The Variety of the Veneto

Italy’s Veneto is one of the world’s most diverse wine producing regions, and for me it is a “go-to” area when I am not sure exactly what I want to drink. You can find just about every wine style and price point in the Veneto, from cheap and cheerful Pinot Grigio to super premium, concentrated Amarone dell Valpolicella to crisp, refreshing Prosecco sparkling wines to carefully crafted expressive Soave wines. The Veneto seems to have it all.

Fueled by the agricultural rich Po River Valley the Veneto has made its greatest income on Pinot Grigio. These relatively simple IGT level wines are generally well made crowd pleasers. The fruit has an apple and lemon quality with enough crisp acidity and sometimes a bit of residual sugar to make them easy to drink.

Soave represents the next step up in Veneto white wines. These wines are DOC and DOCG quality level, and thanks to the efforts of producers such as Pieropan, the entire category continues to get better.

The main grape grown in this ancient extinct volcanic hill town is Garganega and in the right hands, it can make a superb wine. I have often been a proponent of other cool climate regions trying to grow Garganega, as it has enough, but not too much, fruit and crisp acidity to make one of the best food friendly wines.

I recently tasted the 2012 Pieropan Soave Classico and it was bursting ripe apple, lemon, and almond skin notes balanced by refreshing acidity. Underlying all of this is a mineral note that adds complexity and contrast to the fruit character.

Corvina is the primary red wine grape of the Veneto and its stars in Valpolicella and Bardolino wines. Usually supported by small amounts of other native grapes (Rondinella, Molinara, Oseleta), Corvina can create both simple easy to drink Valpolicella Classico wines and rich, layered Amarone wines. The former are perfect easy drinking red wines dominated by cherry (often sour) and herb notes along with a slightly savory mineral quality.

Amarone is the exact opposite of the basic Valpolicella. These vines are made from dried grapes, fermented than aged in oak for multiple years before release for sale. The result is a wine with chocolate, mocha, dried fruits, jam and smoky notes. Speri makes some of the best wines in the Valpolicella region. Their range of wines, for me, shows the Veneto’s reds at their best.

Both Corvina and Garganega also make sweet style “recioto” wines. These wines from Valpolicella and Soave are unique and offer yet another different wine style from the region.

In the northern part of the Veneto in areas of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, sparkling wines are the star. Prosecco DOCG from this region comes in Brut and off-dry styles. I prefer the drier styles with their crisp yet light apple, pear and lemon notes. These wines cost a fraction of what you would pay for Champagne, and, although they lack the bread and biscuit notes of the French sparklers, they are often more food and crowd friendly. Try Canella Prosecco or the wines from Sorelle Bronca for a great classic example of Veneto sparkling wine.