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What is appassimento wine?

Appassimento is the Italian word for ‘withering’, which gives a clue to how these wines are made. The grapes are dried after harvest, laid on racks in airy warehouses where they gently shrivel during the winter months, concentrating the sugars and the flavour compounds.

The technique of using dried grapes to make sweet wines has long been used across the world but the term appassimento is particularly associated with Valpolicella in Italy’s Veneto region, where it is used to make powerful dry wines, perfect for dark winter nights.

Amarone della Valpolicella is considered the king of these, made with corvina, corvinone and rondinella grapes. Traditionally, the wines retained a little sweetness and were heavy with the influence of the oak barrels in which they must be aged for at least two years, as well as with their minimum alcohol content of 14%. Modern amarones tend to be made in a drier, less oaky style but still command hefty price tags, so look to supermarket own-label wines for affordable bottles. Think velvety textures, fruit flavours and sweet, warming spices.

Ripasso, sometimes known as the poor man’s amarone, means ‘re-passed’ and is made by re-fermenting young wine with grape skins that have been used to make amarone. This give depth and structure to the base wine’s snappy freshness, and these make for good-value drinking that’s rich but not as heavy as classic amarone.

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Recioto is the sweet wine of the region, made by drying the grapes for longer, and halting fermentation early so more of the sugars remain in the juice. Red reciotos are found in Valpolicella, great with chocolate or dried-fruit puddings, while in neighbouring Soave and Gamballara the white grape garganega is used for the rare and wonderful reciotos. Serve chilled with panettone or a soft blue cheese.

Although these wines are rooted in Valpolicella, other Italian regions also use the same techniques using local grapes to make wines with appassimento characteristics but with their own personalities. Less revered than their famous cousins, they’re a great way to get acquainted with these soothing, wintery wines at gentle prices.

5 of the best appassimento wines at a glance

  • Best white appassimento: Nero Oro Grillo Appassimento, £9.99
  • Best amarone: Morrisons The Best Amarone della Valpolicella, £17
  • Best primitivo: Terre di Faiano Primitivo Organico Puglia, £9.99
  • Best bargain appassimento wine: Baccolo Rosso Veneto, £8.50
  • Best luxury appassimento wine: Colombare Recioto di Soave 2017, £27.10

5 of the best appassimento wines 2023

Nero Oro Grillo Appassimento

A bottle of Nero Oro Grillo Appassimento

Best white appassimento

One of the very rare white appassimento wines, made in Sicily with the grillo grape. Luscious layers of peachy and citrus fruit with a touch of gingery spice.

Morrisons The Best Amarone della Valpolicella

A bottle of The Best Amarone della Valpolicella

Best amarone

Complex and comforting with amarone’s characteristic dried-fruit depth and richness at a very good price.

Available from:
Morrisons (£17)

Terre di Faiano Primitivo

A bottle of Terre di Faiano Primitivo

Best primitivo

Organic primitivo from Puglia where high summer temperatures give ripe, concentrated fruit. Plush with ripe blackberries, vanilla and warming spice.

Available from:
Waitrose (£9.99)

Baccolo Rosso Veneto

A bottle of Baccolo Rosso Veneto

Best bargain appassimento wine

A bargain made in the modern appassimento style. A fresh, juicy blend of merlot and corvina that’s bursting with bright cherry fruit. Serve slightly chilled.

Available from:
Experience Wine (£8.50)

Colombare Recioto di Soave 2017

A bottle of Le Colombare Recioto di Soave

Best luxury appassimento

From one of Soave’s most esteemed makers, this stunner is perfumed and intense with baked apricot and pineapple fruit lifted with a fresh acidity.

Available from:
VINVM (£27.10)


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Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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