Long ago, when Barbarian hordes descended from the Alps upon what is today Italy’s Veneto region, villagers hid in the watery, high marsh grasses surrounding what is now Venice. These hardy and resilient people ultimately produced one of the world’s most wondrous cities, and one of Italy’s most prolific wine regions. Percentage-wise, she claims among the highest wine production, many DOC/G zones (designated high quality wine zones), and also the first Italian school for oenology and wine viticulture, established in 1885. She was also ahead of her time establishing the first strada del vino, or “wine road,” complete with roadside signs with information about grapes and wines. The more adventurous wine lover can travel this road by bicycle (bearing in mind there are hills).
Although not the largest region, Veneto claims 26 DOC and 13 DOCG zones. Unfortunately, the quality of Veneto wines has declined over the years as production has grown. Veneto is working hard to reclaim a reputation for quality. Although there are still mixed reviews, the sheer number of DOC/G designations is a very good sign. Also, two major Veneto wines stand out as her best offerings, and are unquestionably popular throughout Italy.
Veneto Wines: Soave
The first is Soave (meaning “sweet” in Italian, although its name is thought to be derived from the town Soave, in western Veneto near Lake Garda, where Garganega grapes are grown). Soave is about as popular in Italy as Pinot Grigio, and is a blend of mostly Garganega grapes with Trebbiano. Garganega is known for crisp fruitiness, blending lemon and spicy tones with an almond finish. Care must be taken in cultivation, as Garganega’s tendency to flourish can thin flavors. As with almost every Italian wine, Garganega has many pseudonyms so if you look for Soave, you will taste Garganega.
Veneto Wines: Valpolicella
Valpolicella is one of Veneto’s most popular reds. It is a blend of three grapes: Molinara, Rondinella and Corvina. Corvina is the main grape component, although occasionally it can be found as a stand-alone varietal. Corvina’s thick skin renders her less susceptible to rot, and can also be processed appassimento, or undergoing slight drying, thus imparting a hint of a dried fruit flavor to counterbalance Corvina’s trademark taste of sour cherries.
Several varieties of Valpolicella have attained DOCG status. One of these is Recioto della Valpolicella, a fine, sweet wine made using the ripasso method, where the pomace (or pressed grape remains) undergoes a refermentation process, rendering a classy sweetness.
If you’ve tried Soave or Valpolicella, please share your thoughts.