TO DOEat - Drink

The Bardolino wine

Among the most famous Italian wines in the world.

by Marco Ghirello

The Bardolino wine production area stretches across the Veronese part of Lake Garda, an area created by the glaciers that shaped the Garda basin and the surrounding moraine hills.

This area includes 16 municipalities: Affi, Bardolino, Bussolengo, Caprino Veronese, Castelnuovo del Garda, Cavaion Veronese, Costermano sul Garda, Garda, Lazise, Pastrengo, Peschiera del Garda, Rivoli Veronese, Sommacampagna, Sona, Torri del Benaco and Valeggio sul Mincio.

The first evidence of wine use in the Bardolino area dates back as far as the Bronze Age, thanks to some discoveries of seeds belonging to the vitis silvestris plant at the ancient pile-dwelling settlements of Cisano di Bardolino, Pacengo and Peschiera del Garda.

Some of the objects found for religious rituals and numerous amphorae for storing wine date back to Roman times. It is thought that the first cultivation of vines in the area also began in this period. The first written evidence of wine growing in Bardolino dates back to the early Middle Ages, between the 5th century and the year 1000. Some 15th-century writers, describing the area, speak of sweet and natural wines (Francesco Corna da Soncino) and of perfect wines (Marin Sanudo).

During the 19th century, wine production in the Verona area of Lake Garda began to be explicitly called Bardolino, while the first technical analyses made on local wines date back to 1873, thanks to the work of Giovanni Del Sie.

The Consortium

In his book La Provincia di Verona ed i suoi vini (The Province of Verona and its Wines), published in 1900 but based on research from previous years, Giovanni Battista Perez identifies three areas in the Bardolino territory. In 1926, the 'Consorzio di difesa del vino tipico Bardolino' was founded. Before the creation of the DOC, Bardolino was among the most falsified Italian wines. The modern history of Bardolino wine officially began on 28 May 1968, the date of approval of the presidential decree establishing the Bardolino DOC: the production area, consistent with the area already identified in the previous century, comprises the territory of 16 municipalities on the Veronese shore of Lake Garda and its hinterland.

The Consorzio di Tutela del Vino Bardolino Doc was founded in 1969.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Bardolino vineyards have almost all been renovated and there are about a hundred wineries in the production area. In addition to very small family-run businesses, which sell a few thousand bottles, there are some of the largest Italian wine producers.

The production chain is divided into three segments: small and medium-sized farms, cooperatives and large bottlers. From 2002 to 2005, the Bardolino area was the subject of an extensive viticultural zoning project, from which 66 different types of land in the production area were subsequently recognised.

The sub-zones of Bardolino

In 2015 the Consorzio di tutela launched the Bardolino Village project with the aim of defining the zonal characteristics of the wines, based on the areas already described by Giovanni Battista Perez at the end of the 19th century and confirmed by zoning. In 2018, the General Assembly of the Consorzio di tutela approves the proposal to include the three sub-zones La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna in the production regulations.

Historically, in the current Bardolino production area, the organoleptic and qualitative characteristics of wines from three specific macro-zones were known, but were not indicated in the production regulations approved in 1968, only being restored with the amendment adopted in 2018.

Native grape varieties

The most important grape variety in the Bardolino area is Corvina Veronese. The 2018 regulation states that it may be used for up to 95 per cent of the total blend, while the remaining 5 per cent is dedicated to Rondinella, another native Veronese grape variety.

Other locally cultivated red grapes may contribute to the production of Bardolino, including Corvinone, which may replace Corvina Veronese up to a maximum of 20%.

Another native local grape variety is Molinara, which may participate in the production of Bardolino up to a maximum of 15% of the total. However, its cultivation is now marginal in the Veronese territory and its use is no longer compulsory in the blend (it was in the original 1968 regulations), but only optional.

Corvina Veronese is the typical native grape variety of the Bardolino area, where it is always used fresh, immediately after the harvest, but also of the Valpolicella area, where the withering technique is traditionally used. This grape offers an exceptional capacity to adapt to the different soils of the morainic hills of the Veronese shore of Lake Garda and its hinterland, expressing the best of its territorial characteristics through its fruity and spicy organoleptic components, but also thanks to the freshness and sapidity that it succeeds in imparting to the resulting wines. Corvinone, on the other hand, was mistaken for Corvina Veronese grossa until 1993, when it was entered in the Variety Register.

The specification rules

According to the regulations approved by the General Assembly of the Bardolino Consortium in 2018, the maximum quantity of grapes allowed for the production of "base" Bardolino DOC wines may not exceed 120 quintals per hectare of vineyard. For wines from the Montebaldo, La Rocca and Sommacampagna sub-areas, the quantity of grapes per hectare may not exceed 100 quintals. Furthermore, for wines from the three sub-areas, commercial release can only take place from the first of September of the year following the harvest and the practice of enrichment is totally forbidden.

For 'basic' Bardolino, the specifications define a ruby red colour, sometimes tending towards cherry, with a dry, savoury, harmonious flavour. For Bardolino in the Montebaldo, La Rocca and Sommacampagna sub-areas, it is specified that the colour must be bright, clear ruby red, while the aroma is typical of small fresh fruit, spices, with possible herbaceous and floral nuances, with a dry, fine, savoury, harmonious flavour.

For the grape blend, Corvina Veronese participates to a maximum of 95% and a minimum of 35%, but the presence of Corvinone is permitted up to 20% instead of an equal percentage of Corvina. Rondinella is obligatory to a minimum of 5% and a maximum of 40%. Molinara, no longer compulsory since 2010, may be included up to 15%. Other non-aromatic red grapes suitable for cultivation in the Province of Verona may also be used, up to a maximum of 20% of the total and a maximum limit of 10% for each variety.

Organoleptic characteristics and pairings

In its basic version, Bardolino has a ruby red colour, is delicately fruity with aromas of cherry, morello cherry, strawberry and raspberry and is very pleasant to drink. In the wines of the three sub-areas, matured for at least one year and from vineyards with lower yields per hectare, the aromas of Bardolino become more elegant: the colours remain clear and the complexity of the bouquet is enhanced towards spicy tones of cinnamon or black pepper and towards notes of dried flowers and citrus fruits.

Bardolino is a type of wine that goes very well with pasta dishes, seasoned both with meat and fish, but also with rice. Among the most interesting pairings are with legume soups and lake fish such as tench, sardines and lavarello.

In the types coming from the sub-areas and characterised by greater refinement, Bardolino wine goes perfectly with grilled white meats, baked meats, stews or the traditional bollito misto.

The Chiaretto di Bardolino

Another popular typical wine is certainly the Chiaretto di Bardolino, the pink wine from the eastern shore of Lake Garda. In this area, the pink wine is called Chiaretto and the name derives from the Latin adjective clarum meaning clear.

The origins of Chiaretto date back to Roman imperial times, when the provinces of Gallia Cisalpina, which included Lake Garda, and Gallia Transalpina, which included Provence, were created. In both provinces, the Romans spread wine-growing through the agricultural model of the villa rustica and the introduction of ancient wine presses. The use of the wine press did not involve prolonged contact between the must and the grape skins (which contain the colouring substances), so the wines produced in ancient times in the two Gauls were pink in colour.

The oldest local document that mentions the word Chiaretto related to wine is the edition of the Vocabolario della Crusca printed in Verona in 1806. This volume of the Italian language included a thousand words collected from the Verona area and one of these was the word Chiaretto referring to the wine. Chiaretto di Bardolino obtained DOC recognition in 1968 within the Bardolino appellation of origin.

The pink wine of Lake Garda

With the 2014 harvest, Chiaretto producers initiated the Rosè Revolution, aimed at emphasising the soft colour of local native grapes and highlighting the citrus scents of Corvina Veronese.

In spring 2021, with the modification of the production regulations, the denomination officially took on the name Chiaretto di Bardolino, further emphasising the strong territorial identity of the Veronese pink wine.

Produced both in the still version and, in very small quantities, in the sparkling version (both Charmat and classic method), Bardolino Chiaretto is a leader in the Italian pink wine sector, with a production of around 10 million bottles per year. It is sold mainly in Italy and Germany, but also in France, Holland, Scandinavian countries, the United States, Canada and Japan.

The pale pink colour with orange highlights of the Chiaretto di Bardolino is caused by the brief contact of the must with the grape skin, where anthocyanins, the grape's natural colouring substances, are found. The area's native grapes, i.e. Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, are all very low in anthocyanins, so they have a natural tendency to produce light-coloured wines.

Chiaretto di Bardolino is an ideal wine for any occasion, as an aperitif or paired with pasta dishes and pizza, but also with cheese, fish and Asian cuisine. Freshness, flavour and citrus notes are the main characteristics of this wine.

Its fragrances range from flowers to aromatic herbs, from citrus fruits to apricots and berries. On the palate, Chiaretto di Bardolino is fresh with characteristic saline mineral notes, typical of wines from vineyards cultivated on moraine soils.

Bardolino (red)Bardolino DOC
Bardolino Classico DOC
Bardolino Novello DOC
Bardolino Novello classico DOC
Bardolino Superiore DOCG
Bardolino Classico Superiore DOCG
Chiaretto Di Bardolino (pink)Chiaretto Di Bardolino spumante DOC
Chiaretto Di Bardolino DOC
Chiaretto Di Bardolino Classico DOC

For further information and insights, we refer you to the following links:

Bardolino wine tastings

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