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, hence “appassimento” style wines tend to have higher alcohol content, with the unfermented sugar called “residual sugar”. All wines have some residual sugar and 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 transform all sugar in the grapes, the alcohol content of the wine will be too high and therefore impossible to sell.
I am not a big fan of this new trend of “appassimento” style wines for two main reasons. First, I have tasted hundreds of them, and the vast majority were not good due to their, unbalanced, higher residual sugar. Unbalanced wines, wines with a higher residual sugar was the problem I encountered in the almost totality of “appassimento” style wines I tasted - overly sweet, syrupy, lacking freshness, liquid marmalades - wines lacking the acidity that an “appasimento” style wine should have and a tired nose.
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 Sforzato della Valtellina
, where several grapes for the first and Nebbiolo for the second, are left to dry 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, they are just undrinkable.” Appassimento” style wines often require ageing, they are labour intense and therefore costly, and lastly, 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 a 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 wines. At that time, I wrote that “oak” was also being used to cover poorly made wines. Now I believe that the same is happening for “appassimento” style wines.
More and more poor “appassimento” wines are being made to the point that wine drinker will eventually be put off, the appassimento method is , as per the oak, also being used to “hide” poor quality grapes : grapes that haven't reached their natural ripeness. “Appassimento” wines at the moment seems to be mainly an Italian problem, everyone is trying to jump on the wagon, I guess the Prosecco’s story has not taught wine makers anything.
A good “appassimento” wine 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 richer food, and until we find a properly made one, we will not have any in stock.
Until we find a good “Appassimento” style wine, we suggest a good Amarone della Valpolicella or a Sforzato, two fantastic “appassimento” style wines, or, a more approachable, offering outstanding value for money, Valpolicella Ripasso
, not really “appassimento” style wines, but still great alternatives.
We finally found the Appassimento
style wine we were looking for, it is a great wine, and made by our friend Roberto Scubla, a name that doesn’t need any introduction, you will love it the same way we love it.