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tj's amaroneThis is a Trader Joe’s exclusive at an unheard of price of $17 for Amarone. Amarone is expensive to make. The grapes are dried for several months before fermentation which turns them to raisins causing them to lose about 30% of their weight. Thus, it takes many more grapes to make a bottle of Amarone than it does to make a conventional wine. You’re lucky if you can find one under $50. So how can Trader Joe’s sell this wine for $17?

One reason is that when wines are made exclusively for one seller, marketing and distribution costs are greatly reduced.  Secondly, Trader Joe’s sells a lot of wine so bulk methods of wine production can be used and a small profit per bottle will add up to a tidy income. Thirdly, the process of raisinating the grapes (called appassimento) creates a rich fruity wine with quite a bit of sugar. The alcohol on this is 14.5% which suggests they didn’t ferment all the way to dry. That big fruit and residual sugar will cover up the use of additives and oak products that make the winemaking process cheaper and more efficient.

Is this the best Amarone you can buy? Hardly. But it has the fruit power you would expect and plenty of acidity to give the wine life. It lacks the firm tannins, intensity and complexity of quality Amarone but you won’t find many wines this rich at this price.

Simple black cherry, red current, chocolate and hints of dusty earth give this wine a pleasing if not particularly intense aroma profile.

On the palate the flavors are simple black cherry with a modest fig undercurrent. It’s full bodied and round with substantial mouth coating viscosity and sparkling acidity to make the wine surprisingly vibrant. The tannins are soft and refined but persistent with some bitterness on the terminus.

An easy drinking wine ideal for a lamb ragu over pappardelle.  It’s extroverted, warm and jovial, but pleasingly trippy because the interplay of fruit and acidity give the wine a shimmering glow.

Pair with Dzihan & Kamien’s Thrill

Score: 89

Price: $17 at Trader Joe’s

Alc: 14.5%

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