Veneto, Italy

Veneto is a massive wine region in Italy, with a huge diversity of climates. Veneto stretches from the foothills of the Alps in the north, all the way to the Adriatic Sea to the southeast. Even if it's not the most noble of Italian regions, it carries huge importance & has strong recognition of a variety of wines important to the Italian wine culture, from sparkling to whites & reds. Powerhouses like Valpolicella, Prosecco, Soave & Pinot Grigio come from Veneto.

General Terroir & History

Veneto

Wine making in Veneto started way before the Greeks arrived. From as early as 7th century BC, Barbarian kings were already putting laws in place to protect vineyards from damages or grape stealing. As the city of Venice moved on to become a merchant hub, wine & winemaking was imported from Greece, and wealthy merchants began constructing vineyards in the wider Veneto region. Glassmakers of the Venetian island of Murano were actually the ones to revolutionise wine by creating the wine bottle. 

The 1800s were a period of crisis, with frost & phylloxera destroying vineyards. However, this pushed the region to study wine & winemaking in a much more focused manner, which eventually led to the 4 tier DOC classification system.

While the France AOC system is a wine classification system based on where & how wines are made, the Italian DOC system takes the French system a step further by also guaranteeing the quality standard of certain wines that need to pass a taste test.

Vino da Tavola (VdT) wines are essentially your "table wines", made from grapes grown anywhere in Italy. These are rarely exported out of Italy

Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) are recognised as wines coming from a recognised region, but don't confirm to strict standards of winemaking. This doesn't mean the wines aren't quality by any means, with the best examples being the Super Tuscans from Italy, which don't have DOC or DOCG ratings as they use non-native grapes

Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) wines have it's own rules about permitted grape varieties, maximum harvest yields, and aging requirements

Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) is the highest quality level, made to recognise the best of the best from Italy. The difference with DOC is that the wines must pass a wine tasting panel, while DOC merely needs to be grown according to the rules of the appellation

Additionally, look out for the following words to get a good indication of quality

  1. Classico can be added after the appellation name for wines that are made in the historic center of a wine-producing region, for example Chianti Classico or Valpolicella Classico
  2. Superiore means that a wine has at least 0.5% higher alcohol content than the regular wine from a certain region, and also adheres to limits regarding harvesting and minimum aging
  3. Wines labeled Riserva will have aged even longer, for at least two years

    Major Wine Varietals & Styles

    There is a varied range of wine styles from Veneto, ranging from sparkling to dessert wines. This comes from a mix of unique winemaking techniques, as well as regional styles within this giant historic region.

    Sparkling Wine

    Glera

    Glera grapes are used to make Prosecco. Drank well on it's own or paired with medium intensity foods as a palate cleanser, it matches well with spicy curries or Thai, Vietnamese cuisine. Often brut style, the fruity apple, melon, pear flavors make it seem sweeter than it is.

    Coming mostly from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region, look out for Valdobbiadene Superiore if you're looking for a classical style of Prosecco.

    Light Bodied White Wine

    Pinot Grigio, Garganega

    Garganega is known for melon & orange zest notes, and has a beautiful ability to improve with age. Expect notes of peach, marjoram, and a subtle mineral saltiness. It gains rich tangerine & toasted almond notes as it ages, but can also be found in lean dry style. Kinda reminds you of a Pinot Grigio with a smooth richness to give it an extra oomph.

    Venetian Pinot Grigio is usually made in a dry style, with good acidity & a bitter almond note. Like all Pinot Grigios, they don't have any striking notes, but you will be able to pick up notes of lemon, pear, nectarine & apple

    Red Wine

    Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara

    Veneto has a few key red grapes, namely Corvina & Merlot. The strange thing about the Corvina grape is that it's rarely produced as a single varietal, so much so that it's not recognised as a DOC or DOCG style. It's only given an IGT status! Additionally, because of the many styles it makes, it's hard to classify as a light, medium or full bodied style.

    On it's own, Corvina produces a light to medium bodied wine with floral red fruits & savory cherry/plum, comparable to Beaujolais Gamay. This makes for perfect pairing with spicy seafood stews or grilled salmon. 

    It is commonly used to produce Valpolicella and Amarone, and is most often blended with Rondinella and Molinara for Valpolicella and Amarone. It’s a fairly thick-skinned grape, which certainly adds to the heft for which Amarone is known. However, since it hails from northeastern Italy, most reds are lighter bodied than Amarone, including Corvina-based Valpolicellas and Bardolinas.

    Dessert & Fortified Wine

    Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara

    Recioto della Valpolicella is one of the rare sweet red wines made from the Corvina, Rondinella & Molinara blend. The appassimento fermentation method used for Amarone is stopped early, leaving the sweetness while still having the balance of dried fruit & chocolate flavours

     What is the appassimento method? It's a method of drying out grapes to concentrate the flavours of the grapes. First implemented by the Romans as a way to preserve grapes for future winemaking, grape clusters are laid out on straw/bamboo mats inside dry storage rooms until the grapes lose about 30% of their water content

     

    Major Regions / Sub-Regions

    Veneto

    Many regions or subregions in Veneto produce Pinot Grigio, so there's no need to really point out any regional focus. However, for the other grapes, there are strong regional influences for each varietal

    Valpolicella

    Wines from the Valpolicella region are usually made from a blend of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara, and has everything you need for any red wine mood. Whether it's an inexpensive picnic wine, or an impressive fireside wine, there's something for any mood.

    There's 5 levels of Valpolicella style wines, moving up in complexity of winemaking techniques:

    Valpolicella Classico is usually a clean, often steel maturated, with a light & fresh character, perfect for easy drinking

    Valpolicella Classico Superior comes with a hint of spice & body comes with the "Superiore" label, with a minimum 1 year aging requirement, often in oak. Expect loads of cherry, cranberry notes, vanilla, clove aromas

    Valpolicella Ripasso, often termed as the baby Amarone, it's made by adding partially fermented skins from Amarone to Valpolicella Classico wine & letting it maturate for a while. This adds more flavour, tannins & body, giving you a similar wow factor without the hefty price tag

    Amarone della Valpolicella is the king of Valpolicella wines. Dry, bold, fruity, smoky. Perfect with bold foods like braised meats & aged cheeses, the grapes are matured using the Appassimento method, and is aged in oak for a minimum of 2 years. This gives you the rich, round, spiced character. The Amarone style was actually created out of a mistake of making Recioto, when the winemaker forgot to stop the process early enough

    Recioto della Valpolicella is one of the rare sweet red wines. The fermentation process used for Amarone is stopped early, leaving the sweetness while still having the balance of dried fruit & chocolate flavours

    Valdobbiadene

    Contrasting winemaking methods & grape varietals distinguish Processco from Champagne, with many having a strong preference for either or.

    Originating from the Valdobbiadene region in Veneto, with most vineyards generally found on South facing slopes with good drainage & gentle winds due to the high amount of rainfall the region experiences. Glera grapes are made into wine using the Charmat method. This does mean that the bubbles don't last as long as Champagne methods, but that doesn't mean it's just an affordable sparkly. 

    Soave

    In Soave, Gargenage is selectively blended with Chardonnay or Verdicchio to give it more body. The beauty of the Soave region is the terroir, where the mixture of volcanic layers of tuff and limestone allows Garganega to best express it's qualities of minerality, sumptuousness and finesse. 

    You will find 2 main styles of Soave garganega; Soave & Soave Classico. Soave would be a lean & dry style, while Classico is produced in a rich & nutty style by ageing in old wooden barrels. Look for wines in the Soave Classico or Soave Colli Scaligeri regions. 

    Bardolino

    A lesser known Corvina producing region, they use the same 3 grapes as Valpolicella to produce blends. However, they have a different wine style, and often use more Rondinella grape. This gives it a lighter profile as compared to the Valpolicella wines