by JACK BAKER
Word is, we are seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel.” Perhaps later this year, perhaps next, we will be able to mix with friends and relatives again. And to travel.
Travel is exploration, a way to leave the everyday humdrum behind and embrace new experiences. It’s the same with wine. At times we need to leave the comfortable and convenient behind and strike out for new challenges.
My wife, Jan, and I have been to Italy many times in the last 25 years, and aren’t done yet. The whole country is like a fine wine. One taste isn’t enough; many are required to find its essence. Here are three wines from Italy’s Veneto region to challenge your palate. They are affordable and enjoyable, and definitely not run of the mill. Each will bring its terroir—the environment in which a wine is produced— and distinct flavors to the glass and add to your wine vocabulary.
Lake Garda and Verona are must-sees during any trip to Italy’s northeast. Garda, at the eastern edge of the Veneto, is the largest lake in Italy. With sulfur springs and views of the Dolomite Mountains, it’s a popular getaway for Italians, other Europeans and, of course, us Americans.
At its southern end are wineries that produce lugana, a light-bodied, dry white wine from turbiana grapes. Ottella Lugana ($15.99, Big Red Liquors) is fresh and crisp with flavors of wildflowers, almond, and citrus fruit, with mineral and saline overtones. I suggest a day trip on the lake with a picnic and a bottle or two.
A few miles east of Garda is Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage site with history stretching back to B.C.E. 550 and ruins dating from its days as a Roman colony. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is set here, and Juliet’s balcony continues to collect love notes from all over the world.
On the rocky volcanic slopes just east of the city, wineries produce soave, a medium bodied white wine, from the garganega grape. Pieropan Soave Classico ($22.99, Big Red Liquors) provides a rich mouthfeel, melon and peach fruit, and herbal and saline overtones. I suggest fighting your way through the crowds to Juliet’s balcony, leaving your love note, and retiring to an enoteca—wine repository—for a cool glass.
In the Monti Lessini foothills north of Verona, valpolicella is made from corvina Veronese, rondinella, and molinara grapes. Zenato Superiore ($15.99, Big Red Liquors) is ruby red, light, and simple, with flavors of sour cherry currant, spice, and chocolate. Amarone, its cousin, is at the opposite end of the spectrum: deep and complex. Zenato Amarone ($63.99, Big Red Liquors) is perfect with a bistecca [a traditional Florentine steak].
These wines add to your wine vocabulary. I hope you will try them.