Pairing Amarone and Italian Food

Amarone MealAmarone is a terrific food wine and pairs well with a wide variety of dishes from traditional dishes of the Veneto to more modern Asian fusion cooking. In pairing it with food, it is important to keep in mind the different styles of Amarone, the two main ones being traditional and modern.

Traditional Style. These wines are complex, earthy, and ripe revealing aromas and flavors of dried black cherry and plum. They reveal a sense of terroir and prominent dried fruit characteristics. Older vintages reveal oxidized notes with caramel and other flavors. They are relatively high in alcohol (16-17%), but the best examples are balanced with good extract. While the wines receive extensive barrel aging, they generally do not reveal oak aromas or flavors. However, their tannins are usually unresolved and require additional years of aging. These wines are made for long aging. Quintarelli’s Amarones are unambiguously traditional in style.

Modern Style. These wines are also ripe tasting but exhibit more upfront, fresh fruit than the traditional styles of Amarone. Their aromas combine dried fruit and toasted oak with some hints of vanilla and or coconut. Modern style Amarones exhibit high alcohol levels like the traditional wines but can also reveal bold concentrated flavors extracted from long macerations and hints of sweetness from residual sugar and alcohol. They also exhibit a soft texture, silky fine-grained tannins and a persistent finish. Modern style Amarones are more international in style revealing less of a dried fruit character, more restraint and in some instances, outstanding balance and elegance. Guerrieri Rizzardi’s Amarones are undeniably modern in style.

Amarones exhibit a wide variety of flavors that pair well with savory dishes, especially those made with an Amarone sauce. Depending upon the style, aromas and flavors may include cherries, plums, raisins, dried figs, smoke, nuts, bittersweet chocolate, coffee, tar, tobacco and earth.

The robust, sometimes oxidized character of traditional Amarones make them especially well-suited for pairing with steaks, stews and ribs. The red fruit intensity and softer tannins of modern Amarones mean they pair well with pork, veal, and poultry dishes. All Amarones work well with big flavored cheeses.

Pasta e FasoiTraditional Dishes from the Veneto. Try some of the traditional Venetian dishes with Amarone such as Pasta e Fasoi (pasta and bean soup) Fegato alla Veneziana (calves liver), Brasato all’ Amarone (braised beef with amarone risotto), Bigoli col'Anara (fresh pasta with duck sauce), Pastisade de Caval (horse meat stew), or Torresani allo Spiedo (pigeon on the spit).

MeatBeef, Lamb and Veal. Meat dishes pair beautifully with Amarones, especially those in the more traditional style. Try Amarone grilled steaks, rustic stews, wild boar, venison, goat goulash, braised beef short-ribs, and pot roast of beef braised in Amarone. The lighter style Amarones work best with Osso Buco and veal cheeks braised in Amarone.

Poultry and Game. Duck and Amarone pair very well together. Roast duck drizzled with a reduction sauce of Amarone is a decadent pairing. Ostrich and pheasant, or foie gras combined with a fruity sauce or Amarone sauce are also excellent dishes to pair with Amarone. Also, try spiced chicken livers or chicken teriyaki.

Fish. Amarone is too strong for most fish dishes, but there are some lighter ones that pair well with tuna steak or monkfish in Amarone sauce.

Pasta. The traditional Venetian first course Bigoli co l'Anara (fresh pasta with duck sauce) is a winner as is Risotto all’Amarone. Also, try Pappardelle alla Lepre (wide ribbon pasta with rabbit).

CheeseCheeses. Mature and robust tasting cheeses and cheese and fruit pair well with both traditional and modern style Amarones. Try Parmigiano Reggiano, Cimbro, Monte Veronese Ubriaco, and Pecorino Vecchio. Also, try aged Gouda and blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort and Danish Blue.

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

February 2014