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Veneto - Food and Wines - Wines

Venice's region is Italy's leader in the production and commerce of classified wine. A major share of the DOC (which represents about 225 million bottles a year) consists of the Verona trio of Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella. But since DOC represents less than a fifth of the region's total, the Veneto also figures as a major producer and exporter of unclassified table wines, often of moderate price.

There are three general areas of premium production: the western province of Verona in the hills between Lake Garda and the town of Soave; the central hills in the provinces of Vicenza, Padova and Treviso; the eastern plains of the Piave and Tagliamento river basins along the Adriatic coast northeast of Venice.

Verona's classic wines are bona fide natives. Soave, from Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave, is usually dry and still, though spumante and sweet Recioto versions are also prescribed. Third after Chianti and Asti Spumante in volume among classified wines (with some 50 million litres a year), Soave has long been Italy's most popular DOC wine abroad.

Valpolicella, made from a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, is very high in volume among DOCs with about 35 million litres. Valpolicella is noted as a full and fruity red to drink relatively young, though grapes from its vineyards in the hills north of Verona can also be partly dried and made into the richly dry Amarone della Valpolicella or the opulently sweet Recioto della Val- policella.

Wine in Veneto

Amarone, amply structured and long on the palate, ranks with Italy's most authoritative red wines. Bardolino, from the same basic grapes as Valpolicella, is enviably easy to drink, whether in the light red or dark pink "chiaretto" version. Recent popularity is due largely to its emergence as Italy's first DOC novello. This DOC on the shores of Lake Garda also ranks high on the list of volume with about 20 million litres a year.

Another Veronese DOC of note is Bianco di Custoza, strikingly similar to Soave. A recent DOC made between Verona and Vicenza is Lessini Durello, a steely dry white, usually sparkling, that seems destined for wider recognition. A trend in the Verona area is to make alternative wines of distinction. Some innovative reds are gaining prominence, notably the so-called "ripasso" types made from the base of Valpolicella refermented with the pomace of Amarone.

The Veneto's central hills take in several DOC zones. Near Vicenza are Gambellara, with whites similar to those of neighbouring Soave, and Colli Berici, where varietal wines from Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot and Cabernet prevail. Also in the province is Berganze, where Cabernet and whites from the Pinots and Chardonnay and the sweet Torcolato stand out. Near Padova are the Colli Euganei, whose sheer slopes render a range of varietals.

Wine in Veneto

Treviso's province takes in the hills northwest of Venice between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadne, noted for the popular Prosecco, a dry to lightly sweet white, usually bubbly. A refined version is known as Cartizze. The adjacent Montello e Colli Asolani zone, is noted for Prosecco, Cabernet and Merlot, as well as the renowned "vino da tavola" Venegazzu` della Casa. Producers of Prosecco, already well versed in sparkling wine, have been increasing Pinot and Chardonnay Spumanti, usually dry and made either by the tank fermentation or the classical method.

The plains northeast of Venice take in the Piave DOC zone, where Merlot and Cabernet dominate an expanding range of trendy varietals, though the local red Raboso and white Verduzzo still attract admirers. Lison-Pramaggiore (previously noted for white Tocai, Cabernet and Merlot) now also has a full list of varietals.

In red wines, Merlot and Cabernet Franc have been the workhorse varieties of the central and eastern Veneto for decades, often in light and easy wines to drink young. But some producers have been blending the two, increasingly with Cabernet Sauvignon, and ageing the wine in small barrels to develop greater style and complexity. Throughout the region the recent emphasis is on white wines. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and especially Chardonnay are gaining ground.

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