Masi are one of the leading wine producers in the Veneto region of northern Italy. They are specialists in appassimento, the process of drying freshly harvested grapes on racks for three months after vintage. During the drying process, sugars, flavour compounds and acidity are concentrated, and metabolic changes take place in the grapes that otherwise wouldn’t occur, resulting in interesting flavour precursors. After drying, the grapes are fermented to make Amarone, which is a wine of incredible richness, smoothness and depth of flavour, when it is done well.
But the process isn’t without its challenges. If the grapes aren’t in good hygienic condition, and/or the fermentation struggles, then the resulting wine can show signs of oxidation. Sandro Boscaini, who took over at Masi in 1978, is known as Mr Amarone. He has worked hard to refine the drying technique and also to make sure fermentations are trouble free. Over the last 40 years, Masi have shown their commitment to this process by refining it, and also exporting it around the world with collaborations, and a Masi winery in Argentina.
Masi also use the dried grapes to add depth to the classic Valpolicella red wine by refermenting it with the dried grapes, a process called ripasso. Initially, they refermented Valpolicella on the skins of pressed Amarone, and their Campofiorin, first made in 1967, has been a huge success. Later they found out that using the dried grapes themselves rather than just skins gave better results.
I visit to see the drying process in action, and this is a short film showing what it looks like.