The Wines of Lake Garda

The Wines of Lake Garda

The enchanting wine area of Lake Garda offers an array of wines with a subtle taste. The area’s climatic conditions are extraordinarily varied.

Journalists from across the world gathered in Dogana di Lazise to discuss the unique vineyards of Lake Garda. They scribbled notes seriously while listening intently. They wanted to learn more about the region’s wine.

The light red Bardolino DOC hails from the eastern shores of Lake Garda in north-eastern Italy. The vineyards, planted since the Bronze Age, are surrounded by olive trees (the region produces excellent oil).

The main grapes of Bardolino are Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara; however Sangiovese and Merlot can also be used. The morainic hills of the area provide a great variety of soils that strongly influence the wine.

Bardolino is a pleasant, easy-drinking wine, that pairs well with most dishes and is especially good served lightly chilled in summer. The rosé version of the wine, Chiaretto, is made using the same grapes but undergoing a short maceration of the skins to achieve a delicate pink color. It pairs beautifully with fresh lake fish and hearty red meats such as rabbit or roasted beef.

Designed for sustainability, this contemporary winery offers tasting experiences in their extensive cellars carved into the hills. Try their Garda DOC sparkling wines or the smooth reds from this estate and enjoy a picnic among the vines.

Legally, Valpolicella blends must include 45% corvina and 95% corvinone grapes, with a little rondinella (literally swallow) and molinara (the black bird). The latter grape is named for the dark color of its skin and brings structure, tannin and acidity to the mix.

The terroirs of the region vary, with the rocky limestone foothills of the Lessini Mountains (the OG Classico area), hill areas on gentle slopes and fertile eastern valley floor each providing their own unique characteristics. Breezes from the lake, humidity from the pre-Alpine mountains and temperature differences from sun to shade also influence vineyard sites.

Located between Lombardy and Veneto, Lugana is known for easy-drinking white wines like Custoza and more structured expressions like Superiore, Riserva and Vendemmia Tardiva. The chilly lake breezes and high altitude help retain zesty acidity in the grapes.

In addition, the soil here is particularly rich in clay—up to 50% in some vineyards—which lends complexity without overpowering oak sensations. Lugana can age beautifully, and good vintages of the superior and riservate bottlings often exhibit complex aromas of wild herbs, chlorophyll, and citrus fruits, together with hints of toasted hazelnuts or spices when aged in wood (today, less new and more neutral than barrique).

But even as this area’s wines become increasingly popular outside Italy, its small vineyard surface is battling for space against vacation homes, the Milan-Venice railway line, and now the TAV high speed train that will cut right through several Lugana DOC vineyards. The Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC has been fighting for years to keep the track out of the wine zone, but it’s unclear when they will win.

While the region’s wines have become more popular abroad, their quality remains undiminished. Geoffrey Dean visits wineries like Tenute del Garda, where the focus is on traditional local varieties like Lugana and Groppello.

The flatter southern part of Lake Garda is home to the mineral-infused white Lugana, which is surfing a wave of popularity. Made with Turbiana (Trebbiano di Lugana), it thrives on the calcareous-clay lakeside soils of this DOC, which covers 31 communes between Mantua and Brescia in Lombardy and 40 communes in the province of Verona in Veneto.

Its red counterpart is Lucone, produced with Groppello grapes, but which also includes small percentages of Marzemino and Sangiovese. The result is a ruby red wine with a pleasant fruit perfume and a balanced taste that pairs well with meats and slightly-seasoned cheeses.
Sparkling Wines

The unique morainic soils that surround Lake Garda were formed when glaciers carved the region. These soils tend to express mineral notes like chalk, crushed stone and iron in the wines.

Located in the Lombardy region, the wine of Lake Garda is a regional favorite. With the Franciacorta and Oltrepo-Pavese sparkling wines as well as the robust reds of Valpolicella and Lugana, the region is a top wine destination.

Whether it is Bardolino from Veneto or Valpolicella from Lombardy or a Chiaretto Rose from the Valtenesi appellation, wine lovers are drawn to the picturesque vineyards and charming lakeside towns that make up the area. Visit a local winery for a guided tour and tasting to enhance your experience! The wineries have a variety of accommodations from quaint farmhouses to refined villas.wein gardasee

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