Jeroboams Education is a new series on our blog providing you with the lowdown on the most iconic wine producing regions of the world. Led by our super buying team, Peter Mitchell MW and Maggie MacPherson will introduce you to the key facts and a little history of all the regions you recognise but perhaps don’t know too well. To help really further your education, why not drink along? Browse our North-East Italy selection.
The Northeast of Italy covers six provinces and produces well over 40% of all Italian wine, with the majority of this (70%) being white. Veneto is by some way the biggest producer in the country, with the volumes coming from mass market behemoths Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. The broad Po valley and the coastal littoral round to Trieste are low lying and relatively flat and the bulk of the wine comes from this land, although nearly all the quality wine comes from hillsides further towards the Alps and from the mountainous Alto-Adige region in the Südtirol.
It can be a confusing area as many DOC’s overlap one another and a couple – Prosecco and delle Venezie – are absolutely vast and cross regional boundaries, however beyond the oceans of bulk wine, this is an area that produces a diverse range of world class whites and a handful of great reds and sparkling wines.
Like much of Italy, the fertile Po valley has a vinous history reaching back to at least the 3rd century BC and Virgil wrote of Emperor Augustus’ love of the wines of Verona early in the first century, whilst Augustus’ wife, Livia, ascribed her longevity to the wines of Friuli. By the middle ages, Venice had become one of the key trading cities of the world and a new merchant class had risen in the cities of the area. Wine had gone from being just a part of the diet to something that was (at least for the lucky few) an aspirational luxury good. By the 14th century, consumption was huge (an average of at least a bottle per day for every man woman and child is recorded in Florence in 1338) and wine had become the most profitable cash crop in Italy. Despite this heroic consumption, there was still an excess of production which from the north-east was exported to Switzerland, Germany and through Venice to Constantinople and the Levant. Throughout this period, Italy was a turbulent collection of city states constantly at war, but by the 16th century northern Italy was under the control of Austria and relative peace reigned. Grape varieties we see now that were highly regarded at this time include Garganega (modern Soave) and Sangiovese di Romagna from near Bologna. The 17th and 18th centuries were periods of economic decline in Italy and her wine industry was left behind. Wine was all sold in bulk (bottles had become the norm for quality wine in France by now) and contemporary records are not flattering about the wines, most of which were of poor quality. It is not until well after unification, in the late 19th century, that bottling of Italian wine began (albeit in a limited way) and some wines of quality began being made, but for the north-east, the story of quality wine only really begins after the Second World War, when the country as a whole underwent a major economic boom. This was the first part of Italy to use modern techniques (such as temperature control) in winemaking and International varieties are far more common here than elsewhere. In this sense, many of the best wines of this part of Italy are not full of heritage and have always been more outward looking and this has helped the region to build up such an impressive export market. The explosive growth of Pinot Grigio and Prosecco has meant Vento production has near doubled in the last 30 years, but this has also led to a worryingly large amount of wine being labelled DOC that is not worthy of the title. Time will tell if greed comes back to bite.
International varieties are widely planted throughout this part of Italy, with French varieties dominating. Below are listed a few of the more characterful and important indigenous ones.
The most important variety in Valpolicella and Bardolino where it is dominant in the best wines. It has good colour, acidity and a characteristic sour black cherry flavour. Heavily cropped it still produces a drinkable wine, but tends to lack body. It is generally blended with smaller parts of the much lower quality Rondinella and Mollinara.
Long regarded as a clone of Corvina, DNA has proved it to be a different variety, possibly a cross of Corvina and Rondinella. Whilst its flavour is very similar to Corvina, it has bigger grapes and looser bunches which makes it ideal for air drying to make Amarone. Plantings are steadily increasing.
Sitting in the same family tree as Pinot Noir and Syrah, Lagrein is a speciality of Trentino-Alto-Adige and can make high quality wine of real character. It has deep colour and relatively high tannin and acidity and produces a dark fruited and spicy red wine with a hint of bitterness.
There are two different varieties going by the name Raboso – Raboso Piave and Raboso Veronese. Disease resistant and quantitatively important in Piave, plantings are decreasing as both types produce wine of high and harsh tannin and marked acidity.
True Refosco is an ancient variety from Friuli and was the favourite wine of Livia (see history), Augustus’ wife. A late ripener it produces acidic and deep coloured wine with black plum and almond flavours. Plantings are growing and some really good varietal examples are made in Colli Orientali.
Widely planted in Alto-Adige where it has its own DOC, Schiava wines are light, fruity and aromatic, with notes of violets and almond and soft tannins. Once very popular in Germanic markets, interest is now more local, but significant plantings remain.
Rescued from near extinction in the 1970s, there are still only 154 hectares officially planted, the majority in Prepotto close to the Slovenian border. It is a grape of the highest potential quality with deep colour, rich violet scented fruit, often with a pepperiness similar to Rhône Syrah, fine tannins and good acidity. It has an affinity to oak and the ability to improve in bottle. Plantings are steadily increasing as its qualities are more appreciated.
A specialism of Friuli, this was previously known as Tocai Friulano, however following an agreement with Hungary it was renamed as just Friulano. It is the same variety as the derided Sauvignonasse of Bordeaux (also widely planted in Argentina and Chile where it is frequently sold as Sauvignon Blanc), however here it produces more interesting, if seldom exceptional wine. They tend to be grassy and floral with pronounced almond notes and a herbaceous tinge and are best drunk young.
A vigorous variety that is naturally high in acidity and heavy cropping. When yields are kept down it can produce wine of real class and character, with a floral note and citrus flavours, developing almonds with age. The mainstay of Soave and also grown across the rest of Veneto, with heavy yields that are sadly too common, its wines are fresh and clean, but with very little character.
The grape Prosecco was renamed in 2009 as Glera as part of the politics to protect the Veneto sparkling wine industry from foreign competition. The variety is late ripening, is quite neutral but with low yields has a slightly floral character. Vastly commercially important if not qualitatively so.
Used to make an expensive and fashionable DOCG sweet wine in the east of Friuli that was cultish in the 70s and 80s, the best examples are made with grapes dried on straw mats to concentrate the sugars and flavours. Some wines are aged in oak barrels. It is an ancient and low yielding variety that at its best is an essence of peach and apricot with a honeyed note.
Historic Friuli variety that has been here since at least the 13th century, it was almost non-existent by the 1970s, however it has staged a comeback and now has over 400 hectares, most in the east of Friuli (it is also now widely planted over the border in Slovenia). The grape has deep coloured skins and often produces a deep yellow wine with floral notes, yellow plum flavours and some bite on the finish.
Widely planted in Friuli it is used for dry, sweet and sparkling wines, of which only the sweet wines have real character. The grape skins carry significant tannins and the wines can have a pleasant astringency alongside honeyed and herbal notes, which works far better with residual sugar to balance it.
Climate, Geology and Topography
The region generally enjoys warm to hot summers with plentiful rainfall (occasionally too plentiful). The Veneto can be bitterly cold and shrouded in fog for large parts of the winter. Rainfall and hail are ever-present risks later in the growing season. Friuli tends to be temperate enjoying warm to hot summers and milder winters. The narrow Adige valley enjoys hot summers and lower rainfall, with cold winters. Spring frost can be a risk here.
Whilst most of the Veneto and Friuli is on flat low lying land, the better quality parts of Soave and Valpolicella are on hillside sites at around 300m, as are the Prosecco DOCGs of Valdobbiadene and Asolo and the far eastern DOC’s of Friuli. The Adige valley runs through Trentino and Alto Adige and although the valley floor is only at around 200m, the vineyards are planted on the steep sides at altitudes of up to 1000m.
Winemaking is generally very ‘modern’, with clean and well equipped wineries and fermentation regimes that prioritise freshness and fruitiness. Whilst oak is seen, especially for some of the better red wines, the majority of wine is made without oak ageing. There are some individual curiosities, such as Ripasso and Amarone from the Valpolicella region, that involve drying of grapes as part of the winemaking procedure. Almost all Prosecco is made using the charmat method, but the region does have some fine traditional method sparkling wines as well, notably Franciacorta and Lessini Durello.
The Regions of North-East Italy
The DOC and DOCGs of the North-East
Key info: Vineyard area: 2,902 Ha; Varieties permitted: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero; Production in cases (2018): 1.492 million
Although the area makes some still wine under the DOC Curtefranca, 95% of its production is now a traditional method sparkling wine. What is perhaps surprising is that the first sparkling wine made here was as recent at 1961 by the Berlucci family and this unashamed copy of Champagne was such a success in Milan, other investors flocked to the region. Soils are of gravel and mineral rich limestone and nearby Lake Iseo moderates the climate. Ca’ del Bosco is the most famous name, but others have arrived and matched them now. Minimum lees ageing is 18 months for non-vintage, 30 months for vintage and 60 for Riserva. Saten is a Blanc de Blancs that is bottled with lower dosage and pressure. The warmth of the climate lends itself well to zero dosage wines which are rarely too austere. Although not inexpensive, the average quality here is very high and Franciacorta makes one of the few genuine rivals to Champagne.
Lugana DOC (also in Veneto)
Key info: Vineyard area: 2,107 Ha; Varieties permitted: min 90% Trebbiano di Lugana/Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio) + 10% OANWG; Production in cases (2018): 1.423 million
On the southern shores of Lake Garda, this was once a much smaller DOC with generally high quality. Less suitable land further south has now been included and most of the wine sold under the Lugana DOC is quite bland, but wines from the calcareous soils near the lake can be intense and crisp and improve with age.
Garda DOC (also in Veneto)
Key info: Vineyard area: 1,183 Ha; Varieties permitted: For red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Corvina, Marzemino, Merlot, Pinot Nero; for white, Chardonnay, Cortese, Garganega, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano, Welschriesling; Production in cases (2018): 1.622 million
A catch-all DOC for wines from a wide range of local and international varieties grown across Soave, Valpolicella, Boianco di Custoza , Lugana and on the western shore of the lake. Sparkling wine can be charmat or traditional method. Despite a large production, these are not often seen on export markets.
Valtellina DOC/ Superiore DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 33 Ha/258 Ha (Superiore); Varieties permitted min 90% Nebbiolo , max 10% OANRG; Production in cases (2018): 52,780/146,700 (Superiore)
This northern wine district sits in a steep sided east-west valley at the foot of the Alps, with vineyards nestled close to the river Adda. Despite the alpine feeling, it is surprisingly warm and sunny. Rocky vineyards and stone terraces act as a heat store and aid ripening. Nebbiolo is called Chiavennasca here and produces a lighter wine than Piedmont that can be savoury and appetising. Superiore comes from demarcated vineyards and must be aged a minimum of 24 months (12 in barrel). The economics and difficulty of working the terraces has meant most of the declining production is now Superiore.
Trentino DOC and Trento DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 984 Ha Trento, 7,076 Ha Trentno; Varieties permitted: In Trento, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco. Pinot Meunier, Pinot Nero; For Trentino Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Lagrein, Lambrusco, Marzemino, Merlot, Moscato Rosa, Pinot Nero, Rebo, Schiava, Teroldego; For Trentino White, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Manzoni Bianco, Moscato, Müller-Thurgau, Nosiola, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner Verde, Welschriesling; Production in cases (2018): 855,600 for Trento, 3.64 Million for Trentino
This DOC covers the whole Adige valley in the region of Trentino, from Lake Garda up to the town of Trento. Trentino is for still wines whilst Trento covers traditional method sparkling wines. Trento generally comes from the highest slopes as the valley floor and lower slopes are too warm for grapes for sparkling production. The leading producer of Trento is Ferrari and their Riserva is an absolute classic. The finest producer of still wine is San Leonardo, although they choose to sell their wine as an IGT. In the north the Teroldego grape makes rasping slightly bitter reds which have their own DOC, Teroldego Rotaliano.
Key info: Vineyard area: 4,615 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Moscato Rosa, Pinot Nero, Schiava; For White Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Moscato, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner Verde, Welschriesling; Production in cases (2018): 3.303 million
The northern part (viticulturally) of the Adige valley, this region is also known as the Südtirol and, having been part of Austria until after the first world war, German is more commonly spoken here than Italian, although French grapes dominate the vineyards. Unusually, the DOC system is incredibly simple with a single denominazione covering the whole vineyard area. Valdadige DOC can also be used and covers wines from here and Trentino and Schiava has its own DOC, Lago di Caldaro. The Alps protect the valley from cold northern winds and there is plentiful sunshine, mixed with marked diurnal temperature variation. Most vineyards are perched on the steep hillsides between 300-1000m and produce ripe grapes with notable acidity. The most planted variety is Schiava, which makes a pale and light red popular locally and in the Germanic countries. Behind this, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay are the most important varieties. With two thirds of production controlled by the co-operatives, the choice of what to grow is often dictated by them and by what is easily marketable, however recent developments have seen a new generation starting to estate bottle more wine and an increased appreciation of indigenous varieties. There are 7 sub-regions which are of little importance to the consumer, although each has its own speciality and Pinot Bianco from Terlano and Lagrein from Bolzano are notably good. This DOC is generally warmer than Burgundy and is also the source of some very fine and fairly priced Pinot Noir (Nero). The majority of production is consumed locally or domestically, but this is a high quality region serious wine lovers should pay more attention to.
Bardolino DOC / Superiore DOCG (red only)
Key info: Vineyard area: 2,635 Ha/43 Ha (Superiore); Varieties permitted: Corvina/Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, plus max 20% OANRG; Production in cases (2018): 2.108 million/15,670 Ha (Superiore)
Light, pleasant and generally simple red wine from the shores of Lake Garda with most made to be as cheap as possible. The grapes are similar to nearby Valpolicella, with the allowance of 20% supplementary varieties (usually Merlot for its colour and potential alcohol). Superiore has a higher natural alcohol and a minimum of 1 year’s ageing. Perhaps of more interest is Chiaretto, a rose wine made from the same varieties that is pale, full of summer fruits and has pleasing zest to it. The Classico zone is the original heart of the area, but has little to distinguish it from the rest.
Valpolicella DOC / Valpolicella Classico DOC / Valpolicella Valpantena DOC / Valpolicella Ripasso DOC / Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG / Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 8,189 Ha; Varieties permitted: Corvina/Corvinone (45-95%), Rondinella (max 25%), OARG max 25%; Production in cases (2018): 1.652 million/2.337 Million (Ripasso)/1.283 Million (Amarone)/31,000 (Recioto)
Potentially very high quality and interesting red wines 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.
Recioto della Valpolicella was a historic speciality made from dried grapes from the best vineyards – rich, highly potent and sweet – which is sadly now in serious decline with only around 30,000 cases made each year. Amarone was born of Recioto in the 1950s, with less concentrated dried grapes fermenting out to highly alcoholic dryness. This butch style caught a wave in the 1980s (especially in the USA) and Amarone now accounts for nearly as many bottles as basic Valpolicella. A development of this was to re-ferment Valpolicella on the skins of the recently pressed Amarone and from this Ripasso was born, as a kind of half-way house to Amarone. It has the distinct advantage of being much cheaper to make, whilst delivering much of the character of lesser Amarones. Initially outlawed by DOC rules, it was then embraced with its own DOC and its rise has been so spectacular it is now is the most important product of the DOC area.
Whilst vast amounts of ordinary Valpolicella are still made, there are a good number of quality minded private estates now making fine wines with richness, finesse and the classic bitter cherry character or Corvina.
Soave DOC/Soave Superiore DOCG/ Recioto di Soave DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 4,055 Ha/65 Ha (Superiore) Ha; Varieties permitted: Garganega (min 70%), Trebbiano di Soave and/or Chardonnay (max 30%), OANWG max 5%; Production in cases (2018): 4.214 Million/56,780 (Superiore)/11,100 (Recioto)
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.
The rare Recioto di Soave is a sweet wine made from air dried grapes and is one of the greatest sweet wines made in Italy, however production is declining in line with global demand for sweet wine.
Colli Berici DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 547 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Tai Rosso ; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Garganega, Manzoni Bianco, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon; Production in cases (2018): 164,000
These hillside vineyards on volcanic soils and are producing increasingly impressive wines. To the east of Soave and the south of Vicenza, most of the vines are international varieties and the most individual and impressive wines come from Tai Rosso (Grenache).
Lesini Durello DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 206 Ha; Varieties permitted: Durella (min 85%), max 15% from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Garganega, Pinot Nero; Production in cases (2018): 81,810
Durella is a high acid relatively neutral variety that has founds its place in the hills west of Vicenza in the production of increasingly high quality sparkling wines. The DOC was only created in 2011 and whilst basic wines may be charmat method, Riserva wines are traditional method with at least 36 months on the lees. This is a region with real potential.
Bianco di Custoza DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 1,198 Ha; Varieties permitted: Cortese, Friulano, Garganega, Trebbiano; Production in cases (2018): 1.043 million
This DOC is declining in area and covers fertile land to the south of Lake Garda and partially overlapping Bardolino. Heavy cropping and large amounts of the dreary Trebbiano Toscana made this a cheap and neutral wine. In recent times, quality has improved somewhat and the wines, whilst nothing special, can be better (and better value) than basic Soave.
Key info: Vineyard area: 1,183 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Raboso, Refosco; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Glera, Manzoni Bianco, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 811,100
Large DOC (geographically) covering all styles of wines made on the flat plains around Venice and Treviso that do not fit into other DOCs. It was created in 2010 and absorbed much of the better quality IGT Veneto wine. Commercially significant and there are some decent varietal wines sold under this designation.
Delle Venezie DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 27,159 Ha; Varieties permitted: Chardonnay, Friulano, Garganega, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 12.145 million
This vast DOC was created in 2017, mostly to allow the lakes of Pinot Grigio made under the previous IGT to wear DOC status. Geographically crossing into three regions (including all of Veneto), it allows blending on a massive scale and is no real guarantee of style or quality. Good wines are made under this DOC, but most of the anodyne own label varietal production also carries this DOC.
Key info: Vineyard area: 24,149 Ha; Varieties permitted: Glera (min. 85%) max 15% Bianchetta Trevigiana, Chardonnay, Perera, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and/or Pinot Nero; Production in cases (2018): 38.680 million
A tank method sparkling wine that 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. Prosecco comes in styles from bone dry zero dosage, through Brut (up to 12 g/l of sugar), extra-dry (12-17 g/l), which is by far the most common style, dry (17-32 g/l) and demi-sec (over 32 g/l). 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.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 7,146 Ha; Varieties permitted: Glera (min. 85%) max 15% Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera and/or Verdiso; Production in cases (2018): 7.553 million
This is the original heartland of Prosecco, some low rolling hills 15km north of Treviso and with slightly lower yields, higher prices and some emphasis on quality, Prosecco from here has a measure of character. Theoretically still wines can be made here from Glera (as Congliano Valdobbiadene DOCG), however in practice the production is all sparkling and virtually all tank method. The word Superiore can appear on the label as all wines qualify for it. Within the DOCG are 12 communes and 31 sites, called Rive, which are deemed superior and which can be named on the label if the wine comes exclusively from them. Cartizze wines come from a 107Ha vineyards area that is claimed to be the best, though they seldom show much more quality from a producer than their other wines. Sui Lieviti are fermented in bottle with no disgorgement and a minimum of 6 months on the lees and must be brut nature.
Prosecco from here is unquestionably miles better than the bog standard variety, although the price it sells at puts it up against far better bottle fermented sparkling wines from elsewhere, and can be a light, orchard fruit scented easy drinking wine of some pleasure.
Asolo Prosecco DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 864 Ha; Varieties permitted: Glera (min. 85%) max 15% Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera and/or Verdiso; Production in cases (2018): 1.42 million
This DOCG was established in 2009 on a rocky outcrop of the Treviso plain next to Conegliano and on similar terroir. The wines are similar to those of their neighbour, although the maximum permitted yield is 10% lower. Perhaps this, or less fame, means the average standard is the highest in the region.
Key info: Vineyard area: 341 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Raboso; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Manzoni Bianco, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 111,100
Large and mostly undistinguished DOC which is heavily planted to Merlot (over 4,000 hectares) and Cabernet Franc (over 1,500 Ha). Much of the wine from within its boundaries is sold under the delle Venezie DOC instead. High yields are the norm on this fertile plain and the wines tend to be fruity and simple.
Other Veneto DOC’s with significant production
The Veneto has a dozen or so other DOCs which include; Breganze, located north of Vicenza and specialising in international varieties, along with the local Vespaiola. Bought to prominence by Fausto Maculan in the 1980s, it is now little seen outside of the area, although the wines can be quite high quality if yields are kept in check. Colli Euganei is next to Berici and makes similar wines as well as sweet sparkling Moscato which has its own DOCG. Gambellara neighbours Soave, but is only a 20th the size and makes similar wines that can be excellent.
Friuli DOC (sometimes written as Friuli-Venezia-Giulia DOC)
Key info: Vineyard area: 1,781 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Refosco; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 1.093 million
This sprawling DOC was created in 2016 and covers all or part of 8 DOCs. Permitted yields are high and it is of little more value than an IGT would be. Wines tend to be clean, fresh and of adequate commercial quality.
Friuli Grave / Grave del Friuli DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 2,198 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red and Rosato, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Refosco; For White Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 1.501 million
Geographically extensive and flat DOC on gravel (hence the name) and sand soils, this part of the Friuli concentrates more on red wines than white. Much of the wine is light and ordinary, although some decent herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc and leafy Merlot is made.
Key info: Vineyard area: 842 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Pinot Nero; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Müller-Thurgau, Picolit, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling; Production in cases (2018): 598,900
High quality DOC on the Slovenian border whose production is 85% white and who was a driving force in the renaissance of fine Italian white wine. The reputation of Friuli as a whole owes much to Collio. The vineyard area is dominated by Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, however recent years have seen a marked increase in interest in the traditional varieties, notably Ribolla Gialla, Friulano and Malvasia. Reds are from Bordeaux varieties and are very similar to Loire reds in style.
Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 1,911 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pignolo, Pinot Nero, Refosco, Schioppettino, Tazzelenghe; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Picolit, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 711,100
Hilly DOC neighbouring Collio, the distinction between them is political rather than based on terroir. This region makes very high quality whites and reds from international varieties alongside some interesting indigenous ones. Like Collio, the last 2 decades has seen a real increase in interest in the indigenous varieties, especially Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Pignolo and Schioppettino. Ripeness I not generally an issue here and wines have a bright crystalline quality coupled with dense fruit. Some seriously good dessert wine is also made from Picolit and Verduzzo, which have their own DOCGs.
Key info: Vineyard area: 802 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red and Rosato, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franconia, Merlot, Moscato Rosa, Pignolo, Pinot Nero, Refosco, Schioppettino; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Moscato, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo, Welschriesling; Production in cases (2018): 282,200 million
This DOC covers the flatter plains between Colli Orientali and the Adriatic. Wines are mostly varietal and whilst better than Grave, do not match the quality of Collio and Colli Orientali. Wines labelled Rive Alte come from the better quality part of the DOC. Th wines can be pleasant and reasonable value.
Friuli Aquileia DOC
Key info: Vineyard area: 477 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red and Rosato, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Refosco; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Gewürztraminer, Malvasia, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 193,300 million
Potentially interesting DOC covering Udine province on the Adriatic coast, whose reds must be a minimum of 50% Refosco and whites a minimum 50% Friulano. The more individual wines have much higher proportions than that. Expect lightish and fruity reds and grassy whites.
Lison-Pramaggiore DOC / Lison DOCG
Key info: Vineyard area: 214 Ha/40 Ha; Varieties permitted: For Red, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Refosco; For White, Chardonnay, Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Verduzzo; Production in cases (2018): 103,100/17,200
Another Adriatic coast DOC, Pramaggiore makes some good rich reds from Cabernet and respectable whites from international varieties. Within the same geographic boundaries, there is a DOCG, Lison, reserved for high class varietal Friulano – which should be zesty and herbaceous but with fine texture.
The third biggest region for production (behind Veneto and Puglia) has not generally been one of great interest to the fine wine consumer for the last half century, although there are real signs of this changing. The bulk of the production is still dreary white Albana and Trebbiano and red Sangiovese from the Romagna hills to the east of Bologna and lakes of industrial Lambrusco from the Emilia plains centred around Modena.
The Colli Piacentini border Lombardy and make large quantities of dull sparkling wine, but also small amounts of high quality traditional method spumante and increasingly high quality blends of Cabernet, Pinot Nero and Barbera. Whilst Lambrusco, with its four subzones Mantovano, di Sorbara, Grasparoosa di Castelvetro and Salamino di Santa Croce mostly produces sweetish frothing reds of no distinction, there are pockets of excellence making traditional dry wines with a thrilling bitter cherry sweetness, perfect with the local Charcuterie & cheese of Parma, longside some highly complex traditional method sparkling, the best of which tend to be rosato. The Colli Bolognese to the south of Bologna are making some fine Chardonnay and Cabernet based wines, along with the local white speciality Pignoletto, usually sparkling and often a characterful petillant naturel style. The aforementioned Sangiovese di Romagna is as likely as not to be a cheap raw and rustic red from a local co-operative, but even here there are estate producers making powerful and complex wines that can easily outperform many Chiantis. This is a region with some of the best produce of Italy and with the potential to be a powerhouse of quality wine production, but this sleeping giant is barely stirring.
The Veneto alone made 126 million cases of wine in 2019 of which nearly 70% was (theoretically) high quality DOC. Around 40% of all Italian wine is exported, but from Veneto this rises to 59%. Germany, the USA and the UK take 63% of all exports and Veneto alone sold €1.6 billion in exports in 2019 (if it were a country it would sit in fourth spot for global exports behind Italy, France and Spain). Outside of Pinot Grigio and Prosecco, other major wines with a strong export presence include Soave, Valpolicella, Bardolino and Friuli and to a lesser extent, Lambrusco and Alto-Adige.
As most of the wines from this part of Italy will be consumed young and few are at the level of being seriously fine wines, vintage assessments are of little value. The last five vintages have all been successful to very successful from a quality standpoint and yields have been generally good except for 2017 which was a third lower than normal after a rare late spring frost and then a hot dry summer. 2014 was generally poor, especially in Veneto where rain left thin and dilute wines.