Italian Wines by Region: The Veneto

By Neil Duarte

The Veneto is primarily the land area just opposite Venice, but it includes Venice and the other islands. It is an area that has known great wealth and power in past times and today includes some excellent wine producing areas.

Let’s first talk about the grapes in the Veneto. The white grapes found here are the well known Prosecco and Pinot Grigio along with Garganega, Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Friulano and several others. The red grapes are primarily found in the Verona area and are the ones that are blended to produce Valpolicella and Amarone. These are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. In other parts of the Veneto, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are also found. The Veneto is one of the larger production regions for DOC wines.

Many Americans are familiar with Prosecco as it now ranks as one of the favorite sparkling wines sold in the USA. Prosecco is an excellent cocktail or appetizer wine and is a favorite in Italy to serve with the appetizers. It is normally light, fruity and a great accompaniment for the initial course. One of my favorites is that produced by Francisco Drusian in the Conegliano area. However, there are many good, reasonable Prosecco wines including that sold by Costco under their own label.

Arguably the most sold Italian white wine in the USA is Pinot Grigio. The grapes for this are grown throughout the Veneto seemingly in every back yard. If you are unfamiliar with Pinot Grigio labels, here is a brief tutorial. Almost all Pinot Grigio labels feature the words ”Pinot Grigio” in the biggest letters. Directly under this in much smaller print are words describing the origin of the grapes. An example is “Della Venezia” which tells you that the wine came from the land area next to Venice. My personal preference is Pinot Grigio produced from grapes grown at a higher altitude. Albino Armani produces an excellent Pinot Grigio from grapes grown at 800 meters ASL that is available in the USA.

There are other very good white wines from the Veneto. Made mostly from the Garganega grape blended sometimes with various Trebbiano grapes and Chardonnay, Soave has made a comeback from the lower quality reputation earned in the past. It is a reasonably priced dry white wine that is a good accompaniment to any seafood dish. There are other white wines from the Veneto, but these are the one that you see most in the USA.

Wine barrel against mountain background

PHOTOS: Terry Duarte

The most famous and not surprisingly the most prevalent red wines from the Veneto found in the USA are those generally grouped in the Valpolicella category. Similar to Soave, the Valpolicella name received a bad name many years ago due to the very average wines imported into the USA under the label of Valpolicella. Over the past four years I have written a number of articles about individual wineries in the Valpolicella area as well as the wines themselves. As a refresher, there is a hierarchy in Valpolicella that begins at the lowest level with wines called Valpolicella, then rises to Valpolicella Superiore, followed by Valpolicella Ripasso and then the king, Amarone. As I said in my first article on Valpolicella several years ago, I went from being a disparager of this wine to someone who enjoyed greatly revising his opinion. I think that the lowest level Valpolicella today is a very nice medium red wine and a good accompaniment for pizza. Valpolicella Ripasso is an excellent companion for red meat dishes and Amarone is a superb big red wine whose only drawback is its price. There are too many good examples of these wines for me to say that I have a favorite.

The Cabernets produced in the Veneto are generally nice red wines but, at least from my experience, not anything truly great. However, they are nice wines and worth trying, especially if you are in the area.

The Veneto contains a number of very good wines. You will be pleased when you try them and surprised by the quality.

a row of bottles of wine from the Veneto

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