Appassimento is the process of making wine from dried grapes. (There is a great deal more to it than that, but as a consumer that’s all you need to know.) The most famous – justly – product of this system is Amarone, an intense, alcoholic, fruity wine that ages forever and drinks beautifully with absolutely anything. (An Italian waiter friend of mine says he’d “drink it with anything, with my morning scrambled eggs.”)
Veneto is, like California in the sweet growing spot for wine. They can grow pretty much any grape. Which they have, producing endless bottles of junk Merlot etc.. But when they blend them with Corvina, Rondinello use the appassimento process, magic occurs. Otherwise useless grapes produce gorgeous wines.
For my money these are the bargains of the wine bin at the moment. You will almost never cross $20 for an IGT Appassimento, but it will be four or more years old in the store, and taste like Napa wishes their wines tasted like.
The most interesting segement of the market for the certified cork dorks, is that the technique is being applied to white wine now. Masi, a market leader in the technology produces Masianco a Pinot Grigio/Verduzzo wine that is cheap and so gorgeously constructed as to make strong men weep.
If you’re on a budget and want real wine, look for the words “Appassimento”, “Passimento”, “Appaxximento”, this last a Masi construction for trademark purposes. These are tremendous wines that the rest of the world has yet to notice.