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Appassimento, what’s wrong with the wine industry

November 29, 2019 Tags: 0 comments
I recently read an article on next year trends according to Majestic, the wine retailer, and whilst six out of seven were 2019 trends expected to consolidate, the seventh was “appassimento”, which according to them, is the next big wine trend with the style taking drinkers away from Malbech.

“Appassimento” is a style of wine obtained by drying the grapes for any period after the harvesting to increase their sugar content, sugar content that once fermented becomes alcohol and “appassimento” style wines tend to have higher alcohol content, with the unfermented sugar called “residual sugar”. All wines have some residual sugar, in the case of “appassimento” style wines, this residual sugar tend to be higher due to the fact that if the wine maker was to ferment all sugar, the alcohol content of the wine will be too high, impossible to sell as wine.

I am not a big fan of this new wave of “appassimento” style wines for two main reasons. First, I have tasted hundreds, and the vast majority were not good due to their, unbalanced, higher residual sugar. Unbalanced wines, wines with a higher residual sugar is the problem I found in the almost totality of “appassimento” style wines tasted, overly sweet, syrupy, liquid marmalades, wines lacking the acidity that an “appasimento” style wine should have and a tired nose, lacking freshness.

Secondly, it is nothing new, wine makers producing “appassimento” style wines follow the wine making process used for the Amarone della Valpolicella and the lesser known but still great Sforzato della Valtellina, where several grapes for the first and Nebbiolo for the second are dried after the harvesting.

If “appassimento” has a purpose for the Amarone della Valpolicella or the Sforzato della Valtellina, it allows the grapes to reach the sugar content needed to produce them, sugar content that without the “appassimento” will never be there, in all others, it rarely has any. The same wine making process is also followed when making “passiti”, also known as dessert wines, where not all sugar is fermented and residual sugar is higher, again, for a purpose.

Properly made “Appassimento” style wines need to have higher acidity to balance that extra sugar content, without that acidity they are just undrinkable, are liquid marmalade, and often require ageing, they are more labour intense and therefore costly, and not all grapes can be “appassite”, dried, there are grapes that already have, when ripe, a high sugar content, let alone drying them.

Several years ago, there was the trend of “oaked” chardonnay, trend that pushed the oak so far that suddenly wine drinkers were, and still are, put off by simply mentioning the name “Chardonnay”, blaming the grape for poorly made, oaky wines. At that time, I wrote that “oak” was also being used to cover poorly made wines. Now I believe that the same will happen for “appassimento” style wines, more and more appassimento style wines are being made to the point that wine drinker will eventually be put off, and the appassimento method is , as per the oak, also being used to “hide” poor quality grapes, grapes that havent reach their natural ripeness.

A good appassimento could be an alternative to a good Malbech, but except for their fruitness, the wine making process is different and so are the wines. A good “appassimento” style wine is more complex, bigger, suited for different food and occasions, and at, until we find a properly made wine, we will not import one just to follow the trend, until then we suggest a good Amarone della Valpolicella or a Sforzato, two fantastic “appassimento” style wines, or not really “appassimento” style wines, but good, more approachable, alternatives to Malbech offering outstanding value for money, the Valpolicella Ripasso or the Primitivo
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