It has been present in Valpolicella for more than 2,000 years. Nowadays, Appassimento is mandatory to produce Amarone and Recioto della Valpolicella.
Appassimento is linked to many Mediterranean wine-producing countries, therefore, appassimento is thought to take place outdoors. Indeed, in many regions, the grapes are laid under the sun for few days immediately after the harvest, in order to dehydrate the berries making them suitable for straw wine production.
On the contrary, in Valpolicella, appassimento takes place into a fruit drying-room, called “fruttaio”, and it is carried out for several months.
The uniqueness of Valpolicella resides also in the fact that apart from the sweet wine Recioto also the dry full-bodied Amarone is produced with the dried grapes.
Traditionally, the harvested bunches were transported to the “fruttaio”, where they were laid on the “arele”, mats of wild cane, or hung on hooks or ropes hanging down from the ceiling. Nowadays, it is more likely to see the grapes resting in plastic or wooden crates.
Appassimento is a very crucial process. Only the soundest bunches can successfully undergo the dehydration, that’s why the Amarone and Recioto harvest is carried out by selecting the best and healthiest bunches. In order to avoid any problem, bunches must be laid in single layers so that better air circulation is encouraged and berries are not accidentally crushed.
During appassimento, grapes state of health must be monitored and the use of air conditioning systems operating at the same temperature of the traditional drying process is allowed during the crucial periods in order to avoid humidity and rot.
Grape-drying systems using heat for dehumidification are under no circumstances allowed.
To make the grapes suitable for the Amarone and Recioto production, appassimento must last at least 3 months, but usually, the Recioto grapes are left to shrivel for a longer period.
During the process, the bunches lose 35 up to 50% of the water and consequently, the other substances such as sugar, polyphenols, aroma compounds and acids get concentrated. The resulting must is suitable for producing both a well-structured straw wine like the Recioto and a rich full-bodied dry wine like the Amarone.
Apart from the concentration of the wine compounds, during the appassimento process several other complex transformations occur into the grapes, for instance, the modification of the glucose-fructose ratio that lead to the concentration of polyphenols, the increase of glycerine and resveratrol - researches have proved this substance to have an extraordinarily beneficial action, contributing to keep the arteries clean and to reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart attack, within a moderate wine consumption - and the development of new aroma compounds that make Amarone and Recioto so seductive and unique.