Veneto is an important region of Italy, both in terms for the volume of production and the increasing quality of those products. Part of the same administrative zone of Trivento as Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it also shares some of the same cultural influence from Germany, Slovenia and their Roman fore-bearers. Veneto’s best and most famous exports are Amarone, Valpolicella, Soave and, of course, Prosecco.
Valpolicella, in all its forms, and Amarone are made within the same zone, grown in four valleys that run down the Lissini mountains towards Verona and on the plains below. The original zone was (as is so common in Italy) re–named as Classico when the overall area was greatly enlarged in 1968. The Classico subzone currently covers nearly half of the planted Valpolicella vineyard, whilst the other subzone, Valpantena, is little seen and contributes under 5% of the total production. Historically this was a fine wine made from Corvina grown on the hillsides, however in the 1970s and 1980s, the inferior Molinara and Rondinella were allowed along with high yields and planting on the plains damaging the reputation of the wine which became a light, fruity and slightly sour mass market offering. Many of the best vineyards were abandoned, yet quality production was saved by the rise of Amarone.
Soave is potentially one of Italy’s most interesting white wines, too often one of the most insipid. The Soave DOC has two subzones, Classico and Colli Scaligeri. Classico is for the original production zone, first delimited in 1927 on hillsides between Monteforte d’Alpone and Soave. Colli Scaglieri covers other hillside vineyards, whilst basic Soave includes the bulk of high production vineyards on the plains by the Adige River. When the Superiore DOCG was introduced in 2002, it disappointed by still including these plains vineyards and, whilst permitted yields are slightly less embarrassing, it is little guarantee of quality. In 2019, after an 18 year project, 33 crus – the finest vineyards on the hillsides – were named and these can appear on the label. Trebbiano di Soave is not to be confused with other Trebbiano and is in fact Verdicchio. True Soave has a beautiful floral character, rich body, fine acidity and a herbal quality and with age in bottle, takes on chamomile and honeyed notes and there are an increasing number of fine producers available.
Prosecco has grown tremendously in popularity since the turn of the 21st century. This tank method sparkling wine has been a driving force in the huge export growth of both Veneto and Italian wine. The geographical area authorized is second only to the delle Venezie DOC covering all of Friuli and most of Veneto. Before 2009 the wine was made from a grape called Prosecco in the Veneto, however competition (notably from Australia) drove the authorities to an inventive solution that involved re-naming the grape Glera, expanding the production region to include a small village near Slovenia called Prosecco and then claiming the wine was named after the village. The EU closed ranks and the name Prosecco became protected as a geographical zone – no longer the name of a varietal wine, thus barring any other place from making it and selling it. This geographical expansion led to a frenzy of new planting on the fertile plains and a massive expansion in the (already large) production. Permitted yields are very high at well over 110 hectolitres per hectare and most of the wine made is very bland, its apparent fruitiness more a result of the high residual sugar than any inherent character. Two subzones exist, Treviso and Trieste, but these are more a marketing ploy than identifier of style or quality. Perhaps Proseccos success lies in its inoffensiveness, bubbles that imply luxury, relatively cheap price and sweetness and it has certainly been a generational success story, but then so was Liebfraumilch, another sweet drink with little merit.