Description 1 of 2
The Veneto, located in the north-east of Italy, is a region that contributes a significant percentage, nearly a quarter, of the country’s total wine industry. Several of the major DOCs, including Soave, Bianco di Custoza, Valpolicella and Bardolino, plus Amarone, are produced here. The beloved sparkling wine Prosecco, while produced all over the country, has its origins and its best expression in the Veneto and is its own DOC.
The history of wine-making in the region can be traced back as far as a few centuries BC in the Bronze Age. The Romans eventually took over, as they were wont to do, and began dividing plots of land into more organized vineyard sites. They also established the cities that would become Venice (Venezia) and Verona, both major hubs for fashion, art, trade and wine. There are 6th century written documents by Cassiodoro, a magistrate of Visigoth King Theodorus, describing a sweet wine made from half dried grapes in Verona that is mostly likely an early version of Amarone or Recioto. “Straw wine,” the process used to make these wines by drying grapes on straw mats before pressing, is a style of wine-making that was passed on from the ancient Greeks. Both Amarone and Valpolicella, the table wine version using the same grapes (Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella), became popular Veneto exports. As was likely some version of Bardolino, which is now officially a blend of the same grapes with a small percentage of others such as Rossignola, Sangiovese or Garganega.
A trade embargo with the Ottomans in the 16th century forced local agriculture to broaden its domestic scope. More attention was paid to viticulture in hopes of reviving the industry by putting more emphasis on quality local wine production. The success of this effort paid off both domestically and abroad with other European countries, the New World and China.
The Veneto was hit hard by the Phylloxera crisis in the late 19 the century, but because trade was so vital to the region, especially with the construction of modern trade routes such as the Suez canal, viticulturalists acted quickly once the “cure” of grafting American root stock to local vines was discovered.
Sadly, the region had garnered a poor reputation between the 1950s and the later half of the 20th century for importing a lot of mass-produced wines, especially Soave (Soave Bolla anyone?) , sweet and skunky Proseccos and some very fruity, insipid versions of Valpolicella. But things turned around by the late 1980s and 1990s. While those wines still exist, there is far more emphasis on quality production for local consumption and imports.
The Veneto is comprised of many different terrains and microclimates, which account for its range of varietals and styles. The topography divides itself into three sections where wine is produced: the province of Verona to the west (between Lake Garda and Soave town). The hills in the center surrounding Vicenza, Padova and Treviso. And the much flatter plains of Piave Tagliamento river basins, along the Adriatic coast, to the northeast of Venice. In all there are now 24 DOCs within the region.
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