The Veneto, known for centuries as the "crossroads of Europe" is a captivating land that retains as much of the flavor of the ancient Levant as it does the lore and intrigue of the world's most famous lovers, Romeo and Juliet. With Venice as its anchor, Verona as its heart, and the Alps as its eye to the north, the Veneto is a strikingly diverse and prolific land. Both completely modern and thoroughly rustic, the Veneto leads the juggernaut of wine called Italy in the production and commerce of fine DOC wines. With its total annual production of wine approaching one billion liters, the Veneto basks in the glory of its reputation as both a showcase of modern wine technology and a bastion of sumptuous artisan wines.
Home to Shakespeare's Montagues and Capulets as well as the world's largest wine fair, Vinitaly, Verona is the undisputed capital of Italian wine. From the hills and plains that radiate from this immortal city flow copious quantities of familiar wines: Bardalino, Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone. In addition, just about every wine varietal known to man is represented among the quarter million acres of vines that grace the Veneto.
Although the Veneto's classic wines: Soave, the light, white from Garganega and Trebbiano grapes and the red Bardolino and Valpolicella, from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinari, still constitute the lion's share of the DOC wine production in the Veneto, they are far from being the only game in a party town. Increasingly, Merlot, Cabernet and especially Pinot Grigio are gaining ground and international recognition.
Introduced to the Veneto from the neighboring Trentino and Colli Orientalli, Pinot Grigio seems to have recently captured the hearts of consumers worldwide. Fuller, richer, and more assertive than Soave, Pinot Grigio possesses personality, for which the wine-consuming public is most thankful. Yet, in spite of its rise to power and the quality of the wine it produces, even exemplary estate-bottled Pinot Grigio from the Veneto has been denied a DOC designation. Along with Cabernet and Merlot based wines, and a host of other fine varietals, Pinot Grigio from this region may only be labeled del Veneto or designated as vino del tavola (table wine). Such is the Byzantine intrigue of Italian law and wine.
Along with the production of many excellent still whites and reds the Veneto is home to a burgeoning sparkling wine trade. The best examples of this bubbly are usually labeled "Prosecco" or are made by the old-line prosecco producers from Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.
Another Veronese specialty is Recioto, made from the "recie" (ears) or top portions of the grape bunches, which have been left to dry, then crushed. The resulting wine is often sweet and rich. Amarone, a dry rendition of Recioto, offers even more complexity and flavor than the sweet Recioto. Connoisseurs consider Amarone to be one of the world's finest and most intriguing wines-a wine that combines great strength with compelling character.
If all this talk of fine Veronese wines hasn't gone to your head, just think of beautiful Lake Gorda as the backdrop for the Veneto. Steeped in vines, history and romance, the waters of this alpine lake flow out to the Adriatic, just south of Venice. Surrounded by such beauty and abundance, it is no wonder the Venetians thought they should rule the world.