The northeastern region of the Veneto combines gentle plains in the south with mountains in the north. From robust reds to subtle prosecco wines, it really does have it all…
It’s the largest-producing region of DOC wines (accredited wines by law) in all Italy. Although not vast in size, being the eighth-largest region in land mass, the Veneto is a veritable hotbed of wine production. And it has it all.
The many and varied wine styles offered by the Veneto are a result of the region’s topography: it’s protected by the Alps to the extreme north. Cool mountain breezes combine with warm summers (much like Piedmont), creating perfect growing conditions for grape vines. And, as the mountains give way to hills and eventually plains in the Soave zone, there is a large variety of soil types that contributes to the region’s diversity in terms of grapes grown and harvested. It’s a land of many colours, and a land that contributes much to the world of Italian wine.
Once, fizz was all about champagne. Now it’s all about prosecco. This delightfully light sparkler has become the go-to party wine, being relatively low in alcohol and gentle on the stomach. The very best is made in the Veneto, especially in and around the villages near Trieste; Conegliano and Valdobbiadene being the most prestigious. (Look out for those names on the label!) Made using a combination of grape varieties (though a stipulated minimum of 15 per cent Glera) it can be either very or mildly sparkling.
It’s a rarity, for sure, but if you come across one then be sure to snap up a bottle of Recioto della Valpolicella. It is made using the same grape varieties as the ‘dry’ version of the wine, but by utilising the recioto method, wherein the fruit is dried for several months before being pressed and macerated, the result is a relatively delicate, sweet red wine. It’s an oddity, and not to everyone’s tastes, but it works really well with chocolate and dense fruit cakes. Or, for that matter, strong blue cheeses.
Made on the shores of Lake Garda, it uses the same grape varieties as Valpolicella, but Bardolino is nonetheless a very different beast. Less Corvina and more Rondinella makes for a much softer wine which is very light in style. Cheaper ones can be quite acidic, though reach deeper into your wallet and you’ll find wines that are very similar to Beaujolais Nouveau in style. They make perfect easy-drinking, early-evening wines to be enjoyed with pizza, pasta and soft cheeses.
Unfortunately, the name Soave is still associated with the ‘wine lakes’ of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Thin, cheaply produced white wine from over-planted vines of the Garganega variety. Times have changed. Soave is now made with a range of grape varieties, including Chardonnay, which adds depth and structure. Soave is rarely full of body, but that’s kind of the point: refreshing and light, it’s very much a summer wine to be enjoyed with friends, maybe with nibbles before a barbecue. Let price be your guide. The more you spend the more you get.
Refreshing and light, Soave is very much a summer wine to be enjoyed with friends maybe with nibbles before a barbecue
Does it really need an introduction? Grown all over Italy the Pinot Grigio grape variety is prolific and – now – well respected. And the best of it comes from the northeast of the country. The finest white wines of the Veneto use this grape variety to produce richer, more textured pinot grigios than you may be used to. That said, they display a degree of freshness and finesse, and work extremely well with seafood – especially crayfish, fresh-picked crab and lobster.
The most renowned of the Veneto’s red wines is Valpolicella, a tipple that ranges from a pale pink to a rich purple and everything in between. Made using three principal grape varieties – Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara – it can be either light or robust depending on the combination. The best of the wines come from the hilly area just east of Verona, near the shores of Lake Garda. Once again, as with most wines from the Veneto, you very much get what you pay for.
Deep pockets? Then experience a superior, luxurious red wine. It definitely costs (see our selection of the best on the facing page), but Amarone is one of the foremost reds that Italy has to offer. It’s made in the same way as recioto wines, with the grapes being dried between (typically) the October harvest and February or March, but it’s left to mature for long enough for the sweetness of the grapes to dissipate, resulting in a rich, dry red wine that works perfectly with slow-roasted red meats. Try it with lamb.
Produced around the town of Vicenza, Breganze wines are made in both red and white varieties. The red is more common, and – interestingly – is made up of mostly (at least 85 per cent) of the Merlot grape variety. It can be rather heavy, though lighter styles do exist. The (fairly difficult to find, outside of the zone) white Breganze wines are made using at least 85 per cent Friulano fruit. Zesty and punchy, they accompany grilled fish garnished with a touch of melted butter and parsley.