Guidebook The Veneto is Italy’s biggest wine producing region

A drink by the water

The Veneto is Italy’s biggest wine producing region

“No other region boasts such winemaking diversity,” explains Monica Larner at the Wine Enthusiast, even if it doesn’t enjoy the same brand recognition at Tuscany or Piedmont. “There are fourteen DOCG and twenty-seven DOC appellations in Veneto, which cover over twenty percent of Italy’s ‘quality wine’ production,” writes Marco Rossi at Great Italian Chefs. “The Veneto’s sparkling treasure is Prosecco,” says Vivino, while Amarone della Valpolicella is “one of the greatest wines in the Tre Venezie and a true revelation to drink.”    

“There are many reasons for Prosecco’s ascendancy,” says Fiona Sims at Decanter. “Even at the very top level, single-vineyard Prosecco DOCG (the highest quality tier) won’t break the bank, and yes, there is complexity to be had, even ageing potential.” Prosecco is a sparkling wine with “the complexity and elegance of a fine Champagne at the price of a box of cheap wine,” says Gentleman’s Gazette. “Prosecco tastes very different than Champagne and is ideal for those who are looking for a fruity, crisp and aromatic wine with notes of fresh orchard fruit … they are a very light wine and don’t have the brioche taste many people associate with Champagne.” Prosecco is often described as “generic sparkling wine,” the “poor man’s Champagne,” or “a budget-friendly stand-in for the good stuff,” writes Alyssa Schwartz at the Robert Parker Wine Journal, but it’s actually “light, refreshing and a far more nuanced wine than many people realise.” And, she says, it’s best drunk young -- “usually within a few years of its vintage, when its lively acidity and fresh flavors are at their peak.”    

Amarone is “contemplative and warming,” muses Loren Sonkin at Into Wine. In the winter, it “really seems to fit the mood of the day.” This big bold red is made using an ancient technique deployed by the Romans who dried their grapes on straw mats to draw out the sugar. The word Amaro means bitter and describes the wines tart, raisiny flavour. “What really sets Amarone apart isn’t just that it’s made from much less well-known grape varieties (mostly corvina), but rather how it is made,” explains Larry Olmsted at Forbes. “Unlike other top shelf red wines, the fruit is allowed to dry for months, becoming raisin-like, before wine making commences.” The result, he says, is “a rich, dark, nutty flavor” that “traditionally goes with red meat, game, meat stews and strong cheeses.” And “because of the loss of weight in the drying process -- just as with dry aged meat -- the result is more concentrated and more expensive … adding to the cost is the legal requirement that the wine be aged a full two years to bear the name.” Quite simply, says Total Wine, “Amarone, is considered one of Italy’s greatest red wines.”    

The Veneto’s other star red wine is Valpolicella. “Real valpolicella doesn’t have pretensions,” vintner Valentina Cubi tells The Guardian, “ and should be light, easy to drink, even accompanied just by a plate of salami.” Valpolicella is made with the same grapes as Amarone, but it is younger and fresher with soft cherry flavours -- “fragrant but not opulent,” writes Eric Asimov at The New York Times. It’s a wine with “freshness and easy drinkability,” he says, a wine you can “knock back without fear of heaviness, headache or hangover.” The Valpolicella region is “a fingerlike series of 11 valleys flowing south from the Lessini Prealps, calcareous ridges rising between them, that begins near the Adige river,” explains Susan H. Gordon at Eater. It stretches eastward “to end only where white wine-producing Soave begins,” and is rich with soils “that vary from limestone to basalt to red and brown clay.”    

One of the oldest wines of the Veneto is Soave. “It’s mostly composed of two of the most important indigenous white grape varieties -- Garganega, which has to make up at least seventy percent of the blend, and Trebbiano di Soave,” explains Marco Rossi in The Wines of the Veneto, resulting in a fruity white wine with good acidity and great structure. “These are exciting times for Soave and Veneto,” says Michael Garner at Decanter -- “a new generation of winemakers inspired by the groundwork of their fathers is taking the Garganega grape to heights which would have been undreamed of a few decades ago.”  

And Venice itself once had a thriving wine industry, reports Paul Abercrombie in Punch -- “vineyards grew on at least several of the lagoons hundred-odd islands, including Mazzorbo, Burano and Sant’Erasmo.” But rising tides and changing economic fortunes meant the tradition was nearly lost until the Bisol family resurrected an ancient vineyard on Mazzorbo. Now he cultivates two acres of dorona grapes producing a golden wine once drunk by the Doge’s.

A drink by the water
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