The province of Verona is renowned not only for its culture, history and hundreds of gastronomic delights, but also for its great wines. The Amarone, Bardolino and Soave wines are all familiar names, but there are also many other “jewels” that are apparently little known, yet well worth discovering. The vineyards are located between the shores of Lake Garda and the Lessini Mountains, and in the territory dividing the Po and Adige valleys. Whether it be an enchanting Lessini Durello sparkling wine or a Custoza as an aperitif, a floral Soave to accompany a fish pasta dish, a Valpolicella Ripasso for a grilled main course, or a Recioto for dessert, all these wines come from this beautiful Italian region. There is major diversity in the grapes cultivated, ranging from white grapes, such as the indigenous Turbiana, and the Garganega grapes, the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, to native red varieties like Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. That is without mentioning the great Cabernet and Merlot. This area has a long wine history: the Romans were already drinking Raeticum, a fermented wine which was left sweet so it could be transported. In the fourth century A.D., Cassiodoro, minister to the King of the Visigoths, Theodoric, describes the wines obtained from dried Valpolicella grapes as Acinatico. This wine - made from dried grapes - still exists: it is called Recioto and its offspring is the dry Amarone. The red Recioto version is produced in the Valpolicella area north of Verona, and a little further east, around the town of Soave, we find a white version. All winter long the fruit cellars in the areas of Valpolicella and Soave are packed with grapes, which gradually lose their water and slowly shrivel up. Today, many of the fruit cellars are no longer used for the production of Recioto but for Amarone, which is made from the same grapes, but fermented right up until the end to produce a dry and bitter wine. It was created just sixty years ago and has long been overshadowed by Recioto. However, a couple of decades ago it began its triumphal march and today it is the absolute master of the Valpolicella area with 12 million bottles of Amarone produced each year. Only a small percentage of the production remains for Recioto. Ripasso too, in which the young Valpolicella is fermented with the vinasse of Amarone, has been very successful. In the area of Bardolino, near Lake Garda, we find a fruity red, simple and clear wine produced from the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara varieties. The area is also home to Bardolino Chiaretto, a rosé wine that goes perfectly with lake fish. This is also a demonstration of how versatile Italian vines actually are. In the Valpolicella area, just a couple of miles east, the very same Bardolino grapes are a perfect accompaniment to mountain cuisine: boiled meat, mushrooms and truffles. Speaking of Recioto, even the white Soave version - dried Garganega grapes - is a niche product that is well worth discovering: subtle and smooth with a long-lasting flavour and aromas of honey and tropical fruit. Neither should the white wines of Verona be neglected : the elegant Lugana with a mineral finish and the Custoza blend, which are located south of the lake, through to the Soave and its variety of Garganega, born of volcanic soil, and finally the Lessini Durello sparkling wine. The province of Verona is naturally represented not only by local grape varieties: an example is Pinot Grigio, which has been successful mainly in the United States and Great Britain. Merlot and Cabernet, the red-berried Bordeaux varieties, also represent a great tradition in the Veneto area . They have been in the region for over 100 years (for this reason they are considered by some to be native vines). By taking part in wine tastings I have been able to discover an unusual local grape. It is called Enantio, a fruity variety that has existed in the Adige valley since ancient times. I recommend it to everyone. Go ahead and try it! For this particular guide, I had the pleasure of tasting more than 100 samples: from the sparkling wines of the Lessini Mountains, to the white wines from Soave and Lake Garda and on to the Amarone from Valpolicella. It was not just about tasting wine, but a journey through one of Italy’s most beautiful and enchanting landscapes. To discover the flavours and aromas of the hills of Verona and the lightness of Lake Garda , there was no need for me to leave the table. I was also impressed by the quality of the wines, which shows great respect for the culture and tradition of this beautiful area. My sincere congratulations go to those vine growers who have submitted their wines!
Christian Eder is 48 and lives in Austria, near Salzburg. After studying Languages and Communication at Salzburg University, he worked as publisher of a regional weekly magazine (1989-1996) and editor in chief (1993-2002) of two magazines for Salzburg and the Tyrol. Since 1999 he is editor/author of the magazine VINUM and author of several publications on travel, economics, sport, wine and gastronomy.