The Veneto wine region is Italy’s production workhorse. Although it doesn’t have the same fame as Tuscany or Piedmont, it is makes 18% of Italy’s wine and is replete with amazing wine. Unlike other Italian wine regions though, Veneto makes world-class wines across the spectrum. Sparkling Prosecco to rich Amarone, the diversity in microclimates gives this wine region a unique edge.
The Veneto wine region is large and a little confusing. There are 28 DOC wine areas and another 15 DOCG areas; even for the well-versed, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. To better understand the complexity and diversity of Veneto, we are highlighting five distinct wine areas.
Beginning in the west of the Veneto wine region, Valpolicella is a hilly area along Lake Garda. Although it is considered a continental climate, Valpolicella’s proximity to the lake creates a unique microclimate that is similar to Mediterranean climates found in other regions of Italy. It is why olive oil is also produced in this area! It is also the key factor for the area’s most famed wine: Amarone della Valpolicella.
Amarone is a full-bodied, high-alcohol, ripe red wine that is unique for both its production and the growing area. Usually, wines with a similar profile come from warmer climates. Valpolicella is even more interesting, however, because it is home to four different styles of wine, all of which come from the same blend of indigenous grape varieties. Corvina and Rondinella are the base of all four wines. Molinara, another indigenous grape, is sometimes part of the mix if the producer wishes.
Travelling slightly to the south along the shore of Lake Garda, you will find the Lugana wine area. Not as well-known as its eastern neighbour, Soave, the Lugana DOC appellation produces a versatile straw yellow white wine that features delicate floral and green almond notes.
Lugana DOC wine is made from Turbiana, also known as Trebbiano di Lugana that enologists now believe is a distinct indigenous grape variety that is related to Verdicchio.
Between Verona and Vicenza, there is Soave. Undeniably one of Italy’s most famous white wine areas, the hills of Soave are home to its namesake mineral wine. Soave’s reputation has wavered over the years, however, labels with the Soave Classico or Superiore DOCG appellation are unparalleled for their fine-quality and extraordinary volcanic terroir.
As with Lugana and Valpolicella, an indigenous grape is a star. Garganega, a grape with an ample history, is generally the only grape in high-quality Soave Classico/Superiore DOCG. Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay can also be part of the blend, in small quantities.
Just before the foothills give way to the plains of western Veneto, the Berici Hills rise up, covered in vines. These are special hills, formed a millennium ago from an ancient seabed and have a terroir that is distinctly different from the other alpine areas of the region.
You can enjoy white and red wines in this area, but the knockout star is the deep Carmenere red. The Carmenere grape has been growing on these hills for over a century.
A discussion on the Veneto wine region without a mention of this revered Prosecco area would be akin to blasphemy. Heading Northeast, past Treviso and deep into the Alpine foothills, the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene wine area is steep, compact, and full of flavour. The vineyards grow on terraced hillsides that can only be accessed by foot, so all vine management and harvesting must be done by hand. The wine world calls it “heroic viticulture” for how labour intensive it is.
The Prosecco labels from here, especially those from the prestigious Cartizze hill, are the finest-quality bottles available.
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