Venice, La Serenessima, is ideally located for discovering the wines of two regions: Veneto, of which Venice is the capital, and neighbouring Friuli Venezia Giulia. The most famous Veneto vineyards can be found in the west of the region, a short drive or train ride away.
Discover the vineyards surrounding the picturesque Lake Garda with its mountainous backdrop and microclimate advantageous for viticulture and the lovely town of Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame. The west shore of the lake belongs to neighbouring Lombardy and the south is shared between the two regions. Lugana, stretches along the south shore, stradding both Lombardy and Veneto, serving up crisp whites and sparklers from the Trebbiano di Soave grape. To the east, the lovely small town of Bardolino lies directly on the shores of the lake and is home to Bardolino Superiore DOCG, where dry fruity reds are produced from the local Veneto varieties Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara; rosé, known as chiaretto, sparkling and red are produced under the Bardolino DOC.
Heading east, back towards Venice, vineyards are also found in Valpolicella and Soave, two other familiar names, also outside Italy. The former is made from a similar combo of grapes as Bardolino, the latter from Garganega and Trebbiano. These two areas are also home to the sweet passito Recioto wines and the dry passito Amarone. Veneto vineyards also yield what is currently the world’s most popular sparkler, Prosecco, produced from the Glera variety. Superior versions of the bubbly, grown on steep slopes in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone are also deserving of a DOCG.
Other vineyards near Venice can be found to the east in neighbouring Friuli Venezia Giulia. This region is a little more off the beaten track and its wines are harder to find outside Italy, but they are well worth checking out. Many agree that Friuli’s winemakers are now setting the modern standards for making white wine in Italy. ’French’ and ’Austrian’ varieties, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and the Pinots have thrived in the vineyards for centuries, along with a good crop of native grapes, e.g. Friulano (once known as Tocai Friulano), Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla and Picolit. Friuli whites are typically fresh and fruity in style, ideal summer drinking.
Friuli boasts four DOCGs and ten DOCs. The DOCGs include the Sauternes-style sweet wine Colli Orientali di Friuli Picolit produced from the Picolit grape variety, Ramandolo, made from extremely ripe Verduzzo grapes, the mineral-laden Rosazzo whites, a blend of at least 50% Friulano, and Lison, which is shared with Veneto. Lison is made principally from Tai, the Veneto name for Friulano.
Sparkling wines have also started to become popular and a huge amount of Prosecco is also made in the region as well as in the Veneto vineyards.
As well as the Bordeaux reds, Friuli Venezia Giulia also boasts a mosaic of indigenous red varieties, more under the radar than the whites, but worth sampling. Pignolo is a tannic, brooding, rich wine with flavours of blackberry and plum. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso gives a dark wine with high acidity with aromas of violet, peppery spice and plum. Schioppetino yields wines that are spicy with aromatic violet and red berry flavours. It also produces a spumante version, a true Friuli speciality. Finally, Tazzelenghe, a wine with mouth-puckeringly high acidity and tannins, needing time in barrel to smooth to make it more approachable. Wines have flavours of liquorice, dark chocolate and earthy spice. So, don’t limit yourself to the familiar Veneto vineyards, explore the indigenous varieties of Friuli too
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