Italian wine

Venice, Italy – capital of the Veneto region

Veneto

Veneto is Italy’s most prolific wine-producing region, producing almost 9 million hectoliters of wine. Located in northeast Italy, it is home to wines such as Valpolicella, Soave, Bardolino, Prosecco, and Amarone, as well as the venerated city of Venice. Winemakers here produce various styles of wine, from sparkling whites to bold reds. Some of the most notable grape varieties include Pinot Grigio, Corvina, Glera, Garganega, and Rondinella.

Prosecco

Italian WineProsecco is one of Veneto’s most popular wines, named after the village of Prosecco located in the far eastern region. This sparkling wine is not made using the traditional method as with Champagne, but with the Charmat method. It’s also made primarily from the Glera grape, which historically was referred to as Prosecco. However, as wine laws changed, the name was changed to distinguish the wine from the grape. There are three appellations that specialize in the production of Prosecco, Colli Asolani DOCG, Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, and Prosecco DOC. Prosecco DOC is the largest area and produces the bulk of Prosecco wines. Though, the more prestigious Proseccos are produced in the other two smaller areas.

Soave

Italian WineSoave is another popular Italian white wine that comes from the small hilly town of Soave located near the city of Verona in the western part of Veneto. This area is hailed for Garganega, the indigenous grape primarily used to make Soave wine. It received DOC status in 1968, resulting in the area’s expansion over the years. Wines simply labeled “Soave” can come from anywhere in the region. Although they can be of good quality, they generally tend to be light and simple. A step up is Soave Classico, which comes from the smaller region near the town of Soave. The “Classico” designation indicates the wine is made in the original area after which it gets its name. Soave wines made in this region reflect the true terroir such as Soave Classico Monte Carbonare, made from vines rooted in the jet-black, volcanic soil on the hill after which it is named. Even better is Soave Classico Superiore, which has limited production and is made from higher quality grapes.

Valpolicella

Italian WineValpolicella is a town just north of Verona near Soave. The name fittingly means “valley of cellars,” as production volume is quite high. The wine is predominantly made from the grape, Corvina. Other grapes include Rondinella and Molinara. There are several styles of red wine produced in Valpolicella, but they all use these grapes. Like Soave, the area was expanded in the 1970’s and the basic inexpensive, light-bodied Valpolicella can come from anywhere within this region. Valpolicella Classico comes from the original smaller Valpolicella region and is of higher quality. Another step up is Valpolicella Classico Superiore, which, unlike basic Valpolicella, is made from higher quality grapes and aged for a minimum of one year before it is released.

Italian WineEven better is Valpolicella Ripasso, which is bigger and more flavorful. “Ripasso” actually means, “repassed” or “to pass over,” referring to the production process in which fermented Valpolicella wine is added to a barrel containing left over skins and other particles from recently fermented Amarone wines. The lighter Valpolicella wine picks up additional color, texture, tannin, and flavor from the bigger Amarone, resulting in a more complex wine than the original Valpolicella.

Lastly, there is Recioto della Valpolicella. This wine is made from the best and ripest grapes. Unlike the other Valpolicella wines, the grapes are allowed to dry out in climate-controlled rooms, causing them to become raisin-like and concentrate their sugar content. After several weeks, the grapes are crushed and fermented. Fermentation is stopped before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, resulting in a wine that is rich and sweet.

Amarone

Italian WineAmarone is also made in the Valpolicella region using the same grapes as Valpolicella (mostly Corvina, with Rondinella and Molinara). It instantly became one of my favorite Italian wines after my first time having tasted it. Similar to Recioto, Amarone is made from the ripest grapes, which are dried out before fermentation. A key difference between the two is Amarone is allowed to ferment until all the sugar is converted to alcohol. The result is a rich, full-bodied wine with a high alcohol content (15-16%) and notes of dark chocolate and cherries.

Bardolino

Italian WineJust to the west of Valpolicella, bordering the shores of Lake Garda, is the region of Bardolino. The same grapes used to make Valpolicella are also used to make Bardolino. However, the wines are quite different. Bardolino typically uses less Corvina and more Rondinella, making it more light-bodied. When made into a rosé wine, it is referred to as chiaretto. As with the other wines, Bardolino Classico and Bardolino Superiore are steps up in quality from basic Bardolino.

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