Italy’s largest lake, Garda, enjoys a Mediterranean climate and is caressed by myriad winds. Its vineyards are bathed in light bouncing off the water’s surface. Gently sunkissed bunches of grapes ripen in favourable conditions where balmy temperatures allow olive trees, lemons, and capers to thrive.
Writers and poets through the ages have sung Garda’s praises, with its picturesque villages, castles, winding lanes, and serene atmosphere. Catullus, Goethe, Kafka, Rilke, D’Annunzio… and even Churchill himself was immortalised as he painted a lake scene. This backdrop of history, beauty and culture, in a geographical position that is ideal for winegrowing, is the birthplace of Garda DOC.
Winemaking dates back to at least the 1st Century BC here, but Garda DOC is a young umbrella appellation, created to promote wines from three cities: Verona, with six DOCs; Brescia, with three, and Mantua, with one. Three different cities in close proximity, each of them stunningly beautiful and on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Overlooking them all is Lake Garda, with its charm exuding a sense of happiness, relaxation and serendipity. This is the location for the ten historic appellations that have found a new home in Garda DOC. Wine and food go hand-in-hand here, set against a landscape that succeeds in being beloved by foreigners whilst retaining its typically Italian lifestyle intact.
FOCUS ON GARDA DOC PINOT GRIGIO
Garda DOC covers 31,100 hectares, 3,340 of which are dedicated to Pinot Grigio (11%). 28 wineries in the consortium produce this wine, more than half in the Verona area, the rest equally split between Brescia and Mantua. The producers and the Consorzio alike believe strongly in the potential of this varietal in the DOC area and believe in its potential as a premium wine.
Not much is known about when Pinot Grigio arrived here, though it comes from Burgundy originally and legend has it that Napoleon himself introduced it to Italy. Pinot Grigio is remarkably adaptable to soil and climate conditions, a quality that has carried it around the world. It prefers limestone soils, which are widespread in this zone, particularly in the morainic hills between Verona, Brescia and Mantua. In the areas closest to the mild micro-climate of Lake Garda, with marked temperature fluctuations, it makes wines with elegance and finesse. Areas further away produce a more structured, less fragrant Pinot Grigio.
As Garda DOC oenologists note, “Pinot Grigio has a distinctive identity; this can be seen in the fruit itself, which is neither white, nor red, but greyish. It’s delicate and requires specific procedures, like being picked and transported in the cooler morning hours. It’s a completely different world, in neither the white or red wine spheres. Its passage into the cellar is a crucial step: must preparation and pressing requires a delicate touch. There are no second chances with this grape variety, if you want to honour its uniqueness.”
Broadly, there are two different styles of wine: one more modern – simple and honest – enjoyed by younger wine enthusiasts; and a more traditional style, structured, austere and ageworthy, which is popular with a more mature audience. Pinot Grigio can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with seafood or lake fish antipasti. It pairs wonderfully with local dishes, such as bigoli (pasta) with sardines or risotto with tench; pumpkin-stuffed tortelli; whitefish in vegetable sauce, or pike with sauce and polenta.
TOP 5 GARDA DOC PINOT GRIGIO
Prendina DOC Garda Pinot Grigio 2020
£ / ££ Vinum Ltd, Brentford
A few miles from Garda on rolling morainic hills, the estate’s 42ha centre on a 14th-century farm bought by the Piona family in 1958. Intense floral notes of lime blossom and jasmine. Well balanced, refreshing, and very drinkable. Alc 12.5%
Marchesini Marcello DOC Garda Pinot Grigio 2020
£ / ££ n/a UK
The 3rd generation of Marchesinis, Erika and Giorgia, the oenologist, run this business. 12ha of vineyards are managed using integrated pest management. This wine comes from 30-year-old vines. Hints of elderflower and white fruit on the nose; taut and full bodied on the palate. Alc 13%
Pratello DOC Garda Pinot Grigio 2020
£ / ££ Vintage Roots Ltd; Berkmann Wine Cellars Ltd; Selected Italian Imports Ltd
The Bertola family cultivates 80ha of vineyards, with a focus on biodiversity. They value a natural approach to agronomic processes, and make their own organic fertilizer. Hints of honeysuckle and golden delicious apple are on show here. Distinctive on the palate, revealing a nicely acidic, flavourful verve. Good weight. Alc 12%
Villabella DOC Garda Pinot Grigio 2020
£ / ££ n/a UK
50 years ago, the Cristoforetti and Delibori families co-founded this winery in Calmasino. It has gradually expanded and now covers 220ha planted in various areas around Verona. Herbs and a hint of citrus on the nose. The well-paced palate opens with a refreshing acidity that’s counterbalanced with good texture. Alc 12.5%
Cantina Marsadri “Brolo” DOC Garda Pinot Grigio 2020
£ / ££ n/a UK
Founded in 1879, and now led by the sixth generation, Laura Marsadri with her husband Mario. A floral and fruity bouquet shows notes of elderflower, plum and apple, leading to a soft, structured mouth with a lingering finish. Alc 12%
GARDA DOC BOUTIQUE
The official Garda DOC wine shop, located in the lakeside resort of Peschiera del Garda puts on events, guided tastings, workshops and promotional initiatives for the region’s wines.