For those of you who know of my love for trying different variations on Amarone, this Bottle of The Week choice should come as no surprise. As you may be able to tell by the name, Passimento, this red blend is made in the style of Amarone by partially drying the grapes before they are fermented, which is referred to as Appassimento. The blend is made up of 40% Merlot, 30% Corvina, and 30% Croatina. Corvina is the main grape used in Amarone, but here it plays second fiddle to the Merlot. A quick side note on Merlot, I have heard several people recently dissing on the Merlot grape as being a lesser grape, and I just wanted to take a moment to say that, while you can find some pretty bad Merlots, there are also some fantastic bottles out there if you know where to look (hint: pay attention for an upcoming post on the matter)!
The Corvina grape and the Appassimento method aren’t the only similarities between this red blend and an Amarone, this wine comes out the the Veneto region, which is also where the famous Valpolicella region is. Veneto, as well as Tuscany, produces some of Italy’s best wines. Moving on to the interesting part of this wine, the Croatina grape. It’s not a very common grape variety. In fact, I don’t think I had ever tasted it before having this wine, which called for a bit of research. Apparently this grape is grown primarily in the region of Lombardia, and in small amounts in Veneto. Most frequently used in blends, this grape produces a mildly tannic, deep red wine with lots of fruit flavors. This grape is supposed to benefit from bottle aging, so it may be a fun experiment to buy a few bottles of this wine to put away for a few more years. I was hardly surprised to find out that this grape is indeed sometimes used, in small amounts, in some Amarone blends.
Enough about Amarone for now, the Passimento Merlot blend is very easy on the palate. The nose is redolent of berries and spices. Cherry and plum flavors are prominent with a little bit of spice and a more earthy tobacco finish. The tannins are nicely balanced and velvety. We bought this bottle on recommendation from the owner of our local wine store, and also because the label is really cool, it represents the wall on which Romeo and Juliet supposedly carved their names, a very colorful and eye catching design. I would give this bottle a 9.0, honestly you can’t beat it for the price (it’s like $16), so you should probably grab a case.
Have a suggestion for Bottle of The Week? Let me know!