A major perk of writing about wine used to be the vineyard visits — and one of my very favourite regions to visit is the Veneto. Just over a year ago I spent a few days staying in the pretty village of Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda. We had breakfast at the lakeside every morning and took a couple of jaunts on a vintage speedboat. It really was heavenly. A contact in Bardolino recently sent me a selection of the village’s best wines so I have been cooking risotto and vicariously visiting this month.
That 2019 visit was with the Rizzardi family (imported by O’Briens) who have their headquarters there but they are probably more famous for their Valpolicella and Amarone. Bardolino is just 30 minutes from Romeo and Juliet’s home town of Verona, and hour or so from Vicenza and another 40 minutes to Venice (maybe stopping in Padua where Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew is set).
The hills around Bardolino have had vines since the Middle Ages and Bardolino was given its DOC status in 1968, one of the earliest in Italy. The main grape is Corvina, but you will also find Rondinella, Molinara and Corvinone (once thought to be related to Corvina). These are the same grapes as used in its more famous neighbour Valpolicella and Amarone but the growing conditions are a little different with cool breezes from Lake Garda to the West and from the Alpine foothills to the North.
Bardolino is generally lighter than Valpolicella and often more charming for early drinking. Sometimes compared to Beaujolais for its floral notes and cherry fruits, there is even a Novello version although I’ve never seen it in Ireland. Besides light fruity reds there is also a fine rosé called Chiaretto which I’m pleased to see is making inroads here. Chiaretto has been made since at least the 19th century and has come into its own in recent years not that Rosé is (rightly) being taken more seriously. I mentioned Delibori Chiaretto (€14.50 Vintry, Sweeneys, Corkscrew, Drinkstore) last July, and there are a couple of others available (see below).
Chiaretto is often paired with locally made Tortellini di Valeggio and Tagliolini ribbon pasta – preferably with black truffles. Fish from Lake Garda is the other favourite including smoked trout – the Burren Smokehouse or Goatsbridge versions make a good substitute. Bardolino matches seafood risotto and bolito misto (Irish stew would also work) and of course it is perfect with pizza and ragù sauces.
Wine Under €15
Benazzoli ‘Dafne’ Bardolino, Veneto, Italy – €12.99
Stockist: Curious Wines Cork, curiouswines.ie
This is reduced from €15.49 this month and their shop on the Tramore Road is open — also on offer are wines from New Zealand and Australia. Made from 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella this pours a pleasing bright garnet colour and has lively red fruit aromas with strawberry and cherry to the fore, textured and lively on the palate with pleasing savoury notes mixed in with the fruits. Serve cool.
Benazzoli ‘Tecla’ Bardolino, Veneto, Italy – €12.99
Stockist: Curious Wines Cork, curiouswines.ie
Chiaretto (pronounced ‘key-ar-etto’) Bardolino is the excellent pale rosé from the hills around Lake Garda made from the same grapes as Bardolino and Valpolicella. This is also on special offer from Curious Wines and pours a pale onion-skin pink with aromas of strawberry and roses, taut and very crisp on the palate with berry fruits and a hint of white pepper — a perfect match for spicy food.
Monte del Fra Bardolino, Veneto – €13.99-14.99
Stockists: Kellys, Goose Drumcondra, Rineys Sneem, Dwans Knocklyon, Jus-de-Vine
From a hill to the south-east of Lake Garda on limestone, clay and gravelly-sandy soils, this is a blend of 65% Corvina, 30% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. Dark garnet with floral strawberry aromas and a touch of cinnamon and cloves, fruity and crunchy on the palate with textured red fruits and extra spice touches and a long and lively red fruit finish.
Wine Over €15
Fasoli Gino “La Corte del Pozzo” Organic Bardolino, Veneto – €15.49
Stockists: Mortons Galway, Connemara Hamper Clifden, The Grainey Scarriff, Little Green Grocer Kilkenny, marypawlewines.com
Fasoli Gino have been organic and vegan for a number of years and also make an excellent Prosecco and a solid Soave. Hand-harvested with a 15-day cold maceration this pours a bright ruby red with rose petal and cherry & red currant aromas, lively juicy fruits with herbal notes. Made in conjunction with a local disadvantaged community of young people.
Zenato Bardolino, Veneto, Italy – €14.95-15.50
Stockists: Cinnamon Cottage, Castle, Mortons, Martins, Searsons searsons.com
I’ve featured Zenato here before — their Amarone is legendary in its opulence and I think I’ve mentioned their Lugana and Soave. Their Bardolino is similarly top-notch with a dark ruby hue, aromas of red currants, cloves and wild thyme, bright red fruits with structure and some complexity, juicy, lingering and satisfying and a fine match for everything from Bouillabaisse to Pizza.
Rizzardi Villa Amarone, Veneto, Italy – €39.99
Stockists: O’Briens stores nationwide wine.ie
Rizzardi’s Bardolino is well worth a try and featured here recently but if you want a big rich wine to cope with goose, sprouts or spiced beef that you should consider this Amarone (reduced from €45). This has big ripe aromas of dark cherries and spice and is full, rich and luscious on the palate with a touch of dark chocolate and surprising elegance for such a big wine.
Spirit of the Week
The Liberator Small Batch: Double Port Finish Whiskey, 46% ABV, 70cl – €53
Stockists: Bradleys, Fine Wines, Celtic Whiskey celticwhiskeyshop.com, L Mulligan, irishmalts.com, throughout Co. Kerry.
The latest release from Wayward Spirits based at Lakeview House in Killarney and run by Maurice O’Connell, descendent of the Liberator himself Daniel O’Connell. Primarily a bonder but also growing their own barley (their first malt is already in barrel), and with a distillery on the way.
This is a limited release of 3,000 bottles (there’s also a 375ml Cask Strength version), and is a blend with a high malt content (42%). Delightfully fresh and honeyed on the nose with dried fruits, more honey notes on the palate, a pleasing spice kick and a lingering finish of vanilla and sweet cream.
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