The Veneto in Italy’s northeast produces more wine than any other region, and a great deal of it is DOC and DOCG wine. Its most important wine is Valpolicella (the land of many cellars), which itself breaks down into a fine hierarchy of styles that includes Recioto, Ripasso and Amarone. The Valpolicella region is one of gravel soils east of Lake Garda, north of the city of Verona. Valpolicella is always a blend. The leader is Corvina, known for its bright cherry flavors and light color. Rondinella adds herbal flavors and aromas. Valpolicella is Italy’s second most produced wine after Tuscany’s Chianti.
- Garden variety Valpolicella DOC is a light wine, reminiscent of Beaujolais, showing the bright sour cherry notes of the Corvina contribution, with hints of blueberry and bananas.
- Valpolicella Classico DOC is made from grapes harvested in original section of the appellation, the hilly westernmost third.
- Valpolicella Superiore DOC is aged at least a year and has an alcohol content of at least 12%.
- Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is a powerful, concentrated dry red wine made from dried grapes.
- Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG is a sweet dessert wine made from dried grapes, extremely rich and concentrated.
- Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC is made with the grape skins that remain from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.
Bardolino sits between Lake Garda and Valpolicella, with the foothills of the Alps directly to its north, benefitting from cooling influence of both mountains and lake. This generally light wine is similar to Valpolicella in that its major grapes are Corvina and Rondinella. Bardolino has both Classico and Superiore designations.
Soave DOC, to the east of Valpolicella, is the Veneto’s major white wine, produced from the Garganega grape (with up to 30% Chardonnay and Verdicchio). Soave is crisp, dry and fruity. It is produced in huge quantities and hence has had reputation problems. The Soave Superiore DOCG designation is an attempt to change this image problem. A classico zone exists. Neighboring Gambellara produces dry and sweet recioto white wines, also made from Garganega.
Bianco di Custoza DOC overlaps with the southern reaches of Bardolino, producing still white wines as well as the sparkling Bianco di Custoza Spumante, and sweet Bianco di Custoza Passito. All these wines are made from Trebbiano Toscano, Garganega, and the obscure Trebbianello, with possible additions of Cortese, Malvasia Bianca, Riesling Italico, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Manzoni Bianco.
The vineyards of Lugana straddle the border between the Veneto and Lombardy. The region makes fruity, floral, spicy white wine from the Verdicchio grape, which thrives in its cool clay soils. Lugana also makes a red wine called Chiaretto with Groppello, Marzemino, Sangiovese and Barbera grapes.
Vicenza produces red wines from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Carménère (all French grapes), and whites from Garganega, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Moscato, truly an international mix. Sub-alpine Monti Lessini to the north of Vincenza makes reds, whites, blends, Spumante (both white and pink) and sweet Passito from dried grapes. Single varietals include Garganega, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. The still blends lead with either Merlot of Chardonnay. Colli Berici makes still wines from the same grape as Vicenza, and a bottle fermented Spumante sparkling wine from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. It also uses Garganega as the base for Frizzante, Spumante and sweet Passito wine from dried grapes.
The Colli Euganei lies southwest of Padua on volcanic soil. The denomination produces a range of sweet Moscato-based wines, as well as whites and reds in still, Frizzante, and Spumante styles. Among red grapes, the Bordeaux varieties, including Carménère (rare in its home of Bordeaux), are planted. Whites include the internationals Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Nearby, the wines of Bagnoli include sparkling wines made from the local red Raboso grape, red wines from Raboso and Merlot, and rosés from Bordeaux blends.
Breganze stands by itself, conforming to no other Veneto regional heritage. The climate here is cool and the growing season short. Blended red wine here is led by Merlot, blended white by the grape that used to be called Tocai but is now called Friulano (also Tai) to differentiate it from the Hungarian Tokaji. Varietal reds are made from Pinot Nero, Marzemino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, each with a Riserva form, aged at least two years. Varietal whites are made from Vespaiolo, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and Friulano.
The Prosecco region, known for its light sparkling wine, stretches across a large area of northeastern Italy in the Veneto and the neighboring region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Prosecco is made from the grape now called Glera, but which many persist in calling Prosecco. Still Prosecco exists, but it is not exported. Sparkling Prosecco is made using the bulk charmat (or tank) method, resulting in two levels of fizz: Frizzante, which weighs in at a pressure level of about 2.5 atmospheres, and Spumante, with perhaps three atmospheres. By contrast, French Champagne generally has up to six atmospheres and Italian sparkling wines bottle fermented using the traditional method varies from three to six. Prosecco must be at least 85% Glera. The remainder may be the locals Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Verdiso and Glera Lunga and the internationals Chardonnay and the three Pinots (Nero, Grigio, and Bianco). Following EU nomenclature, sweetness levels, from driest to sweetest, are Brut, Extra Dry, Dry and Demi-Sec.
Img120 Caption: “The less expensive, less fussy Prosecco is successfully competing against Champagne in the sparkling wine market.”
Given the huge area that may produce Prosecco, quality and consistency is always a concern. Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG is a highly regarded Prosecco sub-district, as it the Asolo Prosecco DOCG (also known as Colli Asolani).
In addition to Prosecco, the Montello e Colli Asolani region produces still red and white wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Merlot as well as the locals Bianchetta and Manzoni Bianco. Montello (little mountain) also makes a foaming Spumante wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco that we must distinguish from the same region’s Glera-based Prosecco.
The Piave DOC is geographically the largest wine area in the Veneto, producing both blends and varietals. The lead red blend is Bordeaux style: both Cabernets and Carménère. Merlot, Carménère and the local Raboso are also produced as single red varietal wines. White varietals are Chardonnay, Verduzzo, Tai (Friulano), and the local Manzoni Bianco. Dried-grape Passito wines are made with Verduzzo and Raboso grapes. The Piave Melanotte DOCG was created in 2011 to promote varietal Red Raboso, which here must be 95% Raboso and be aged a minimum of three years.
Lison DOCG shares a corner of eastern Veneto with part of western Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and produces white wines from Friulano. The DOCG has a classico sub-zone. The Lison-Pramaggiore DOC offers still white wines from Chardonnay, Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Verduzzo, as well as reds from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Nero, and Refosco. Dessert wines made from the dried grape Passito method include Refosco (red) and Verduzzo (white). A sparkling Spumante wine is produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero.