Tommasi family is certainly one of the most renowned ambassadors in the world of Amarone Classico, “Ripasso method” and Appassimento, the technique of drying the grapes.
The Appassimento is a unique and particular method of the Valpolicella Classica region, which has always characterized the production of wines of this territory. This technique has its roots in a distant past and since Roman times it has been remembered. Over the centuries, this technique of “drying” the grapes before crushing was completed and today distinguishes the production of the great wines of Valpolicella: Amarone and Recioto in particular. The experience needed to bring at the right point of Appassimento (drying process ) the grapes for Amarone is very high. To get an excellent wine the Appassimento is essential. It is a very critical and delicate phase, also linked to the cycle of seasons.
The grapes perfectly ripe and healthy are selected at the time of the hand picking. The thinnest bunches are choosen, with the berries not too close each other, so that the air can circulate. The grapes are laid out in large perforated plastic boxes, to ensure excellent ventilation. The boxes are stacked in the fruttaio, a large airy room above the cellar and the grapes are periodically monitored so that the Appassimento takes place in a perfect way.
Along with modern boxes there are the “Arele”, historical heritage of the Valpolicella, the protagonists of the method of drying the grapes.
“Arele” is the dialect term, which indicates the typical hurdles of wood and bamboo, where some of the grapes used to produce Amarone is still dried in the traditional manner.
The fruttaio is designed to ensure a constant aeration of the grapes so that the temperature changes gradually, and there are not puddles of moisture. The drying process must proceed very slowly.
The Appassimento lasts 100 days, but even more, according to the percentage of water contained in the original grapes. It is in fact the water has to “evaporate” from the grapes, leaving almost intact sugars.
The most obvious visible consequence of this phase, as well as the withering of the berries, is the loss of weight of the bunch, which varies depending on the type of grapes from 30% to 35%.
One of the main characteristics of the indigenous grapes (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara and Oseleta ) is the thickness of the peel, which allows for a so long and slow drying process, preserving the characteristics of the grapes.
In January, the grapes are crushed and the maceration of the skins is long.
Also fermentation at low temperature is very slow, it takes about 40 days for the production of Amarone and 20 days approximately for the Recioto, the sweet traditional wine.
The Appassimento leads to a higher concentration of the juice inside the berries, which then gives to the wine more body and structure.