Stepping away from the terra cotta and linen pants of tuscany, the northeastern region of ‘Veneto’, surrounding Venice, is one of Italy’s more industrious. And, it happens to export some really great wine. Prosecco happens to be a cheap, food friendly, substitute for champagne. Rather than the expensive “methode champenoise” bottle fermentation process, the Venetians opt for a less yeasty, vat fermented, ready to drink alternative. But I wasn’t looking for a cheap alternative for mimosas. I wanted something I could feast with.
Stinky canals and striped shirted gondola drivers aside, Veneto produces a serious chunk of Italy’s top wines. Valpolicella and Soave are internationally recognized, but keep an eye out for Amarone. This blend of Corvina, Molinara, and Rondinella is the result of an extensive drying process which leeches the fruit of up to 40% of its water weight.
The end product is a full bodied and complex wine with a very light acidity and a strong flavor of raisins disclosing the method. One of the most expensive bottles to produce on average, this is not a cheap wine, but a fantastic departure from the usual.
Northern Italy has some other great options, heading east, the area of Piedmont is home to one of the wine world’s favorite grapes (this is not about Asti’s Moscato). Nebbiolo, a late ripening pest of a grape to grow, has garnered a cult following with its highly tannic, brightly acidic wines. Two areas producing the most known examples of 100% Nebbiolo varietals are Barolo and its characteristically lighter counterpart Barbaresco.
Both zones are full of different experiences, but watch for older vintages as this wine blossoms with time into beautifully balanced velvet capable of handling some heavy proteins. As with most pastiched veneers of marketing stereotypes, picking a little bit at the surface can reveal some not so hidden treasures.
Story by: Joshua Brock