Wines Of The Veneto
The Veneto region is probably one of Italy's most important wine producing regions, it lies just behind the regions of Sicily and Apulia in terms of vineyard area and production figures, but is probably far better known than its two southern rivals. In terms of quality there is a definite East/ West divide in Veneto. The province of Verona produces some of the best known and most successful wines in Italy - Soave, Valpolicella and Bardolino, as well as possibly the countries great red wines Amarone. However, the wines of Berganze, Colli, Berici, Lison-Pramaggiore and the Piave Valley are generally little known. The only exception to this is Prosecco, but unfortunately it doesn't always live up to its reputation and expectations.
The region extends from Lake Garda in the west, along the foothills of the Alp to the Adriatic lagoons of Venice and Trieste. Vineyard slopes and mainly south-facing, benefiting from the protection of the mountains. The best quality wines of the region come from these hills, and the bulk quantity wines come from the plains between the foothills and the river Po or the river Adige.
The grape varieties used do not appear in the wines DOC names, therefore the most important and successful grape varieties are rarely known by name, other than Prosecco. Regional white varieties include Garganega and Trebbiana are the base varieties for Soave, Gamberellara and Bianco Custoza, and the red varieties of Corvina and Corvinone which are the base varieties of Valpolicella and Amarone.
From Garda to Verona
The range of wines produced in this region begin with the white wines of the west. The DOC region of Lugana extends over into Lombardy, followed by Bianco di Custoza and the light, easy drinking red, Bardolino which predominates the vineyards of the southern corner of Lake Garda. To the north of Verona, lies the Valpolicella vineyards. Like Bardolino, Valpoicella is made from Corvina grapes among others, but Valpolicella is made with more power, structure and body.
It is an ancient tradition in the region to reserve some of the grapes from the Valpolicella harvest and lay them over trestles to dry (nowadays carried out in temperature and humidity controlled drying rooms). The wine from these grapes is not made until December or January, when the drying has increased the sugar content. Since usually all the sugar is not converted to alcohol, the resulting wines are sweet and full bodied. This wine is called Recioto della Valpolicella.
Sometimes, the natural yeasts convert the sugar of these partially dried grapes to Alcohol which produce a powerful, markedly alcoholic, full bodied red wine. These wines began to be systematically made back in the 1950s, under the names Amarone and Recioto Amarone.
Another, third variant of this Valpolicella wine is Valpolicella Ripasso, which is made using a production method developed in the 1970s and 1980s. Valpolicella Ripasso is made by adding pressed grape skins, from the already fermented Amarone, to fully fermented Valpolicella. The yeasts and sugars present in the grape skins, further ferment the Valpolicella. The wines produced using this method are often labelled Valpolicella Superiore or as Vino da Tavola.
Vicenza and Treviso
Moving eastward from Veneto, the next wines are white, this is the home of Soave. Soave has had image problems for many years, it has been seen as a mass produced, medium quality everyday drinking wine, when in fact there are some exceptional Soaves to be found, there is even a sweet Soave Recioto to be found. As with many other wine regions in Italy, a small number of Soave producers have been striving to improve its quality and reputation on a worldwide scale. Good Soave is a dry, soft wine with a surprising ability to withstand ageing.
Gambellara is Soave's lesser known twin. It is produced in then neighbouring region of Vincenza, unfortunately this region is home to generic mass produced table wines, therefore its quality wines rarely come to the fore. Some though are truly worthy of note, the wines of Berganze, Berici and Colli Euganei are well worth seeking out, but will rarely be found on the supermarket shelves.
Veneto Wines: An Overview -
The vineyards that produce, possibly, one of Italy's most famous red wines, are sited on the slopes of the Alpine foothills to the north of Verona. The grape varieties used are Corvina (or Corvinone), Rondicella and Mollinara with small quantities of other native red varieties added.
Valpolicella has a bouquet of sour cherries, with a dry, fruity, but not to heavy body and flavour. The best Valpolicella comes from the Classico zone, around the small towns of Fumane, Negrar and San Pietro.
Amarone is one of the most immense, powerful and high-alcohol wines produced in Italy. Valpolicella grapes are spread out and hung on trellises in well-ventilated spaces, sometimes roof spaces, to dry. this drying process concentrates the natural sugars and juices within the grapes, giving the end wines an alcoholic content of anywhere up to 16%.
Well aged Amarone has a deep, rich bouquet with an even deeper, rich body, therefore making it an ideal wine to be aged.
Amarone Recioto is the sweet version of Amarone in which the sugars in the dried grapes has not all fermented to alcohol. Historically speaking, Amarone Recito is much older than Amarone, but unfortunately in recent years has become forgotten.
Bardolino is a light, fruity red wine from the shores of Lake Garda. It is made from the same grapes as Valpolicella, but is made in a much more easy-drinking, light, refreshing style. Bardolino has a wonderful bouquet of sour cherries and an almost blossom like smell when young. Taste wise, Bardolino is a light, fresh, full flavoured red wine.
Soave is one of Italy's best known and most loved white wines. Soave comes from the region to the eats of the city of Verona.
It is made from Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grape varieties. There is a marked difference between good Soave and the mass produced, mass marketed Soave which most of us are familiar with. Good Soave has a bouquet of lemons and sometimes even Jasmin. Soave is a light, easy drinking wine made in a medium alcohol level style.
The best Soaves come from the slopes around the Classico zone around Soave and Monteforte.