Amarone Family Soap Opera

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The battle over who controls an elite wine name

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare’s tragic-romantic heroine Juliet lamented, mournfully questioning the Verona family feuds that kept her from her Romeo.

Now, centuries later, the families of Verona are embroiled in another drama over a name: Amarone della Valpolicella.

The conflict began in 2009, when 12 longtime Amarone producers, led by Masi patriarch Sandro Boscaini, banded together to create a new elite confederation called Amarone Families (Famiglie Dell’Amarone d’Arte).

The Amarone Families—Allegrini, Begali, Brigaldara, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Masi, Musella, Speri, Tedeschi, Tenuta Sant’Antonio, Tommasi, Venturini and Zenato—signed a manifesto calling for voluntary higher production standards and creating a hologram sticker to identify their wines.

The effort aimed to distinguish their wines from what they considered lower-quality, supermarket versions of Amarone—the intense, dry red wine made through partially drying the local Corvina, Rondinella and, optionally, Molinara grapes. (This appassimento process is also used to make Recioto, Valpolicella's traditional sweet wines.)

“The idea was to communicate that Amarone should be a wine of exclusivity, not a mass-market wine,” says Boscaini, 77, looking over the vineyards in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella that his family has cultivated since the 18th century—long before Amarone began to be made and sold commercially in the 20th century.

The problem is that the Valpolicella Consortium controls use of the Amarone name. Some members were angered by what they saw as a small group designating themselves as the Amarone elite.

“Three years ago, we asked them to stop using the Amarone name, They didn’t want to do it,” says Christian Marchesini, 43, a grower in San Pietro in Cariano and president of the Valpolicella Consortium…read the full blog at winespectator.com