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DWWA 2014: Veneto insights

Hear from our Veneto Regional Chair Richard Baudains on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

After the disappointing performance in last year’s DWWA, the Veneto bounced back this year with four Trophies, a Gold and a flurry of Silver medals that underline the strength of its local varieties and its great diversity. Few other Italian regions can offer quality and character in such a range of styles from red to white, sparkling to still and sweet to dry. On the whole, it was the fresh, juicy, drinking wines that seemed to represent best the vocation of the region, rather than the weightier reds. Price-wise the Veneto did not shine at entry level, and the more expensive wines were often inconsistent, but in the mid-range it frequently showed it can turn on the style, combining delicious drinking with admirable affordability.

What should we buy from here?

Among the dry whites, there was a solid showing from Lake Garda’s Lugana, with its citrussy acidity and beguiling leafy notes. Prosecco di Valdobbiadene e Conegliano Superiore (Prosecco from the historic hill zones) displayed its superiority in styles from the increasingly trendy brut to the gently sweet dry; a traditional extra dry took home the Trophy. It was great to see a number of well-made Valpolicella Ripasso reds offering the smoky wild berry of the Corvina grape with the added spicy richness from refermentation on the dried grape skins (or whole grapes) of Amarone. Two Trophies in this style is an excellent result – particularly the good value own-label from Morrisons. Also from Valpolicella, it was heartening to taste some lovely sweet, grapey examples of the sadly unfashionable Recioto – a worthy Gold.

What should we leave on the shelf?

It is important to make a distinction between what to avoid and what to choose with care. The two wines that fall in the former category are – and this has been written before but it remains true – the dilute and neutral Pinot Grigio and the majority of the basic Prosecco DOC from the plains. Valpolicella Superiore, with its unfathomable inconsistency of quality and styles, fell into the second category, as did Amarone. There were no Golds for this Veronese classic, and a general feeling that often it did not live up to its price point. As for Soave, judges bemoaned the tendency towards a certain cloying sweetness, which masked the purity of the grape variety and the tangy quality of its volcanic soils.

What should we keep an eye on?

You cannot take anything for granted in Italian wine, and this is as true of the Veneto as any other region. The critical mass of its huge production is made up of the three main DOC/Gs – Soave, Prosecco and Valpolicella – but there are also gems waiting to be discovered in lesser-known corners of the region: the work of an inspired producer, the fruit of a rare grape or a micro-terroir. In these categories this year, were Silvers for a Lessini Durello Spumante and a delicately scented Chiaretto rosé from Bardolino, topped by a Trophy for a luscious Moscato Fior d’Aranci.

Written by Decanter

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