Veneto

Venice (Venezia) is the administrative center of the Veneto, whose provinces include Belluno, Padova, Rovigo, Treviso, Verona and Vicenza. The region ranks 8th in size (18,391 square kilometers) and 6th in population (4,488,000).

From the region of Veneto, Verona’s classic wines are bona fide natives. Soave, from Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave, is usually dry and still, though sparkling and sweet Recioto versions are also prescribed. Soave, the most popular of Italian dry whites, ranks third after Chianti and Asti in volume among classified wines (with more than 50 milion liters a year).

Valpolicella, made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, has been fourth in volume among DOCs with more than 30 million liters. Valpolicella is noted as a hearty red to drink relatively young, though grapes from its vineyards in the hills north of Verona can also be partly dried and made into the richly dry Amarone della Valpolicella or the opulently sweet Recioto della Valpolicella.

Amarone, amply structured and long on the palate, ranks with Italy’s most authoritative red wines with a list of admirers growing around the world. It is unquestionably one of the great red wines for aging.

Bardolino from the same basic grapes as Valpolicella, is enviably easy to drink, whether in the light red or dark pink Chiaretto version. Bardolino has also gained in popularity as a Vino Novello, another category in which Veneto leads production in Italy. Bardolino, from the shores of Lake Garda, also ranks high in terms of volume with about 20 million liters a year.

Another Veronese DOC wine of note is Bianco di Custoza, a crisp white much appreciated in northern Italy. Verona also shares two DOCs with Lombardy: Lugana and Garda. A distinctive DOC produced between Verona and Vicenza is Lessini Durello, a steely dry white, usually sparkling, that seems destined for wider recognition. The Veronese also make alternative wines of distinction, especially the reds produced by the so-called ripasso method in which the basic Valpolicella is refermented with the pomace of Amarone to gain body and structure.

The Veneto’s central hills take in several DOC zones. Near Vicenza are Gambellara, with whites similar to those of neighboring Soave, and Colli Berici, where varietal wines from Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot and Cabernet prevail. Also in the province is Breganze, where Cabernet, Merlot and whites from the Pinots and Chardonnay have earned a reputation, though the most admired wine is often the sweet Torcolato. Near Padova are the Colli Euganei range of hills, whose sheer slopes render a range of red and white varietals.

Treviso’s province takes in the hills north of Venice between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, noted for the popular Prosecco, a dry to softly sweet white, almost always bubbly. A refined version is known as Superiore di Cartizze. The adjacent Montello e Colli Asolani zone is noted for Prosecco, Cabernet and Merlot. Producers of Prosecco have used their experience with sparkling wine to build markets with Pinot and Chardonnay, made either by the tank fermentation or the classical bottle fermentation methods.

The plains northeast of Venice take in the Piave DOC zone, where Merlot and Cabernet dominate a large range of trendy varietals, though the local red Raboso and white Verduzzo still attract admirers. Lison-Pramaggiore (previously noted for white Tocai and Cabernet and Merlot) has a full list of popular varietals. Merlot and Cabernet Franc have been the workhorse varieties of the central and eastern Veneto for decades, often in light and easy wines to drink young. But some producers blend the two, increasingly with Cabernet Sauvignon, and age the wines in small oak barrels to develop greater style and complexity. Among white varieties, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Chardonnay continue to gain ground, often in youthfully fruity versions but also as oak-aged wines of depth and style.

Veneto shares 5 DOC zones with other regions: Garda, Lugana and San Martino della Battaglia with Lombardy, Lison-Pramaggiore with Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Valdadige with Trentino-Alto Adige.