Veneto is an increasingly important wine region, located in the northeastern corner of Italy. The wine style represents a transition between the alpine, Germano-Slavic end of Italy and the warmer, drier, more Roman lands to the south.
Veneto is slightly smaller than the other main wine-producing regions of Italy but creates more wine than any of them. The southern regions of Sicily and Puglia were for a long time Italy’s main wine producers. However, this balance began to shift north towards Veneto in the latter half of the 20th Century. Since the 1990s, Veneto has developed and improved the quality of its wines. More than 25 percent of the region’s wine is made and sold under DOC/DOCG titles. (For explanation see my post on Italian Quality Standards August 31, 2019)
From a red wine perspective, Amarone has the most intense flavour. This is in part due to innovations such as drying grapes prior to fermentation, which develops greater depth, complexity and concentration in the wines.
Production of the fruity red Valpolicella uses the ripasso technique, in which the wines undergo a second fermentation and are “re-passed” over used Amarone skins, enhancing the colour, body and texture of the wine.
The other red wine unique to Veneto is the sweet wine, Recioto. The region also produces some wonderfully refreshing white wines, such as Soave and sparkling Prosecco.
The Veneto region can be roughly split into three geographical areas, each distinguished by its topography and geology. In the cooler, alpine-influenced climate in the northwest, the foothills of the Alps descend along the eastern edge of Lake Garda and fresh, crisp whites are made under the Bianco di Custoza and Garda titles, as well as Veneto’s lightest reds.
East of the lake and north of Verona is Valpolicella and its sub-region Valpantena. Here 500,000 hectolitres of Valpolicella are produced each year. In terms of production volume, Valpolicella is the only DOC to rival Tuscany’s famous Chianti.
Immediately east of Valpolicella is Soave, home to the dry white wine that now ranks among Italy’s most famous products. Beyond that, Gambellara serves as an eastern extension of Soave, both geographically and stylistically. Garganega and Trebbiano are the key white wine grape varieties grown there.
In central Veneto, vast quantities of wine are produced, but only the better quality wines from more elevated areas have gained DOC status. International varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir (known as Pinot Nero in Italy) and Carmenere have proved successful here, as well as white Pinot Grigio and Tocai Friulano.
In the northeastern corner of the region, sparkling Prosecco is produced. Still wines are also made here, such as Lison, Lison-Pramaggiore, Montello e Colli Asolani and Colli di Conegliano. The common factor that unites almost all viticultural zones in northeastern Veneto is the Glera grape and the foaming spumante and semi-sparkling frizzante wines it creates.
I was introduced to Valpolicella wine by my wife many years ago. We would sometimes venture out for a series of tapas on a Friday night which on her recommendation, we would complement with a glass of Valpolicella. Delicious!