The editorial staff of GardaConcierge has created a guide which concerns itself with the wine products made in the Lake Garda area. Throughout this tour, we explore all the wines from this area covering the Trentino, Veneto and Lombardy.
Our tour starts on the northern end of Lake Garda. Three wines are produced here in Trentino, in close proximity to Lake Garda: Trentino Marzemino, Vino Santo Trentino and Trentino Nosiola.
The grape vines from which the Trentino Marzemino wine is produced grow in the Lagarina Valley, which is crossed from north to south by the Adige river. The quality wine, produced in the province of Trento from the Marzemino grape variety, has been awarded the DOC label. Trentino Marzemino gets its ruby red colour during the week-long maceration and the following destemming process adds a scent to the wine evoking wild berries and violas. The wine has a dry and full-bodied taste with a slightly bitter finish. At table, it can be paired with pasta and rice dishes and white meat, in particular, it underlines the taste of mushroom dishes.
Vino Santo Trentino
The Nosiola grape variety from which the Vino Santo Trentino is produced grows in the province of Trento, in an area surrounding the town of Sarche and Lake Toblino in the Valley of the Lakes (Valle dei Laghi). Like Trentino Marzemino, Vino Santo Trentino is a DOC-labelled quality wine that is produced as follows: after the late vintage, the grapes are put on so-called arele racks, so they can lose water and dry out. The grapes are pressed during Holy Week. Indeed, Vino Santo Trentino derives its name from the “settimana santa” (“Holy Week” in Italian). The wine has a golden yellow colour. Due to its pleasant and delicate scent, it can be paired with desserts and sweets and can also be enjoyed on its own.
Trentino Nosiola is produced from the same grape variety as Vino Santo Trentino. However, the DOC-labelled quality product exhibits totally different characteristics than its sweet counterpart. The name “Nosiola”, from nocciola (Italian for “hazelnut”), refers to the yellow colour of the grape skin with greenish reflections and a toasty and slightly bitter taste. The final product, Trentino Nosiola, shares the same characteristics: a slightly straw yellow colour with green nuances. The wine has a floral scent with a fruity note that evokes green apples and apricots. It has a dry and slightly bitter taste. This wine goes best with smooth risottos, vegetable and fish soups and lake fish dishes.
Our wine tour takes you along the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Various wines are produced in the Verona area in the Veneto region: Bardolino and Chiaretto in the area of the same name on Lake Garda; Amarone, Recioto and Valpolicella in the vineyards of the Valpolicella region; Custoza and Soave in the more southern and eastern areas of the province of Verona.
Bardolino, which is produced in various types, is famous beyond Lake Garda and Italy on the whole: 70 % of the unique red wine from autochthonous grape varieties of Lake Garda are exported. Of the 16 towns which were awarded the DOC quality assurance label, only six can call their wines “Bardolino Classico DOC” and thus refer to the deep-rooted tradition of wine production: Bardolino, Garda, Lazise, Affi, Costermano and Cavaion Veronese. Bardolino wine is largely produced from grapes of the Corvina Veronese grape variety. It has a light ruby red colour that tends to garnet after maturation. Its fragrance is vinous, albeit delicate; due to its harmonious, fine and extra dry taste, this wine goes well with many different dishes.
Chiaretto, a rosé variant of Bardolino wine, is produced from the same grapes. The colour of this wine ranges from rosy to coral rosy. Its fragrance evokes wild berries and field flowers and is unique due to its aromatic note. Chiaretto tastes fresh and of red and it smells accordingly. Chiaretto is an ideal aperitif wine. Like Bardolino, it can be paired with appetizers, pasta and fish dishes. You can also enjoy it with dishes of Asian cuisine, among them sushi. In June, Bardolino hosts the Chiaretto contest, with the entire town turning pink for the occasion.
Amarone, a passito wine made from sun-dried grapes of the Corvina Veronese and Rondinella variety, is one of the most important red wines of Italy. It is produced in the Verona area, in the Valpolicella region, in the Valpantena, Val Tramigna, Val d’Illasi and Val di Mezzane valleys. Harvest takes place between the end of September and the beginning of October, then grapes are kept in wooden or plastic boxes in ventilated store rooms above the wine cellars. Amarone wine is produced according to two methods: the traditional, rather drawn-out or the more modern and faster method. The characteristics of Amarone become evident after a long contact with the skin during the grape pressing process and the wine storage in the barrel or bottle. This can take years. The colour of the Amarone della Valpolicella is deep red and the scent of this wine, distinctive and unique, is that of tobacco, spices and dry fruits. It is particularly forceful, extra dry, mellow and warm: due to these characteristics, Amarone can be paired with dishes such as roast, braised meat, stew and game. As far as Veronese cuisine is concerned, the “Risotto all’Amarone” is worth of mention, as it brings out the taste of this particular wine.
Recioto is another passito wine made from sun-dried grapes. The grapes are the same as the Amarone ones, Recitio, however, is sweeter. The growing area is located in the Valpolicella area (in the towns of Fumane, Marano di Valpolicella, Negrar, San Pietro in Cariano and Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella) and in the Valpantena valley. The grapes from which Recioto is made, are left to dry in store rooms from 100 up to 120 days. The process of fermentation is then interrupted to stop the lowering of the sugar content. The result is a sweet wine. Recioto is light red with a strong flavour. It tastes velvety, delicate and warm, making it an ideal pairing for desserts. Its flavour unfolds fully when enjoyed with chocolate.
Valpolicella has been awarded the DOC label in 1968. There is, however, a famous predecessor in its growing area which dates back as far as Roman times: Recito wine, made by the Raeti and Arusnates peoples. Nineteen towns in total produce Valpolicella DOC in its four variants, differing in the growing area and the length of refinement in the barrel: Classico, Valpantena, Superiore and Ripasso. Wine is produced by using the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grape varieties. Valpolicella is deep ruby red and has a pleasant and winy fragrance that can evoke bitter almonds. It can have an extra dry, velvety and slightly bitter taste. While Valpolicella can be enjoyed with cheese and white meat, Valpolicella Superiore brings out the taste of game and roast.
Custoza derives its name from the borough of Sommacampagna, in the southern part of the province of Verona, where it is produced. It is a fresh and drinkable DOC-labelled wine, made not from one grape variety, but from different varieties from the area. Its aromatic complexity is due to this. This pleasant white wine is straw yellow with green and golden reflections. It has a slightly aromatic, delicate flowery and fruity fragrance that can intensify with storage. It is spicy and mellow, and its taste can echo its fragrance. Custoza is an excellent aperitif wine that can be paired with various dishes: not only with pasta and risotto dishes (among them the “Tastasal” risotto) and the traditional tortellini from Valeggio sul Mincio, but also with dishes with (fried) fish, cold cuts and white meat.
Soave is a DOC-labelled white wine that makes up nearly half of the wine production with a controlled designation of origin in Verona. It is the first wine to be limited in growth (under the fascist regime in 1931). The wine-growing area where this white wine is produced is located in the eastern part of the province of Verona, in the hills of the Val d’Illasi and Val di Mezzane valleys, on the Colognaola hill, in the Val Tramigna valley, on the hill of the Soave Classico and in the Val d’Alpine valley. The growth of grape varieties in the area is thought to date back to at least 30 millions years. Soave is straw yellow with greenish oscillations and a forceful and delicate aroma. This wine is extra dry and round, with a slightly bitter touch. Due to its long existence, this white wine is often enjoyed with traditional regional dishes: vegetable soups and vegetable risotto (such as the “Riso e bisi” pea risotto), as well as white cabbage and celery. Today, Soave brings out the taste of various dishes, from appetizers with anchovies or salami, up to main dishes of every sort, vegetable soups, pasta or soups, as well as fish dishes, vegetable side dishes and types of cheese such as Taleggio and Grana Padano.
The area bordering on Lake Garda in the province of Brescia, Lombardy, is our last stop on this tour to the most important wines in the area. In Lombardy, these are Lugana, Garda Classico Groppello and Valtenesi wines.
Even if the Lugana wine-growing area is not limited to the province of Brescia, but also comprises towns of the province of Verona, we have allotted the wine to Lombardy, as it derives its name from a borough of Sirmione. There are five different sorts of Lugana wine: Lugana, Lugana Superiore, Lugana Spumante, Lugana Riserva and Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva (late vintage), that differ regarding storage and refinement. Other characteristics of this white wine vary depending on each sort: the colour of Lugana wine varies from straw yellow to greenish or golden, tending to amber with Lugana Riserva and Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva. Its fragrance varies from the more delicate and pleasant note of the simple Lugana to the forceful fragrance of Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva and the perfumy one of Lugana Spumante, which can have fruity nuances if produced according to the charmat method. All Lugana sorts – apart from Lugana Spumante – have a round and full-bodied taste. Every Lugana sort has special characteristic that bring out the taste of various dishes: if simple Lugana can be paired with aperitif and lake fish, Lugana Superiore is ideal for pasta and veal dishes and cheese. Lugana Riserva can be enjoyed with cheese and meat, Lugana Spumante is ideal for aperitifs and Lugana Vendemmia Tardiva is well paired with cheese and unsweetened biscuits.
Garda Classico Groppello
The wine which best represents the Valtenesi area is Garda Classico Groppello, a red wine whose name in Italian evokes the chunky form of the grapes from which it is produced. There are three sorts of this grape variety, named Gentile, Mocasina and Santo Stefano. This wine is produced from mature grapes and processed with the traditional method of wine production, in which maceration is followed by a storage period. Garda Classico Groppello has a bright ruby red colour. It has a fresh, fruity and slightly spicy fragrance during tasting and a velvety and delicate taste with an almond-like finish. This wine can be paired with various dishes, especially pasta and rice dishes, all meat dishes and medium mature cheese.
The last wine of our wine tour on Lake Garda is Valtenesi, a wine which has been awarded the DOC-label in 2011. This wine is partially made from Groppello grapes and partially from Marzemino, Barbera, Sangiovese and Rebo grapes. There are two sorts of Valtenesi wine, simple Valtenesi and Valtenesi Chiaretto. The latter plays an important role during the “Italia in Rosa” wine show held yearly in Moniga del Garda. Simple Valtenesi is ruby red and can have garnet nuances after long storage. It has a winy fragrance that varies from fruity to spicy, depending on age, and a balanced and delicate taste. Therefore it is paired with fish and grill dishes, such as kebab from Brescia, and pasta dishes with stew. Valtenesi Chiaretto has a more or less intensive colour and a delicate, but forceful fragrance which can have fruity and flowery component. The taste of this rosé wine varies from dry to sweetish. However, Valtenesi Chiaretto is always fresh, making it perfect for aperitifs, grill dishes with lake fish and soft cheese.