ITALIAN GRAPE VARIETIES
In the last twenty years, Italian producers – both large and small – have been tramping the fields and hills of their zones seeking out native vinesand in this way rediscovering lost pieces of their viticultural heritage. Using modern technology, winemakers are now able to fully express the potential of these grapes. The results of their dedicated research are arriving in wine shops around the world, and offer wine lovers a luscious range of flavors and fragrances unavailable from any other country. When you taste a wine from an Italian variety, I want you to close your eyes, inhale deeply and really think about its fragrance before you take your first mouthful. What are the connections it brings to mind? Perhaps mature Garganega reminds you of ripe pears, or maybe the scent of Alpine flowers emerges from a glass of Nebbiolo-based Carema.
Then take a generous amount of wine in your mouth and swish it around, letting it reach every taste bud. Allow yourself to discover the flavours of these original wines: that tangy burst of blueberries in Nero d’Avola, the touch of elder flower which defines a well-made Verdicchio, and the enticing sweetly bitter flavour of the pulp near the cherry stone of young Sangiovese.
What follows is a brief survey of 3 of Veneto’s most popular indigenous grape varieties.
This is the grape variety that forms the backbone of the Veneto region’s best known reds: Bardolino, Valpolicella and Amarone. These wines vary in style from charming zesty rosès, through medium-bodied reds to the rich, powerful Amarones, made from semi-dried grapes. Corvina-based wines all have a fresh, delicate bitter-cherry note in their perfumes.
Garganega is believed to be of Greek origin. While found in isolated pockets throughout Italy, it produces its most memorable results in the Veneto provinces of Vicenza, Padua and Verona. When grown in optimum sites, when yields are kept low and when the grapes are allowed to fully ripen, this variety is capable of producing whites with delicate flavors of pear, pineapple and apricot which become fuller and more luscious as the wines matures. It is the major (sometimes sole) component in Soave.
GLERA (the Grape formerly known as Prosecco)
Is there such a thing as too much success? You might ask the producers in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone in the Veneto. For years they made a nice sparkling wine that they named after the grape Prosecco. Then came the boom! Prosecco was everywhere and with increased demand came widespread planting in zones far removed from the original Prosecco production area. Prosecco-mania has reached the point where, in Italy, the word prosecco has become a common synonym for generic sparkling wine, with people offering a “prosecchino” in bars, restaurants and even private homes. This has created a certain amount of chaos among the original Prosecco producers, whose vineyards are found in a small area in northern Veneto and Friuli. In order to protect the reputation of their wine producers in the original production areas decided to re-name the variety. The grape formerly known as Prosecco is now being called Glera, which has long been its name in local dialect. Since 2009 the DOC and DOCG production zones in the Veneto and Friuli have been known as the Prosecco zone.