small, slatted, wooden boxes that are stacked in the open-sided fruttaio next to the house/cellar. The drying proceeds slowly and naturally with zero technology; the environment is well-ventilated and quite cool, preventing any fermentation and allowing a gradual evaporation and concentration of flavor. After 3-4 months, the dried grapes are destemmed, gently crushed (leaving some whole berries for a touch of carbonic maceration) and dropped by gravity into one or two small, open, oak tini. Fermentation is entirely spontaneous with indigenous yeasts and without sulfur, taking 40-50 days with daily foot-treading to reach near-total dryness (1-2 grams RS max typically). Minimum aging is in 25-hectoliter botti for 3 years, then in bottle for 2.5 more years. Production was 4500 bottles in 2010.
A stropa is a switch from the native weeping willow tree, used historically in Valpolicella viticulture to tie vines to pergolas; it is readily available and strong enough to withstand winter winds that blow down from the Alto Adige mountains. Monte Dall'Ora has not only perpetuated that practice but named their Amarone for it and actually tie a stropa around the neck of each red-wax-capped bottle. This literal tie to tradition perfectly symbolizes their passion for the history and terroir of Valpolicella. Their Amarone tends toward savory and sinew-y rather than sappy and sweet, uniquely reflective of vintage and place.