Are we very different from the ancient Romans? Not really – both of us love to drink wine! We know this, because archaeologists have uncovered wine artifacts in the Bardolino area that date back to Roman times.
These items are mainly situlae (metallic pots for ceremonies), paterae (drinking bowls), and amphoras. They were either used to store wine, or for religious purposes. Despite all this evidence of wine drinking, it was some centuries before the first written documents regarding viticulture in this part of Lake Garda appeared. Those documents date back to the early Middle Ages, when local monasteries inherited the art of winemaking from the Roman tradition, and pursued the cultivation of olives and vines for religious purposes.
It’s thanks to them that modern wine lovers have so much to celebrate – wine from Bardolino.
Bardolino and its long standing reputation
The aging potential of wines from Lake Garda became clear during the 19th century when the region developed a reputation for its wines, by then called Bardolino wines. The region’s reputation kept growing, until it was finally awarded its DOC on the 28th May 1968, one of the first denominations in Italy to be so recognized; the DOC, or Denomination of Controlled Origin, which limits the production area and guarantees the quality, was introduced in 1963.
Today, Bardolino’s denominations produce about 17 million bottles of wine. Up to 2014, it was just two wines, the red Bardolino and Bardolino Chiaretto, its pink version; a recent change of the production rules has allowed for a paler Chiaretto di Bardolino, with a distinctive citrus aromatic profile.
In the past few years, Bardolino has also concentrated on promoting three different historical sub-zones: La Rocca, Montebaldo, and Sommacampagna. La Rocca represents the ancient Bardolino district, Bardolino Montebaldo stands for the foothill area of Monte Baldo – known as the Botanic Garden of Europe thanks to its biodiversity – and, finally, Bardolino Sommacampagna accounts for the southern hills.
This kind of information sounds like the territory of wine geeks but, surprisingly, it’s not true. Compare the wines of Bardolino and Valpolicella, for example. Both use the Corvina and Corvinone grapes. Yet a blind taste test reveals that the wines are very obviously different. This is the magic of terroir, or ‘sense of place’, at work: although the grapes are the same, the different microclimates, soils, and altitudes they hail from produce very different results.
Reasons to try it
Bardolino is one of the friendliest wines you can find in Italy. It is a perfect companion with food, including hard-to-pair fatty fish, and it’s easy going with people, being fresh, fruity and easy to drink. The freshness is a gift of the local soils; the morainic hills where Corvina is planted were created by ancient glaciers, which took the rocks from the mountains and moved them downwards. That geology, coupled with the mild microclimate, produces lively fruit flavors with good acidity and low levels of alcohol.
And all of it working together creates an unforgettable summer holiday. That’s why many foreign visitors love Bardolino so much – like the Romans before them.
Photo by Elisabetta Tosi