Home Winners > Winners 2014 > ITALY: North-East Reds, including Valpolicella & Amarone

Winner Details

Italy: North-East Reds, including Amarone & Valpolicella

2014 Gold: 2; Silver: 6; Bronze: 4; Commended: 10
2013 Gold: 3; Silver: 6; Bronze: 6; Commended: N/A
Must-list status: 45%
Overall SWA performance 2014 D+

This is a region where our tasters are looking for two very distinct wine styles: fresh, light, food-friendly wines that can do a good honest job for the sommelier Valpolicella; and bigger, richer, chunkier wallet-busters for people tucking into hunks of raw beef Amarone.

They more or less found both, but it was a struggle – and our medal haul here this year was rather lacklustre.

While our tasters found a few Valpolicella medals (including a commendably well-priced Gold from Villa Almadi), too many of the wines were, if not actually bad, simply uninspiring. The kick-out rate was high.

‘They’ve been getting away with it for years,’ growled a clearly irritated Gold List co-ordinator Christine Parkinson as she surveyed the single successful addition to the Gold List. ‘Maybe it’s time that either they changed or we all moved on…’

Worryingly, the changes that are taking place in the region are 180 degrees opposed to what most restaurants would want to see: richer fruit, more oak – and higher prices. All of which take them away from the job that sommeliers would want them to be doing – matching lighter or oily dishes at an affordable price. 

‘Sometimes I find the most expensive Valpolicellas are close in style to Amarone. But it’s an everyday wine – would you drink an Amarone every day?’ asked Luigi Buonanno of Etrusca Restaurants.

The answer, at these prices, is ‘surely not’. And the issue is further complicated by an apparently insoluble stylistic debate. There are plenty of examples of both modern and traditional wines out there now, and our panel were split more or less down the middle on which ones they preferred.

FOOTNOTE: Includes wines from Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia & Veneto


Across the North-East Italian reds and whites Zenato managed an astonishing three Golds and two Silvers, with wines ranging from £8 to £50. Congratulazioni!

From the Tasting Teams

‘The trouble with Valpolicella is when they try to imitate Amarone. Then they can be a little overworked. They should stay with that easy-drinking style.’ Andrea Briccarello, Galvin Restaurants

‘Amarones cost serious money now, but when you think of the work that goes into the wines then this makes some sense.’ Michael Harrison, Hotel du Vin Henley

‘Amarone should be a distinct style of wine, otherwise, as with the more modern, fruit-forward styles, it can confuse and disappoint customers.’
Guillaume Dherouville, La Cave à Fromage