THE WINES OF THE VENETO
SOAVE : volcanic soils produce stylish and elegant wines. We are happy to share Patricia’s comments for you. Patricia has a great fondness for Soave. Her strong feelings for the wine spring from the fact that she has seen first hand how it has reclaimed its identity. After all, she lives just down the road – a thirty minute drive – from the zone’s lush vineyards, and, for many years, was part of the professional tasting panel that assessed each vintage. Soave – The Basics The Soave production area is some thirty kilometres east of the northern Italian city of Verona. At its centre is the Classico zone, whose vineyard sites are limited to a few hillsides around the communes of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone.
The vineyards in the foothills and plains surrounding the Classico zone are referred to as just Soave DOC in order to distinguish them from Soave Classico DOC.
DOC: These Italian wine laws basically codify the realities of historic production zones, as related to yield, grape varieties and boundaries.
Within the DOC category are: Soave and Soave Superiore Soave Classico and Soave Classico Superiore All of the above can be made in either still or sparkling versions. Superiore wines have a higher degree of alcohol (11.5) than Soave normale (10.5). This is because the grapes from which they are made tend to be riper due to their sunnier vineyard sites. Within these classifications there is leeway for individual expression. Producers are free to use barriques or stick with stainless steel. They may choose to use 100% Garganega, or add up to 15% Chardonnay (and/or other grape varieties) to the blend. In 1998 Recioto di Soave became the Veneto’s first DOCG. Recioto is a dessert wine made from semi-dried grapes. When good, it offers an exquisite balance between lively acidity and sweet, apricot-tinged fruit. I believe that there will be a bit future of this style as it lends itself to pairing with certain Asian dishes. Particularly slightly spicy.
VALPOLICELLA: Valpolicella wines are made from a blend of local grapes: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and other native varieties. The production zone fans out around the city of Verona. Going from north to south, the vineyards reach from the Lessini Mountains down to the Veronese plain. Currently there is a trend to return to the fresh, juicy traditional style of Valpolicella. These wines are very versatile and satisfying at the dining table. The word “superior” on a label means that the wine is aged for a year (minimum). The resulting wine has a ruby-red color, with garnet tones. On the nose you will find the distinctive plum and cherry fruit notes that distinguish the wines of the Valpolicella.
AMARONE: Patricia is so in love with Amarone that wrote a book about it. She notes: Amarone is – or should be – a very special wine. Traditionally, the grapes destined for Amarone production were picked a week or two before the regular harvest. These specially selected ripe, healthy bunches were taken to lofts located on windy hilltops, where they were spread on bamboo racks (or in crates), and left to dry naturally for from three to six months, depending upon the desires of the winemaker. The process of semi-drying the grapes before fermenting them (known as appassimento) is what makes distinguishes Amarone. The process creates wines that have body, fragrances and flavors that simply cannot be achieved from wines made with fresh grapes. The grapes that remained on the vine were harvested for use in the production of Valpolicella.Great Amarones continue to be made and they are worth a higher price. Hold out for the real thing.
PROSECCO: one of the most interesting and enjoyable aperitifs. The wine producing area centered around the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso (that is now the Prosecco DOC zone) had already established a reputation for quality in Palladio’s day, in the XVI century. The vineyards of the Prosecco DOC zone, lying between the Dolomites and the Adriatic, have an unusually mild micro-climate that allows the Prosecco grapes to ripen slowly. After much experimentation, it has been determined that the Charmat method (in which the second fermentation takes place in tank rather than in bottle) is the best system for making the wine sparkling, while maintaining the tangy green apple and delicate apricot notes of the variety. The most popular style of sparkling Prosecco is the decidedly fruity Extra Dry. Those in the zone swear it goes with practically any subtly flavoured food or celebratory occasion. Dry versions are excellent with mushroom tarts and radicchio risottos. Brut Prosecco, the driest style, is a satisfying aperitif. The wines of the tiny sub-zone of Cartizze (near Valdobbiadene) are richer than other Proseccos because the grapes are usually harvested later here. Refreshing and lightly sweet Cartizze is often paired with desserts, particularly fruit tarts.Prosecco remains a popular aperitif in Venice and much of the Veneto and of Italy. It also sells very well in France, a fact that makes local producers very proud. “Prosecco is not like Champagne. It has its own unique character. There is nothing like it in France or anywhere else,” affirms the Consortium’s Director with missionary zeal. Not as serious and austere as Champagne (nor as expensive), Prosecco has a light-hearted yet refined grace, making it – like Palladio’s masterpieces – one of the perfect expressions of what was once La Serenissima of Venice and is now one of the most culturally developed parts of Il Bel Paese. When you pour your next glass of Prosecco DOC, pause a while to watch its fine bubbles rising like Palladian columns in the glass.