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Wine from Veneto

Wine from Veneto

Exploring Veneto’s Wine Collection

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!

              – Walter Scott

Introduction

Everyone loves their homeland, and we here at all’Amarone are no different. Our beloved Veneto is a land worth loving, a land of great plains and craggy peaks, that stretches from lake to lagoon via rivers and hills, not to mention cities generally agreed to be among the most beautiful in the world. It is also a viticultural superpower – no region of Italy makes more wine, and only one has more DOCG and DOC designated zones. The best wines of the Veneto are iconic, from the world’s most popular fizz to a certain red wine that we, obviously, are rather particularly fond of.

Veneto is the biggest of the regions up in the northeast, bordering Emilia-Romagna to the south, Lombardy to the west, Trentino-Alto Adige to the north, and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia to the northeast. It is topographically very diverse, from the Dolomite mountains and the Venetian Prealps in the northern half and the Monte Lessini hills in the west, to the great plains in the Po Valley which covers the southern and southeastern section of the region, just over half of the whole. Its western border is marked by Lake Garda, shared with its neighbour Lombardy, while on the east coast lies a geographical marvel, the Venetian lagoon with its islands and its unique ecosystem, as well as the marshy flatlands just inland of it. As a result of all this the climatic diversity in the Veneto is considerable, from the cooler slopes to the humid flats, while sea, lagoon and lake all contribute to making the Po Valley among the foggiest places in Italy.

Cantina Bertani Barricaia nella cantina in Valpantena

The wine

Overview

Fully 43 areas in Veneto have DOCG or DOC status, the third most in Italy after Piedmont and Tuscany, in addition to which there are also several extremely exciting IGTs. DOP-designated production accounts for about 25% of Veneto’s total output – which, when considered alongside the region’s position as the country’s biggest producer overall, means a really staggering amount of top-grade wine comes out of Veneto every year. Many of these wines are extremely famous names as well, some of Italy’s most important. Yet these zones can sometimes be confusing, as many of them are quite broad umbrella-terms under which whole worlds of wine rules and regulations proliferate like mushrooms.

So here’s our guide to the perplexity that Veneto wine designations can be, from north to south, east to west, red, white and beyond. In fact – let’s start with beyond.

Prosecco

Grappolo di Uva Glera e Background delle colline del Prosecco

It is perhaps appropriate the first historical mention of prosecco, then spelled ‘prosecho’, was by an Englishman, back in the 16th century. However, it’s not that simple (nothing ever is!), for he refers to it as a wine of ‘Histria’ (Istria), the Adriatic littoral across the water from Venice where, near Trieste, lies a certain village by the name of Prosecco. Problem solved, right? Well, no actually, because prosecco wine is made from a grape which used to be called prosecco and is now called glera, a grape surely named for the village – but also a grape which has apparently never been grown around the village for which it is named.

Confused? Such is wine sometimes. But what we can say is that it’s likely a wine style named for the Istrian village that spread across what was at the time the Venetian Empire, and that became associated with a few grapes known to make that style, and then eventually one of those grapes in particular. It is indeed confusing, but a lot of wine history is like that!

The key moment came at the end of the 19th century with the invention of a new method for making sparkling wine. First developed by Federico Martinotti in 1895 and refined by Eugène Charmat twelve years later, the Charmat-Martinotti method is it is now known became quickly adopted as the go-to for prosecco, it being an inexpensive and very reliable way of getting bubbles into the bottle. Effectively it’s a method for fermenting the wine in a stainless steel tank and dissolving the CO2 produced by fermentation in the wine (rather than the Champagne method, where a second fermentation takes place in the bottle). The longer the fermentation the finer the wine, and many top proseccos have been known to have some of the longest fermentations of any sparkling wine.

Prosecco is made across eastern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, but it’s fair to focus here on the subzones that have the highest prestige, and for that, there are three names to look at: Asolo, Conegliano, and Valdobbiadene.

All three of these comuni lie in the province of Treviso, towards the northeast of the region, all within an hour’s drive of each other in the Pre-Dolomites. Really it’s useful to consider the latter two together, as their top-level production is grouped under the appellation Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG along with the separate Colli di Conegliano DOCG, whereas Asolo Prosecco DOCG is more off on its own. The altitude has a cooling effect, while the soils – ancient, formerly-marine territorial rich in fossils, while the sandy marl is tremendously rich in minerals and provides excellent drainage. The results are known everywhere, with some of the most acclaimed prosecco wines being capable of an almost painful citrus cleanness, almost a smack of grapefruit, with nuts and rocks and steel and so much freshness it can chill to the touch.

These are the driest, of course, which are popular these days – however, many traditionalists will say that the purest expressions of prosecco are those with just a touch of residual sugar, which balance that green-berry acidity and introduce new notes into the mix like pear and peach blossom. These styles are especially popular in the broader (very broad indeed) Prosecco DOC, which are also very often found in the less fizzy style known as frizzante (as opposed to full-on fizzy spumante). There’s too much variety in the rest of prosecco to go into here – suffice it to say that the glera grape must make up minimum 85%, while rosé prosecco is made from mixing in 10-15% red pinot nero, making it notable as a pink wine made from actually mixing red and white wines.

Prosecco got a bit of a reputation as something of a bulk wine, and it’s certainly true that it got very popular (especially in the UK) as a relatively cheap alternative to Champagne. However, this has become almost universally recognised in recent years to be an unfair characterisation of the wine, as its vast range and possibility are well established to be among Europe’s real most exciting sparklers, a region which truly rewards depth and connoisseurship.

Soave

Vigneti in pendenza sulle colline a Soave

Another wine zone that can be said to have had a bit of a reputational renaissance is found far to the south of prosecco. On the eastern area of the province of Verona lies the comune of Soave, whose eponymous white wine reached quite astonishing levels of popularity in the 1970s especially, leading to such a race to produce massive quantities of the stuff that quality ended up suffering.

Those days are long gone now, though – indeed, as the quality went down so did the popularity, leading to something of a retrenchment, a reconsideration of what Soave should be for. And some producers who kept the faith throughout this hectic period were rewarded, as their carefully-crafted traditional wines regained their rightful place right at the top of Italian white wine.

The star of region is a grape virtually unique to it – virtually, because it turns out to have one other unlikely homeland. Garganega is found almost exclusively in Veneto, where it is the decisive contributor in both the Soave and Gambellara appellations, but via genetic testing we’ve found out that it is the same grape as the Sicilian grecanico dorato. It is in Veneto that it is most celebrated, however, as shown by the near-double amount of area under vine in the northern region. Garganega is beloved for its reliability, its disease-resistance (thanks to the peculiarity of its berry-bunching), and above all its relatively moderate acidity which allows for some of its gentler flavours and remarkable fragrance to shine through. It accounts for at least 70% of Soave wines, with most of the rest usually consisting of ‘trebbiano di Soave’, more generally known as verdicchio, which adds trademark steel and zing.

There are two DOCGs and a DOC that cover the Soave area. The Soave Superiore DOCG was intended to provide a designation for many producers to make a higher-quality, more regulated wine; however, many Soave producers, those in the Soave Classico zone and the heart of the area no less, don’t see it as necessary, being perfectly content to make excellent wines with the terroir they have under the Soave DOC (the variety here is substantial, from the more gentle, fruitburst wines towards the actual village of Soave, to the much more taut and mineral wines out at Monteforte d’Alpone to the east).

The other is a sweet wine which, well, we’ll come to later, because it’s a style that deserves its own subheading here. Stay tuned!

Lison

Lison - Veduta della Tenuta Polvaro

Lison DOCG, stretching over the border of Venezia province with Friuli to the east, is one we ought to look at on account of its producing some of the most important white wines in either region, and easily producing the most important white wine in Veneto made from the grape friulano, formerly tocai friulano, and known locally as tai or simply as lison. Once upon a time merged with its neighbour as Lison-Pramaggiore DOC, mainly known for its red wines, but so renowned did its whites become that it was not only separated but elevated up to DOCG.

Veneto holds the bulk of the acreage of Lison in the Venezia province, with the rest over the border in the province of Pordenone. The wine must be at least 11.5% alcohol, but from the area designated Classico it has to be at least 12.5%. Friulano wine is typically a fresh and fragrant variety, full of white spice and a candied peach thing, all of which goes some way towards explaining why this region is held in such high esteem as to merit a DOCG classification.

Lugana

Veduta del Lago di Garda e dei vigneti della Doc Lugana

On the southern tip of Lake Garda and stretching over into neighbouring Lombardy, this very beautiful lacustrine winemaking area is sometimes seen as Soave’s junior partner, but this is a very unfair characterisation as garganega, the star of Soave, is not involved in the making of Lugana DOC wines – instead, this is where the turbiana (aka trebbiano di Lugana) gets to take centre stage, making up by law at least 90% of the final wine and frequently making up 100%.

The influence of Garda is fundamental here, almost sufficient to consider Lugana something of a maritime wine (though of course without the salinity). The cooling breezes help slow the ripening of the turbiana grapes, meaning they retain their acidity and give off their trademark grassy notes with a real vim of freshness.

Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, & Verduzzo

But it’s not just in terms of regions that we have to think! Many of the various DOCs of the Veneto share a fondness for a few grape varieties, and on the white side of the ledger we have three in particular to comment on: pinot grigio, pinot bianco, and verduzzo.

Pinot grigio is, naturally, the most famous. It’s Italy’s most exported white variety, found all over the bel paese but whose ‘homeland’, so to speak, is surely the Veneto, which by itself accounts for nearly two-fifths of the country’s production (neighbour Friuli is in second place with around a quarter). It’s otherwise known as pinot gris, under which designation cooler continental wines in the Alsace are made.

Whether the name is French or Italian makes a difference around the world – where, in New Zealand for instance, pinot gris is the preferred nomenclature it implies the style will be of the Alsace variety, whereas pinot grigio (found in California, for instance) implies the more Italian style. The former is generally a big fuller with some residual sugar, off-dry wines with finesse; the latter, what we’re looking at here, tends to be sharper, though sharing (in fine examples) those peculiar orchard flavours and fragrance.

The funny thing about pinot grigio is that its grapes are a grey-pink colour, meaning that wines made a with a little skin-contact come out almost as rosés. This makes it particularly interesting as an ‘orange wine’ producer, with some of the most interesting examples coming from the Italian northeast, Veneto included.

Pinot bianco is another traveller from the Franco-German border, where it’s known as pinot blanc or Weissburgunder. The word most associated with the flavours of this grape is round – gentler acidity and pearish, orange-blossom flavours that all-too-often have been considered more on the neutral end of the spectrum, but which in recent years, aided by experimenting with techniques such as lees-aging, use of oak and skin-contact (as well as simply more and more care in the vineyard) have started to produce wines of great interest, variety and quality. Its status as an early-ripener exaggerated this perception of pinot bianco as merely useful for bulking-out various blends, but this has been changing for a good few decades now.

Verduzzo, otherwise best-known for the Ramandolo DOCG sweet wine in Friuli, is in fact a majority-Veneto grape, with two-thirds of the total plantings. The reasons it makes such good sweet wines are its peculiar honeyish notes and its really cracking acidity, needed always to balance sugars in any given dessert wine. Vinified dry, one notices a distinct note of green apples.

These three grapes are found all over the Veneto, though verduzzo is mostly found towards the east, in the Venezia and Lison-Promaggiore DOCs. The two pinots, however, really are ubiquitous, responsible for excellent wine everywhere from the Venezia DOC to the Colli Euganei DOC in Padova province to the Monte Lessini DOC shared between Verona and Vicenza provinces.

But speaking of Verona…

Valpolicella

appassimento technique

What else can we say about this, the heartland of Veneto’s red-wine claims to fame, and indeed home of our beloved Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG. To cut a very long story short (to learn more check out our Amarone blog!), the Valpolicella region lies to the north of the city of Verona in the province of the same name. The main grape here is corvina, whose crack of acidity and trademark bitter cherries form the core of the region’s wines (required to make up 45-95%). It’s supported by a combination of three different varieties: the slightly confusing corvinone, a very similar grape that is not in fact related to corvina, which is allowed to substitute 50% of the corvina in the wine; rondinella, allowed to make 5-30% of the final wine, particularly noted for its thick skins (on which more later); and no more than 25% of other autochthonous varieties, of which the most common is molinara, largely for its extra acidity. This is the combination most commonly used for regular Valpolicella DOC wines, whose bright blue-and-black fruit and pleasing freshness is particularly sought after as a summer wine (NB: Valpolicella Classico is made in the historic zone of Valpolicella, as opposed to the newly incorporated expanded zones. But they all make wonderful wines!).

But! That’s not at all where it ends, of course it isn’t. Because of course, there’s the small matter of the wine that gave us our own name. Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG is a unique wine, the only DOCG dry wine made from the appassimento technique, which is to say from grape that have been partially raisinified. This process has the effect of concentrating the sugars in the grape must which, when fully fermented (i.e. to dryness), power wines of really extraordinary alcoholic heft, easily clearing 15.5% and even 17%. The variety within this, however, is genuinely dizzying – from wines that punch their considerable weight, full of massive, explosive flavours, to astonishingly refined wines of such finesse it’s hard to believe they’re as strong as they are, wines with the acidity, tannin, depth and complexity to live for years, even decades.

There is a secret third dry wine, one truly unique to Valpolicella, the Valpolicella Ripasso DOC. In the spirit of avoiding waste, the skins of the grapes that have been dried and pressed for use as Amarone are then added to fermenting Valpolicella DOC red wines to beef it up. The result is exactly that, ‘Baby Amarones’ they’re sometimes called, classic, affordable reds with searing fruit but a little extra oomph.

We could go on and on about Valpolicella. And we have! So please, click on any of the links above to learn more, or check out our Amarone blog!

Bardolino

Vigneti nella Doc di Bardolino che si affacciano sul Lago di Garda

Bardolino DOC, on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, plays something like Beaujolais to Valpolicella’s Burgundy. Based on similar varieties, with the addition of some marzemino, the cooling breezes and fog coming in off the lake results in lighter, paler reds, the kind of red that even benefits from no small amount of time in the fridge. The very best wines, with more stringent production demands, are sold as Bardolino Superiore DOCG, the highest-designated wine from the area.

To further the Beaujolais analogy, Bardolino is also one of the better produces of vino novello, i.e. vin nouveau, made via carbonic maceration. It is also notable for making a rather fine rosato, sold under the label Bardolino Chiaretto.

Bagnoli Friularo

One of the less well known DOCGs of Veneto and the only one based on the enigmatic raboso grape. The name comes from a Venetian language word raboso (or raboxo) meaning ‘angry’, and it’s probably no accident that these are wines with an extraordinarily potent mix of tannin and acidity that, when young or made slapdash, probably do make for somewhat furious imbibing. This is, however, to do an enormous injustice to the rather extraordinary wines of Bagnoli Friularo, which take this rather ornery variety and swaddle it in soft fabric (metaphorically – of course, they really put it in wooden barrels – but the idea’s the same).

The wines are a remarkable and unique mix of palm-slap and gentle caress, the pride of Padova. The Bagnoli di Sopra DOC is similar, but somewhat more honest.

Verona IGT

Some weird and wonderful things are possible in all of Italy thanks to the indicazione geografica tipica designation, essentially a way of giving a quality to label to high-level wine that falls outside the DOP regulatory framework. There are, of course, many in Veneto, but we at all’Amarone want to draw attention in particular to those in the province of Verona, where strange and wonderful indigenous varieties have particularly flourished, from 100% oseleta wines to the ultra rare rondinella bianca.

Elsewhere, IGT designations are also used to make fine stuff from international varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and especially merlot, of which there’s a lot in Veneto, although some DOCs (e.g. Colli Euganei) allow such grapes as part of their rules.

The sweet wines

Of which there are so many, and virtually all of which are, like Amarone, made from the appassimento method. There are many to choose from, of which this blog confesses its fondness for the Fior d’Arancio Colli Euganei DOCG made from moscato, but really there’s only one name we can focus on here – Recioto.

Recioto, from the Venetian for ‘little ear’, is the name given to three different designations: Recioto di Gambellara, Recioto di Soave, and Recioto della Valpolicella (all DOCGs). Yes, they are passito sweet wines, but that doesn’t quite sell them properly, as nowhere else is the grape drying process such a part of regional DNA as here, and nowhere is the potential of these styles taken as seriously. These wines, two white one red, are undeniably special, capable of moments of magic and meditation, wines to contemplate, to allow you to think, to feel the slow passage of time. Wines from raisinified grapes have been observed in Veneto from at least the Longobardic days, and it’s very likely that these are the wines. Truly special stuff.

Conclusion

And there’s so much more we could have mentioned! The nosiolas and lagreins of Valdadige/Etschtaler, the racy freshness of the whites of Custoza, the friulano liquorosi of San Martino della Battaglia, the cabernet francs of Montello, the malvasias and refoscos of Merlara or the bright whites of Arcole, and so much more! Veneto simply never runs out of wine, indeed never runs of quality wine. Is it any wonder we love our homeland so much?

The breakdown

Veneto

Location: northeast

Climate: cool mediterranean, tending to continental and mountainous

Soils: sedentary loam in the plains, trademark pink marlstone towards Garda, dolomitic and volcanic in the mountains.

Elevation: from 0m in the lagoon to the 3,343m Marmolada in the Dolomites.

DOCGs: Amarone della Valpolicella, Asolo Prosecco, Bagnoli Friularo, Bardolino Superiore, Colli di Conegliano, Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Fior d’Arancio Colli Euganei, Lison, Montello, Piave Malanotte, Recioto di Gambellara, Recioto di Soave, Recioto della Valpolicella, Soave Superiore.

DOCs: Arcole, Bagnoli di Sopra, Bardolino, Bianco di Custoza, Breganze, Colli Berici, Colli Euganei, Corti Benedettine del Padovano, Delle Venezie, Durello Lessini, Gambellara, Garda, Lison-Promaggiore, Lugana, Merlara, Montello Asolo, Monti Lessini, Piave, Prosecco, Riviera del Brenta, San Martino della Battaglia, Soave, Valdadige/Etschtaler, Valdadige Terradeiforti, Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, Venezia, Vicenza, Vigneti della Serenissima.

IGTs: Alto Livenza, Colli Trevigiani, Conselvano, Marca Trevigiana, Trevenezie, Vallagarina, Veneto, Veneto Orientale, Verona, Vigneti delle Dolomiti.

Main red grapes: cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, carmenère, corvina, corvinone, malbech, marzemino, merlot, molinara, raboso, refosco del peduncolo rosso, rondinella, tai rosso, teroldego.

Main white grapes: chardonnay, durella, friulano, garganega, malvasia, manzoni bianco, moscato, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, trebbiano, verdicchio, verduzzo.

Hidden gem: you ask us on any given day you’ll get a different answer, but today – we just believe Recioto di Soave deserves all the love in the world.

About Wine Shop all’Amarone

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Wine Shop all’Amarone in Venice offers an exceptional selection of Italian wines, spotlighting the distinguished Amarone della Valpolicella. In addition to our Amarone focus, we proudly feature select wines from the Veneto Region, showcasing the diversity and richness of Italy’s winemaking regions. Our curated collection is designed to offer wine lovers a taste of Italy’s finest, from the robust flavors of Amarone to the unique profiles of Venetian wines.

Open Monday to Saturday from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM, Closed on Sundays.

Get the Waterbus line 1 & stop at San Silvestro. We are 1 minute away.

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