If you are looking for fine Italian wine and food, consider the Veneto region of northern Italy. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you’ll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour.
Veneto is located in northeastern Italy on the Gulf of Venice. The region is mountainous with all kinds of water; rivers, lakes, lagoons, and of course, canals. In its heyday, during the Renaissance (Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries), the Venetian Republic ruled a large part of northern Italy, and was a major player in the world of commerce and culture. Veneto’s present population is about 4.5 million.
Veneto’s capital, Venice, is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, claiming 60 million visitors a year. Its attractions are too numerous to list here. Venice’s neighbor, Padua, is the oldest city in northern Italy. Padua was the home of the famous astronomer Gallileo Gallilei. The metropolitan region encompassing these two cities has over 1.6 million people. Another city of interest is Verona with its numerous Roman and medieval monuments.
Agricultural products include cattle, corn, wheat, sugar beets, and of course grapes. With all the water you can be sure that fish and seafood abound. Rice is more important than pasta, and lovers of sweets will not be disappointed. Industries include textiles, silk, shipbuilding, and sugar refining, but the major industry remains tourism.
Veneto devotes almost 250 thousand acres to grapevines, it ranks 3rd among the 20 Italian regions. Its total annual wine production is almost 180 million gallons, also giving it a 3rd place. About 45% of the wine production is red or rosé, leaving 55% for white. The region produces 24 DOC wines and 3 DOCG wines, Recioto di Soave, Soave Superiore, and Bardolino Superiore. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine Controllata, which may be translated as Denomination of Controlled Origin, presumably a high-quality wine. The G in DOCG stands for Garantita, but there is in fact no guarantee that such wines are truly superior. Almost 30% of Venetian wine carries the DOC or DOCG designation. Veneto is home to about four dozen major and secondary grape varieties, approximately half white and half red.
Widely grown international white grape varieties include Trebbiano, Chardonnay, and Pinot Bianco, known as Pinot Blanc outside of Italy. The best-known strictly Italian white varieties are Garganega and Prosecco.
Widely grown international red grape varieties include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The best-known strictly Italian red varieties are Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.
Before we reviewing the Veneto wine and cheese that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wine when touring this beautiful region.
Start with Pasta e Fasioli; Pasta and Bean Soup.
Then try Risotto de Scampi; Scampi Risotto.
For dessert indulge yourself with Torta de Paparele; Lemon Tagliatelle Cake.
OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY While we have communicated with well over a thousand Italian wine producers and merchants to help prepare these articles, our policy is clear. All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.
Corte Gardoni Bianco di Custoza DOC 2004 12.5% alcohol about $8
I’ll start with the marketing materials. “Floral notes mixed with sweet red Delicious apple and Bosc pear aromatics form the inviting and lifted nose. The flavors are quite different with citrus and green apples coming to the fore. It is light to medium-bodied, providing a tangy finish that would pair well with grilled, firm (tuna or sword) fish.” And now for my thoughts.
This wine was first paired to a commercial chicken pot pie with a bit of chili-lime hot sauce. I tasted some apple. It was quite weak at first, but did pick up some strength from sip to sip.
The next meal was more in line with the marketing suggestions, namely grilled salmon filet with oven-baked potato patties and French fries. While there was some apple taste, essentially the wine didn’t add anything to the meal. However, it went well with dessert, thin biscuits containing almonds and pistachios.
My next trial included chicken legs in a soy and onion sauce with rice and green beans. The wine was not unpleasant but was light and fleeting.
Montasio cheese is a specialty of the Veneto region. It is made from cow’s milk and can have a sharp flavor when it ages. I was happy when the wine was able to handle this strong cheese. It didn’t do as well with an Asiago cheese, also from the Veneto area.
Final verdict, I won’t be buying this wine again, even at its relatively low price.
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Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His wine website is www.theworldwidewine.com .
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