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Northeast Italy - Winegrowing Areas of the Veneto

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Vineyards around Bardolino on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) © Provided by DKBooks Vineyards around Bardolino on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda)

Hillside vineyards in Prosecco di Valdobbiadene & Conegliano

Photo: Hillside vineyards in Prosecco di Valdobbiadene & Conegliano © Provided by DKBooks Hillside vineyards in Prosecco di Valdobbiadene & Conegliano

Vineyards around Bardolino on Lago di Garda (Lake Garda)

Winegrowing Areas of the Veneto

soil type: sand, limestone, marl, basalt
red grape variety: Corvina, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
white grape variety: Garganega, Vespaiolo
wine styles: red, white, rosé, sparkling, dessert

The wines of the hills above Verona monopolize the scene in the Veneto. Soave and Valpolicella—the areas with the highest concentration of big-name producers—together make up 40 percent of the region’s DOC production. The performance outside these districts is varied, but not without its high points. Virtually every one of the region’s other 20 DOC zones has at least one good (and sometimes great) producer. International-style reds from the quality pioneers in Colli Berici and Colli Euganei suggest that there could be a lot of interesting wines still waiting to happen here. Fans of dessert wines should keep an eye on the Gambellara DOC. However, it is the quality and style of producers that stand out in these fringe DOCs more than any terroir character. The Veneto’s key DOCs are covered here.


Bardolino

The pale red wine from Bardolino DOC, on the southeast shores of Lago di Garda (Lake Garda), is made from roughly the same Corvina-Rondinella-Molinara grape mix as Valpolicella and offers the same cherry fruit and almondy finish in a lighter and softer vein. A lot of the large annual production is channeled into the bouncy Beaujolais Nouveau-style Bardolino Novello. Chiaretto is the rosé version of standard DOC; Bardolino Superiore DOCG is a new and as yet underutilized denomination.


Bianco di Custoza

This popular tourist wine comes from a small area south of Lago di Garda. It used to be made exclusively with the rather lackluster Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc), but recent amendments to the Bianco di Custoza DOC now allow more enterprising producers to brighten up their wines with the punchier Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Riesling Italico, giving it a lightweight, early-drinking feel.


Prosecco di Valdobbiadene & Conegliano

The best Prosecco comes from the hills between the two towns that give their name to this DOC: Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Prosecco grapes produce a vat-fermented spumante that is light, bubbly, fresh, and gently fragrant. Brut is the driest version, “dry” is confusingly the sweetest, and “extra dry” is somewhere in between. Prosecco DOC is an ideal summer tipple, so do not expect the body or complexity of a Chardonnay-based spumante.


Valpolicella

Regulations in the Valpolicella DOC allow producers here to make four different red wine styles from the same vineyards and from the same basic blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella grapes. From the lightest to the most full-bodied, these are: Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore, amarone, and recioto. Recioto and its dry counterpart amarone are powerfully alcoholic wines made from partially dried grapes. Straight Valpolicella is a dry, savory, everyday wine made from fresh grapes. And Valpolicella Superiore is theoretically a fresh grape wine, although it often gets beefed up by a period of refermentation with the skins left over from amarone, or with a drop of amarone itself. Common to all Valpolicella wines is the cherry flavor with the bitter twist of the Corvina grape. In the best wines, there is also a dry tanginess traditionally attributed to the soils of the “Classico” area—the original Valpolicella zone in the heart of the current DOC, which was established in 1968 and now accounts for less than half the area’s production. The variations on the Valpolicella theme depend not only on whether fresh or dried grapes are used, but also on the secondary grape varieties chosen for the blend, and on the choice of barrels. French barriques, with their distinctive toast and vanilla aromas, are becoming an established feature.


Soave

The basic grape in Soave DOC is a local variety called Garganega, which has delicate lemon and almond flavors. With an annual production of over 60 million bottles, Soave is by far Italy’s biggest white wine DOC. The credibility of the denomination was severely dented by an emphasis on quantity over quality through the 1980s. In the past five to ten years, however, the efforts of small grower-producers have brought Soave back into the realm of serious white wines, although the diversity of winemaking styles and the official sanctioning of Chardonnay as a blending variety have blurred its identity somewhat. Straight Soave DOC can be bland, but the new DOCG category of Soave Superiore, which came into effect with the 2002 vintage, should sort out the best from the rest. If in doubt, go for bottles labeled “Classico,” which come from the top hill sites in the communes of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone, and which should have more body and flavor. Another Soave capable of greatness in the right hands is Recioto di Soave DOCG, a sweet white wine with honey and apricot flavors that is made from dried Garganega grapes.


Gambellara

This DOC is a small hill zone in the province of Vicenza that uses the Garganega variety to make both a sweet white recioto and dry and flowery whites similar to Soave. Mineral-rich soils and a mild, sunny climate offer potential for quality whites, which, to date, has only been partially realized.


Colli Berici

The low, wooded hills of this DOC are more famous for their Palladian villas than their wines, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot both ripen well here, and in recent years, quality producers have started to make convincing versions of Bordeaux-style wines. The local specialty is an original, light but tannic varietal with raspberry flavors called Tocai Rosso.


Colli Euganei

Cabernet and Merlot from this DOC have a distinctive ripe and mellow character. The area also has a long-standing relationship with Moscato (Muscat), which is made both in a dry version and in a dessert wine called Fior d’Arancio Passito.

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