A friend of mine recently recommended a wine that he really liked. When he showed me the wine's label I saw that it was an Italian Appassimento. That's a wine that I was not previously familiar with, so I took a look on-line and found a brief description of it. Soon thereafter, I went on the hunt for the wine so that I could give it a try. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it in any of my local stores, so he graciously brought me a bottle to try.
Simply put, Appassimento wines are made from grapes that have been dried before being pressed. The grapes are harvested and laid out on racks in large temperature controlled drying rooms for up to six months. After drying, the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed and fermented.
But, since the dried grapes lose up to 50% of their water during the drying process, the result of the press (i.e., the resulting must) is quite rich and concentrated. And, high in sugar. But, typically, the high sugar content simply results in high alcohol wines (15-16% ABV) when fermentation is completed. These wines are then generally barrel aged for one to two years before being bottled. The resulting wines are full-bodied, concentrated in dark fruit flavors and, not surprisingly, have just a hint of raisin flavor to them.
The Appassimento process is used traditionally in Italian wine regions to make the popular Amarone, Recioto, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Sforzato wines. The best known, Amarone Valpolicella, is the high-end of wines from Valpolicella and commands the highest prices.
While you can find inexpensive Appassimento wines (and the one I tried was well under $20), the process simply makes it more expensive. First, you have to add a large, temperature controlled drying facility. Then, you have the labor involved in laying out all the grapes on the drying racks and stacking them. Finally, when it comes time to make the wine, it takes a lot more dried grapes to make a bottle of Appassimento than to make other wines. So, the cost of a bottle of Amarone Valpolicella can easily be the $50 - $80 price range.
So, keep your eyes out for an Appassimento and give it a try! Cheers!