Wine

The Winey Soul goes to Lake Garda

July tickled us with a super sunny weekend last week and finally summer has arrived. And it is just perfect, especially when I mean to write an article about those gorgeous rosè wines that would flood our glasses as soon as the first rays of spring weather start showing u!
I know what you’re thinking right now: “oh no, not another wines-to-drink list please!”
Nope.
Today you’ll travel with me to Lake Garda – a place I love and in which I have made some of the best memories ever. This is the biggest fresh water lake in Italy, 50km long and in some points over 300mt deep. Its influence on this region’s climate conditions is evident: the water temperature is colder than the air’s in summer and warmer in winter, therefore mitigating both the summer heat and the harsh winter days. There are two main winds that blow here: “Peler”, from north to south in the morning, and “Ora”, in the afternoon. As you can easily imagin, these are are very good conditions for viticulture and that is why I want in fact to introduce you to a wine region of this area: please meet the Valténesi. An off the beaten path region, which is slowly emerging and, in my humble opinion, should finally get the attention it deserves.
Valténesi is a hilly territory on the western side of the Garda Lake where viticulture is known since the pre-Romans times. The indigenous grape variety here is called Groppello, a thin skin grape with a blue-purplish color – it’s pretty much the equivalent of what Sangiovese is in the Chianti area: a true reflection if its terroir. The DOC allows the production of a red wine (Valtenesi DOC) and a rosè wine (Valténesi Chiaretto DOC), which is made with a very special method called “Molmenti”. Basically, the skin contact period is very short, in some cases not even an hour, and then the wine is racked off during the night to help maintaining the typical freshness of this rosè. That’s why this wine is also called “the one night wine”. Thanks this short maceration the color of the wine is very pale, in that Provence fashion that is now so dear and appreciated by the public. That’s not the only thing they have in common though, because the Valténesi Chiaretto has also a unique style: it’s refreshing, fragrant, vibrant – thanks to the maritime climate and a well timed harvest that allow acidities to stay high – but also sapid and saline. It’s an elegant wine that shows the strength of this territory through aromas of roses and red wild fruits and a round and balanced sip. There’s a constellation of producers in this area and some of them are getting a pretty good reputation: some of the most famous are Ca’ dei Frati and Ca’ Maiol, but also smaller producers like Olivini make interesting wines. Mattia Vezzola, chief oenologist of Bellavista, here runs “Costaripa”, the family winery in which they also produce some very good traditional methods sold under his own name – that I was lucky enough to visit a few weeks ago. And then one of my favorites in the area, Cascina Belmonte: a small sustainable winery with a modern approach to viticulture and agriculture, where biodiversity reigns soverain and every detail is studied and reasoned to impact as little as possible on the environment. And all of this without compromising on the quality of the wines. What would you want more?
Can you you already picture yourself sipping Rosé on the shore of the Lake at sunset? I totally do!

Need any touristic tip? Here you go:
Vittoriale degli Italiani: definitely the place I love the most, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there! This Villa used to be the poet D’Annunzio’s retreat on the shores of Lake Garda, near Gardone Riviera – just a little north of Salò. Art deco, eclectic tastes, beduin tents, fountains, waterfalls and even a real, entire, military ship lying on a hill… you can’t miss a visit!

Riva del Garda: the largest town in the northern part of the lake and the ideal base for GardaTrek, three loop trails between lake and mountains. It is close to some mountain bike trails and it is also possible to do some pretty cool lake dives.
Salò: the second-largest town on the Lombardia side. It is famous for having been the headquarters of the Repubblica di Salò, the seat of the Fascist government at the end of World War II. This charming town has the longest lakeside promenade

Sirmione: an ancient town that sits on a peninsula, home to Grotte di Catullo (the ruins of a vast Roman villa), the Scaligero Castle, that stretches into the lake, and its thermal baths. In summer, Sirmione swarms with tourists so to enjoy it at its best the perfect moment would be off-season.

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