If you were looking for a full range of wines made from local varieties — red and white, still and sparkling, dry or slightly sweet, concentrated or passito, fresh or aged — where would you go? Veneto! It offers all these wines and more, in a place that’s not only home to the romantic cities of Verona and Venice, but also a wide range of wine grapes and styles found nowhere else.
Introducing the wines of Verona, Veneto
From the fruity-and-fresh reds like young Valpolicella and Bardolino, to the whites of Soave and Custoza to the aged and rich Amarone della Valpolicella, to a Durello sparkling wine, it’s all here, in the province of Verona. So is the dry and tannic Enantio and the sweet and silky Recioto della Valpolicella (or di Soave).
Veneto has an area the size of one-and-quarter New York cities planted with vineyards. More than 4% of this is certified organic. Verona’s vineyard area is equivalent to three and a half times the area of Manhattan.
Veneto is also the most productive wine region in the country. It produces one fifth of Italian wines and exporting the most. Verona is not just the name of a city. It’s also a province that produces nearly 7% of Italian wines. Most of which are DOC (denomination of controlled origin) or DOCG (denomination of controlled and guaranteed origin), which are both quality markers.
Why the wines of Verona are so good
Today Veneto is a land of fields and rolling hills. More than 50 million years ago, however, the region was a tropical sea roiled by undersea volcanic activity. Yet it was already home to the wild ancestor of the modern wine grape vine, Vitis vinifera. The first inhabitants of Lake of Garda were used to eating grapes, as were the ancient Arusnate people, who were contemporaries of the Romans. But it was the Romans who dedicated themselves to grape growing and wine making, discovering the secrets of how to make and age it.
In fact, the modern Amarone della Valpolicella wine owes a debt to the Romans. They were the ones who developed the appassimento technique of drying grapes before fermenting them. Not surprisingly, the wines from Verona were famous and in high demand all over the ancient world. In the centuries since, they’ve had their ups and downs, but the style is still alive.
The wines today
There are more than 50 wine grape varieties that can be cultivated in the province of Verona, and at least 16 of them are specific to the zone.
Verona also has five DOCG and 14 DOC. The first DOCG was declared in 1998: Recioto di Soave, a sweet white wine that can be still or sparkling, made with dried Garganega and Trebbiano grapes. In 2001, it was the turn of Soave Superiore, the still white wine, and of the red wine Bardolino Superiore, made with Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, Molinara. Amarone, and Recioto della Valpolicella got the DOCG later, in 2010.
Today, there are many wines that can boast the DOCG label. The best known among the reds are Valpolicella, Ripasso and Bardolino, while the whites include Soave, Custoza, Monti Lessini, Durello, Lugana and Valdadige Terra dei Forti.
Less well known are: S.Martino della Battaglia (white); Merlara and Arcole (both red and white wines); Garda (whites and reds, still and sparkling), and Vigneti della Serenissima. This last one also extends to other Venetian cities of Vicenza, Belluno, Padova, and Treviso.
Then there are the pink wines, the most famous of which is Chiaretto di Bardolino.
To sum up, there is an embarrassment of riches. Whatever the moment, the feeling, or the food, Verona offers a perfect wine to match.
Photo by Elisabetta Tosi