The fair city of Verona is not just known for its cuisine, it also boasts outstanding wines! In general, the Veneto region offers some of Italy's best food food and drink but for wine connoisseurs in particular it is the place to be. Here in the country's leading region for produce with protected origin status, you can find world-famous names, such as Prosecco from Treviso and Valpolicella from Verona.
Valpolicella in literature.
“Light, dry, red wine which was as friendly as the house of your brother, if you and your brother are good friends”.
This is how Colonel Cantwell, the main character of the novel Across the River and Among the Trees, by Ernest Hemingway, described Valpolicella.
The area around Verona has a proud and ancient wine-making tradition, in places such as Valpolicella and Valpantena, nearby Soave and the Lake Garda area, which have always been well-suited to vine growing thanks to their mineral-rich soil and a continental climate that lends itself to high-quality wines.
Sampling Verona's wines in style
The historic centre of Verona is packed with wine bars and ‘osterie’; do not miss the opportunity to stop off at one for a relaxing glass of wine. Nothing revitalises the mind and the body like an authentic glass of fine wine accompanied in true Veneto style with some tasty snacks, known in Verona as ‘cicchetti’, a name which originated in the bars of Venice, meaning the finger food traditionally served with an aperitif.
Red wines are the jewel in the crown of Verona’s wine industry. At the heart of these red wines are the different varieties of grapes, including Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, giving us such wines as Valpolicella (both the Classico and the Superiore), Bardolino, Recioto della Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone. The last of these, Amarone, the King of Verona’s wines, dates back to the middle of the 1930s and was created by accident. Legend has it that in 1936 Adelino Lucchese, the head of the Valpolicella wine cooperative, remembered about a forgotten barrel of Recioto (a straw wine, where fermentation is stopped to retain a higher level of sugars) and when he tasted it he exclaimed “this wine isn’t bitter, it’s extra bitter” or “amarone” in Italian! The wine had completed its fermentation, creating a dry and full-bodied straw wine with a bold flavour and a very intense bouquet. Thanks to the forgetfulness of Mr Lucchese the province of Verona boasts one of world’s finest wines! Personally, given the strength of its bouquet, rather than pair it with food, I prefer to enjoy it on its own, a “meditation wine” as we say in Italy.
More than just reds: Veronese white wines
No ordinary white wines! The Verona region, even though it is famous for its red wines, also produces a number of excellent white wines. The most famous of all is without doubt Soave, a wine with ancient origins. As long ago as the 5th century, senator Cassiodorus, when recommending it to emperor Theodoric, described the wine as one which:
Shines like drinking milk, with flawless clarity [...], joyful purity and incredible delicacy.
This wine, made from Garganega grapes, was one of the favourites of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and rose to fame and prestige in the early 1900s, when Verona’s leading wine houses began to promote their products both nationally and internationally. Other Veronese white wines include Recioto di Soave, an exquisite straw wine which was the first in Veneto to gain DOCG protected status, Custoza, Lessini Durello, an outstanding sparkling wine produced in the hills between Verona and Vicenza, and another ‘frontier’ wine, Lugana, grown around Sirmione on the shores of Lake Garda near Lombardy.
A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world. (Louis Pasteur)
Whether you are an enthusiastic lover of wines or just enjoy a tipple, I recommend that you find time to enjoy a quick visit to the temple of Veronese wine, the Antica Bottega del Vino. One of Verona’s traditional restaurants, the Antica Bottega dates back to the 16th century and is a paradise for wine lovers, serving internationally renowned wines.
Dates for the wine lover’s diary
There is no way we could talk about wine without mentioning the annual Vinitaly event, the international wine and spirits exhibition which every April attracts more than one million visitors to the city. And for people who don’t work in the industry, there is Vinitaly and the City, the off-site festival which offers a wide range of side events in the city centre, such as tastings, themed dinners and meetings. As you have your diary open, let me take the opportunity to tell you about another unmissable event which is held every October: Hostaria Verona. At the Verona wine festival, the region’s finest producers exhibit their produce in the picturesque surroundings of the historic city centre. As you wander through the streets and squares, you can stop off at the stands to taste some of their many outstanding creations. A journey through the best of Veronese wines!
I will bid you farewell with two more not-to-be-missed events, both held in the Palazzo della Gran Guardia: Anteprima Amarone, which is held at the start of February every year, and Soave Versus, a show dedicated to Soave wine, usually held in the first week of September.
I am looking forward to your visit to Verona and in the meantime I will raise a glass of wine to your good health! Cheers!