ROSÉ BROUGHT ME TO ITALY. IT WAS THE BEAUTY OF THE LAND, THE ROMANCE OF THE REGION OF VENETO AND THE PEOPLE OF BARDOLINO WHO MADE ME WANT TO STAY.
Italian rosé is romancing wine enthusiasts with their contemporary approach to rosé, Chiaretto. This modern-day dry rosé uses the most important red grapes of Bardolino, Corvina. Corvina is grown in the stunning valleys and hillsides of the Bardolino DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) of Veneto. These vineyards bask in the Mediterranean climate of glacially formed Lake Garda. The lake is responsible in part for drawing out the fruitier nuances of the grapes and Corvina is perfect for the Chiaretto rosé because of its nuanced flavors of cherry and florals with a lighter, more alluring hue. The appellation is mineral rich due to the moraine, left behind by the glacier. Moraine is made up of a combination of rocks, boulders and a can be as fine as silt. High above the lake is Monte Baldo, part of the Italian Alps and one of the best areas to view the Bardolino vineyards.
In a short period of time, the production of Chiaretto has gone from 4 million bottles to 10 million bottles today. It is the most intriguing style of rosé in I have tasted to date and an important appellation in Italy. Chiaretto of Bardolino…
The origins of rosé in Italy are rooted in France. An Italian attorney, Pompeo Molmenti, born in Venice, married into the Brunati family of Salo which left him with a dowry including a park and a wine farm. He was the first to vinify Chiaretto wine and learned to make rosé from a visit to France using a soft press process. This practice continues today.
Rosé as a wine offers us lower alcohol, the ability to enjoy with and without food and a perfect opportunity to sip many different rosé and experience a taste of the world. The expressions are as unique as they are varied. The colors range from the most delicate pale pink to the orangest shade of salmon or a shade of clear red that is often surprising.
Lake Garda (Lago di Garda in Italian) is the largest most history infused lake in all of Italy. Its shoreline sits on the western side of Bardolino. With close to 143 miles of shoreline, it eclipses it’s more popular cousin, Lake Cuomo (only 52.8 miles of shoreline). And it is equally as beautiful. The flat landscape to the south and dramatic mountains to the north act as borders of three different regions. Lombardia, Veneto, Trentino. It served as borders for Austria and Venice, between the Republic of Venice and the Visconti in Milan, the French and the Spanish. Monte Baldo is one of the best areas to view the Bardolino vineyards.
Climate change is an issue, but climate has always been changing.
The philosophy in Bardolino is letting the vineyard speak in the wine. Being true to the origins and maintaining and expression grew at once unified and as the industry matured a bit each individual as if it were a petal began to separate and further find its own interpretation. The climate is very hot during the days, during the night, the temperatures are lower because of Lake Garda and Monte Baldo (very high 1,800 meters high). At night winds come from Monte Baldo to Lake Garda. The weather is very hot in July and August. The crops of 2017 were destroyed by the hailstorm in and cost the region 30-40% of production.
There are two styles of Chiaretto. On the eastern shore of Lake Garda, Corvina is the most widely used grape and it is instrumental with their Valpolicella, Amarone and Bardolino. On the western shore of Lake Garda, they make their rosé using four different grapes, Gropello, Mannino, Barbera, and Sangiovese. It’s called Chiaretto Valtenesi. Regardless of the style of Chiaretto, the grapes used are key to the color, minerality and freshness. The expression of the Chiaretto rosé, as with the market, has grown and matured. It’s flavor profiles range from floral to citrus and even red berries. It’s versatile with food pairing and simply sipping it on the porch watching a great sunset.
The philosophy in Bardolino is to let the vineyard speak directly through the wine. The climate is very hot during the days, during the night, the temperatures are lower because of Lake Garda and Monte Baldo (very high 1,800 meters high). At night winds come from Monte Baldo to Lake Garda. Being true to the origins and maintaining and expression grew at once unified and as the industry matured a bit each individual as if it were a petal began to separate and further find its own interpretation.
The further I explored the Chiaretto rosé I found two distinct patterns. The richness of complexity in the wine is evident throughout the region, lending a nod to this spectacular terroir. The “lighter shade of pale” term they use is consistent throughout their brands. It truly ties Chiaretto to Pink.
The history in the region was both dark and fascinating. In Roman times, Garda was called Lake Benacus. There was a fierce battle fought in November of 268 AD by the Romans and ferocious German invaders here. With just 400 years of unity, it was during the domination of Venice that the people of Lake Garda have their dialect. The language is mainly Venetian or Veneto (the Republic of Venice conquered them in 1405). The area was Venetian until the arrival of Napoleon in the 18th century. The Republic of Venice conquered Garda in 1405. During the Venetian period (1405-1797), you had to pay taxes to sell cows or chestnuts from Garda across the lake. If you killed somebody on one side of the lake you could simply go to the other and be free from prosecution. Lake Garda where we stood on the side of the highway is 300 meters deep. The two sides of the lake are very different. Different cultures, different languages. In the past, they didn’t intermarry. You can sail from one side to the other side. People used to immigrate from one side to the next. It was the border between the French and Spanish.
In January of 1797, Napoleon Bonapart’s army would enter the Battle of Rivoli against the Austrians enabling Napoleon to claim Northern Italy as occupied territory. The loss of 10,000 men between them was significant with Austria taking the brunt.
“Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin” Napoleon Bonaparte (a different stance perhaps if he knew what was coming to Bardolino in the way of Chiaretto rosé).
The biggest battle on these soils was that of Solferino. It had a hand in Italy’s modern-day independence and unification. At the time the territory was occupied by France, Spain, and Austria. This battle was significant as well. The loss for Napoleon this time resulting in the 1859 Armistice of Villafranca. It was again a significant loss of life and led to the Geneva Convention and the Red Cross being formed.
It was quiet for a bit, but the unique formation of Lake Garda and the bordering countries made it a target for occupation and in 1943, Mussolini would take over the town of Salo in Brescia in honor of the Third Reich.
While wars and tragedy mark much of the history of Lake Garda, today a distinct beauty of breathtaking vistas surround the region. Peace fades the images of the past. Veneto is now known as the crowning glory of luxury & allure in this region in Northeast Italy. Why? It is home to some of the most famous wine regions in Italy. It’s home to Bardolino, a small town with a big place in history.
The start of Bardolino and wine culture began in the 19th century. The first labels with the name Bardolino are from 1848. Bardolino was one of the first appellations and likely the first one. The best Bardolinos aged 1 year in were exported to the best hotels in Switzerland. It was served along with Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. After World War II, people started producing wines just for summer, Bardolino totally collapsed. Bardolino became a commodity. Chiaretto was a small part of the production.
I arrived in Garda as part of a consurtium to share my experiences with the world. To let them know about what they were doing in Bardolino. Winemakers from many of the most established houses had a common goal. To join forces and unify their winemaking approach to address today’s palate. They would take rosé to new heights, capitalize on their unique terroir and make some of the most delicious rosé in Italy. To introduce the world to the jewel Bardolino, Chiaretto Pink.
Lake Garda is probably one of the most visited areas in the summertime. Tourism is booming, streets are crowded and a number of lakefront watering holes are packed. It’s a very small area with only 30,000 inhabitants. During the summer over 12 million tourists visit the area accounting for 1% of all of Italy’s tourism. Go in the fall, and you will enjoy a relaxed pace, with little traffic.
With rosé becoming a mainstay for wine lovers expanding your horizons to experience the best Italy has to offer is a delicious distraction. The wines here are truly unique, interesting and speak of the land they were grown in. That is the best kind of wine. On earth.