Italy is a cornucopia of vinous diversity, a boot overflowing with more than 2,000 indigenous varieties. The northeastern regions of Veneto, Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia arguably have reawakened Italian white wine production while remaining a reliable source of distinctive, unique red wines.
Typically, these wines display natural freshness and expressiveness of their origins. They are notable for dramatic aromas, precise structure and refreshing acidity. Here I highlight a few worth seeking out from the Veneto. My next column will cover the other regions.
Soave — named after a local village and made with the local garganega variety — long has been a popular light, refreshing white wine. After a period of mediocrity over the last few decades of the 20th century, Soave has been reimagined by attentive, quality-minded wineries such as Inama, which makes wines from estate vineyards in the original Classico district.
The 2018 “Vin Soave” ($16) is delightfully light and tasty with touches of apple, nectarine, lemon, pear and stone fruit nicely balanced with almond notes.
The 2017 “Vigneti di Foscarino” ($26), a special selection of old vines on the east side of the Monte Foscarino, is vinified to express a lush texture and notes of apricot, pear and melon also balanced with almond.
A similar story can be told with Valpolicella — composed of indigenous varieties, mostly corvina with varying amounts of rondinella, corvinone and molinara. A light, easy drinking red gained popularity and evolved into an indistinct sipper. But now Tenuta Sant’Antonio and other serious producers have resurrected the wine’s reputation. The 2016 “Nanfre” ($14) is a round, cherry flecked, sinewy but lush drink.
At the tip of the Valpolicella pyramid is Amarone della Valpolicella. The 2015 Tenuta Sant’ Antonio “Selezione Antonio Castegnedi” ($45) is a fine representative of apassimento, the skillful process of drying the grapes to yield a deep, complex wine of bold dark fruits, hints of mocha and tobacco.
In between, Valpolicella Ripasso achieves richer flavors by macerating Amarone pomace (grape skins and solids) with fresh Valpolicella. The result is a wine like the 2015 Tenuta Sant’ Antonio “Monti Garbi” ($20) with its intense black fruits and admirable complexity. Another perennial favorite is the 2014 Allegrini “Palazzo Della Torre” ($23). This one blends fresh Valpolicella with the juice of dried grapes. The result is a wine of substantial structure with deep black cherry accented with spices, smoke and herbs.
Beyond these traditional wines, Inama is a good place to look for the region’s contemporary creativity. I was impressed with two wines from (surprise!) Bordeaux varieties: brought from France by locals.
Turns out the carménère grape has been cultivated in the Veneto for about 150 years, unbeknownst to many. But Inama discovered promising vineyards in the Colli Berici subregion near the village of Vicenza and now produces a fine example. The current vintage is the lithe, bright 2015 “Più” ($21), which includes a sizable dose of merlot.
I also enjoyed the 2015 “Bradissimo” ($30), a blend of 70 percent cabernet sauvignon and 30 percent carménère, for its blackberry fruit and solid structure. It’s a fine alternative to a Super Tuscan.