Unlike most other types of wine, Amarone comes from grapes that are allowed to dry for several months before the process of fermentation begins. The dried grapes give the finished wine a raisinlike flavor that is slightly tart and bitter, too. Amarone has a full-bodied taste and a high alcohol content, which contributes to its flavor. If a recipe calls for Amarone, you can try using a substitution, but shouldn't expect identical results.
Why Find a Substitute
Amarone is not an inexpensive wine. You may be hard pressed to find a bottle for under $20. An average bottle in the state of Pennsylvania costs between $40 and $50 as of 2011. Many recipes that call for Amarone ask that you use an entire bottle, which makes for a very expensive home-cooked meal. Depending on where you live, you may not have access to a wine store that sells Amarone.
Valpolicella wine uses the same grape as Amarone and is also dried first, but usually costs a lot less. It may also be blended with other grapes such as corvina, sangiovese or molinara grapes. In 2009, the "New York Times" taste-tested several bottles of Valpolicella, some of which cost as little as $9 per bottle. If you decide to use Valpolicella as a substitute, look for a bottle with a high alcohol content, no less than 14 percent. A bottle labeled "ripasso" may offer a bolder flavor that's closer to Amarone than one not labeled as such.
Other Red Wines
Try using another full-bodied, high-alcohol-content red wine if you cannot find a bottle of Valpolicella or if you want an even less expensive wine. You'll lose the raisinlike taste of Amarone if you substitute a red wine such as Zinfandel, but the dish should still turn out all right. Be sure to use a wine with an alcohol content that matches Amarone's for best results. Since Amarone is a dry wine, use a dry red wine as a substitute to match the flavor as much as possible. Other examples of dry red wines include Côtes-du-Rhône, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Substitutions to Avoid
Avoid using wine labeled cooking wine as a substitute for Amarone. You need the flavor provided by the alcohol in the wine. Additionally, cooking wine typically has extra salt added, which makes it taste unpleasant. Try to only use a wine you'd enjoy drinking on its own when you cook. You should also avoid using red wines that have a distinctive taste as a substitute for Amarone, since Amarone has its own distinctive flavor. If you use another flavorful wine such as Syrah, which is spicy, it can clash with the flavors in the dish you're preparing.