The wines of Lake Garda
21 July 2023
Lugana is a white wine, still or sparkling, which came from the Turbiana grape in the homonymous plain of Lugana. The latter extends into the lower Garda, incorporating 5 municipalities: Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Lonato, Pozzolengo and Peschiera del Garda, the only one on the Veneto side.
The clay soil rich in mineral salts attributes a freshness and characteristic flavour to this white wine. This is why Lugana remains fragrant, with fruity notes between almond and citrus.
Lugana today can be found in five different types: the Lugana called “base” vintage, the Superior, the Reserve, the Late Harvest and the Sparkling. You just have to go to one of the many restaurants on the lake and pair it with an apéritif, pizza or starters and cheeses.
The next wine of Lake Garda that I suggest is a red, produced on the ancient Morainic Hills of the Veronese coast.
The oldest production area of Bardolino includes the municipalities of Bardolino, Cavaion Veronese, Costermano, Garda and Lazise. In reality, currently, a much larger area is recognised, divided into three historic areas called "cru": Montebaldo, La Rocca and Sommacampagna.
Bardolino is obtained by mixing different grapes such as Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, Molinara and other local grapes. Two denomination wines are produced which are Bardolino Doc (divided into Classic, Chiaretto and Chiaretto Classico, Chiaretto Spumante and Novello), and Bardolino Superiore DOCG, which is the aged product. It has a bright red colour and a slightly fruity scent with notes of cherry, strawberry, currants, raspberry and marasca.
In general, it is a versatile product, so it can easily be paired with any dish. In particular, it goes well with the first courses of classic Italian cuisine. Moreover, it is excellent with lake fish, served with risotto or even fritturas.
Another of the wines of Lake Garda, located on the Brescia shore, is the Valtènesi, which comes from Groppello.
Groppello is an indigenous grape variety of which only 400 hectares remain in the world, located exclusively in the west of Benàco. In fact, thanks to the mild climate, the Groppello to date branches lushly on the hills of Valtènesi, along the western shores of the lake. From Dal Groppello comes Valtènesi, a tangy and fresh rosé, fruity notes, with its soft pink colour and fragrant, floral aroma. An elegant, fine wine that has become a symbol of the Brescia Riviera, a territory historically dedicated to the production of rosé. The rosé Valtènesi, also known as Chiaretto, is ideal as an apéritif, perfect for every meal, especially with dishes based on lake fish.
Next to it there are other wines of equal importance, such as the Riviera del Garda Classico Groppello, or the Riviera del Garda Classico Rosso Superiore. But the types protected by the Valtènesi Consortium are eight, varying in colour, aroma and appearance. DOC Valtènesi is divided into red and claret, but it is the second to raise the denomination at national and international level.
The production area of Custoza covers a total of 1400 hectares. It is divided into the municipalities of Sommacampagna, Sona, Bussolengo, Villafranca di Verona, Valeggio sul Mincio, Peschiera del Garda, Lazise, Pastrengo and Castelnuovo del Garda.
The peculiarity of the Custoza DOC blend also constitutes its strength. The blend of several vines (Trebbianello, Garganega and Bianca Fernanda) allows the grapes to complement each other even in difficult vintages and gives the wine greater complexity. It thus guarantees a more varied expression of the producers' personality and that of the individual grapes.
From the delicate and floral nose with aromatic hints, this is a wine with a strong territorial connotation, easily recognisable by its freshness, drinkability and flavour. In addition to the Custoza Doc type, the Disciplinare provides for the types Custoza Superiore, Custoza Riserva, Custoza Spumante and Custoza Passito.
Ideal accompaniment for the traditional tortellini di Valeggio, it goes perfectly with other specialities of the area as well. To name a few: the broccoletto di Custoza, the sfogliatine di Villafranca, the braised guancette di Sona, the riso al Tastasàland the thousand delicious cheeses.
Let's now move on to Trentino, presenting another of the best wines of Lake Garda, the red Marzemino.
Trentino DOC Marzemino
Marzemino can undoubtedly be called a "gentle" wine. The birthplace of Marzemino is Vallagarina, south of Trento and north of Lake Garda. It came here during the rule of the Venetian Republic, with considerable difficulty. Recent archaeological investigations suggest that the seeds originating from the grape come from the distant Caucasus. In addition to the Trentino Doc Marzemino, the Superiore type is also produced.
The wine is a formidable concentrate of purple, plum and small fruit fragrances. On the whole, mint is also recognised and it has some spicy notes. Intense in its deep ruby colour, it appears silky to the eye and precise to the palate. Marzemino is a wine that is best enjoyed immediately, while still young. As for pairings, it is perfect with a corn and mushroom polenta, Trentino excellence. But it is also excellent with meats served roasted or on a spit and with fish dishes.
Finally, I suggest a type that is produced exclusively in Valpolicella, but renowned all over the world: the Amarone di Valpolicella.
Amarone di Valpolicella
Amarone, of all the wines of Lake Garda, is the one with the strongest personality. It is a dry red wine that came from a very large area. Protected by the Lessini chain to the north and by Lake Garda, up to the extremes of the province of Verona. The grape is mainly composed of the Corvina grape, combined with Rondinella and other native grapes. What makes this product an excellence is the drying of the grapes for about 120 days, placed in the fruit drying rooms on plateaux. The obtained must is then fermented for 1-2 months and the ageing is for at least two years.
Tasting Amarone, it is fruity with a slight hint of coffee, while on the nose it is spicy and balsamic. The perfect pairing to associate with this wine is with autumn and winter foods, such as meats, or with the local traditional dish "pasta e fasoi". Lastly, don't forget that it is also used to prepare the excellent Amarone Risotto.
Certainly all these Lake Garda wines fully embody the complexity and diversity of the territory. All that remains is for you to include a wine tasting or a visit to one of the many wine cellars in the area in your itinerary around the lake. Your options are endless!