The Wines of Veneto
Veneto is one of the leading Italian regions in terms of quantity and quality production of grapes. The wines produced in this region are famous throughout the world: Amarone, Recioto, Soave, Prosecco, Valpolicella and Bardolino, are only a few of the names of wines known at international level and that, in most cases, identify not only the wines of the Veneto but Italian wine in general.
The Veneto Region is an enormous area in the North-East of Italy, stretching from the Adriatic Sea all the way to Lake Garda, from the high peaks of the Dolomites down to the Po valley.
It is a region where there are large mountain ranges, namely the Alps and the Pre-Alps, vast hilly areas and an extensive flat area, the Po plain, covering a good part of the total region.
The mountainous area covers 26% of Veneto, while the hilly areas represent 14%. The presence of these mountain ranges and the large portion of the plain means that there is a significant difference in temperature between summer and winter, mitigated in the vicinity of Lake Garda and in the coastal and flat areas, especially during the hot summer season. This creates the perfect setting for wine growing.
Veneto is the region that produces the highest quantity of wine in Italy, with 7.5 million hl. per year, of which about 90% is represented by D.O.C.G., D.O.C. and I.G.T. wines.
Veneto is also the region that can count the highest number of D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. areas, to mention but a few like: Amarone, Soave, Bardolino, Prosecco, Valpolicella and many more.
The region is a real pearl when talking about wine. And on top of a superior wine production, it enjoys breathtaking sceneries.
But it is not only numbers that define the importance of Veneto wines, it is their quality.
The best quality wines are located in the provinces of Treviso, Verona, Padova, Vicenza e Venezia.
The most interesting feature of the Veneto is certainly represented by the fact that the success of its wines is largely determined by the many indigenous grapes, both white and red, that are cultivated in the region.
Garganega, Trebbiano di Soave and Glera are among the main grapes used to produce white wines; Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Raboso are the ones mainly used in the production of red wines.
The History of Wine in Veneto
The history of wine in Veneto, just like in any other region of Italy, actually begins in very ancient times, even before the times of the Greeks, who are generally recognized as those responsible for the introduction of vines in Italy.
It is believed that the vine was present in the wild in Veneto as early as several centuries before Christ, and the grapes were used by the peoples of those times as food.
We have to wait until the seventh century BC to find the first evidence of wine production in the Veneto region, through the work of the Etruscan-Retiche populations, among them the Arusnati, who lived in today’s Valpolicella.
The first important quotes written about the wines of this area date back to Roman times, when the wines of Retia were praised for their quality.
Another important wine particularly famous after the fall of the Roman Empire was the Acinatico, a sweet wine that can be regarded as the true ancestor of Recioto di Soave, Recioto di Gambellara and Recioto della Valpolicella.
During the Middle Ages, the development of Venetian viticulture was determined by the commercial power of Venice, which not only allowed the export of Veneto wines in other countries, but also the introduction of foreign wines, particularly those produced in Greece and in Cyprus. The Venetians merchants, as well as the import of wine, introduced also new species of vines, facilitating their widespread use in the neighboring territories, such as the Malvasia that from Venice spread in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Dalmatia.
Even the famous glassblowers of Murano contributed to the spread of the wine. The refined bottles and the Murano glass glasses spread rapidly on the tables of the aristocrats gradually replacing the ceramic containers. The new glass bottles were immediately associated with quality wines and soon arrived on the tables of ordinary people all over Europe.
As the trading power of Venice in the Mediterranean started to fall in the middle of the 1500s, the import of Greek wines decreased drastically offering an opportunity for the development of local wines. It was during this period that the fame of the wines of the area of Treviso, Vicenza and, of course, those of the Valpolicella area began.
During the 1700s and the 1800s the wines in Veneto, and in Europe generally, underwent a series of dark periods, due to wars and diseases.
These unfortunate events still did not dictate the momentum of the rebirth of Venetian oenology, which had now started its journey.
In 1876 the creation of the first Italian Institute of Viticulture and Enology in Conegliano, the same area where Prosecco originates from, marks concretely the revival of Venetian winemaking allowing also the introduction of international grape varieties in the region, an event that did not affect in any case the dissemination of local varieties.
Veneto can also boast the creation of the first “Italian wine route”: this road, accompanied by special signs and winemaking information, linked the wine area of Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, through a series of hills covered with vineyards.
Which are the most famous Veneto Wines?
Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
Perhaps the best known and most valuable of all Veneto wines is the Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, a full-bodied red dry wine produced exclusively in the Valpolicella area near Verona.
The Amarone was born in 1936 in the Cantina Sociale Valpolicella, thanks to the lucky discovery of a forgotten barrel of Recioto Amaro.
When tasted, the head of the winery said enthusiastically, “This is not an Amaro, it is an Amarone!” . Baptizing in this way the new wine.
Amarone is mainly produced from grapes of the Corvina Veronese, Corvinone and Rondinella.
It is left to dry in special ventilated rooms until December. It is a very important wine, with an alcohol content between 14 ° to 17 °, red in color, with a full and velvety taste and a bouquet which is reminiscent of ripe fruit, black cherry and raspberry.
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Cartizze DOCG
From the Veneto comes also one of the best Italian sparkling wines, the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Cartizze. The production area is very small compared to the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, being limited to the little villages of Saccol, San Pietro di Barbozza and Santo Stefano, an area of only 106 hectares.
Made with grapes of the Glera vine, harvested during a slight over-ripening time, Cartizze is a sumptuous and elegant sparkling wine, with notes of apple, apricot, pear and roses, with a harmonious and elegant flavor. In the dry version, the most known, is one of the most precious Italian sparkling dessert wines.
Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso DOC is a valuable variety of the famous Valpolicella Classico DOC produced in the Verona region. It is a red wine made from the native grapes of Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone, Valpolicella Ripasso owes its name to the production technique: before the refinement in barrels, in fact, the Valpolicella Classico is poured into vats where previously Amarone was pressed and remains in contact with the skins for about 20 days.
This wine, with an intense ruby red color and characterized by aromas of cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla and tobacco, is aged in barrels for at least 12 months and goes well with meat dishes and medium-aged cheeses.
Soave e Recioto di Soave
The most famous white wines of Veneto certainly are the ones produced in the Soave area, near Verona.
Here there is the highest expression of two famous white grapes of the region: the Garganega and the Trebbiano di Soave.
The classic production area includes only two municipalities – Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone – and from this place come the best white wines of this DOC.
In addition to dry table wines, the Soave appellation also provides for the production of sparkling wines, both in the classic method and the Charmat.
Soave is characterized as a white wine with a good body, which ages well, even after 3-4 years. It is immediately recognizable by the intense yellow color, sometimes greenish. The bouquet is full, the flavor is rather strongly influenced by the winemaking and, in particular, by the aging in wood that almost always introduces a note of vanilla.
You can try all of these wines and many more Veneto varieties by taking a Wine Tasting in Venice or by joining a Cicchetti Walking tour of Venice.