The White Grape Varieties of the Veneto
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 27 Apr 2021
- 5 MIN
- Level 201
The Veneto is one of Italy’s most significant wine-producing regions. Stretching from the foothills of the Alps to the Adriatic Sea, this fertile land of hills and plains encompasses some of the country’s most famous vineyards.
The appellations of Valpolicella, Bardolino, Soave, and Prosecco are all located here. The region also produces vast quantities of generic DOC and IGT wines, notably from the Pinot Grigio variety.
A Diversity Of White Wine Styles
White wine is crafted in all styles, from sparkling, to still, to sweet. Quality levels run the gamut, from neutral café wines to cellar-worthy treasures. This is far more a question of vineyard sites and production techniques, than of grape variety.
A multitude of white cultivars are grown in the Veneto. However, many are produced in minute quantities, used mainly as secondary blending components. Star white wine grapes of the Veneto include Glera, Garganega, and Pinot Grigio.
Glera: Prosecco’s Sparkling Variety
The sparkling white wines of Prosecco are made from the Glera grape variety. The name Glera is a recent innovation in the region. Historically, the variety was known as Prosecco. To avoid commercial use of the Prosecco name for sparkling wines produced in other countries or regions, Prosecco DOC and DOCG producers re-named their variety.
Glera is a vigorous, late-ripening grape. Its neutral character makes it a perfect base wine for sparkling wine production. When produced at high yields, it makes an innocuous white with modest freshness, easily overpowered if produced in a sweeter style.
The highest quality Glera/ Prosecco sparkling wines come from the hilly, Prosecco Superiore DOCG sites of Conegliano-Valdobiadenne and Asolo. Produced at lower yields on the ancient morainic, sandstone, and clay soils of these origins, Glera takes on a subtle elegance.
The best Glera sparkling wines have attractive, moderately intense white floral, pear, and peach aromas. They possess lively acidity and are generally produced at low alcohol levels, from 11 to 11.5% abv.
Garganega: King of Soave
The origin of the Garganega grape is unknown. However, the variety has long been cultivated in the north east of Italy. It is grown in several Veneto appellations, but is most famous as the primary grape variety in the wines of Soave.
Like Glera, Garganega is a vigorous, late-ripening grape that produces lean, simple wines when overcropped. This is often the case in the fertile, alluvial plains of the Soave DOC production area. These wines offer subtle flavours of almond and green apple.
On the volcanic hillsides of the Soave Classico DOCG zone, Garganega can take on far greater complexity. Intense notes of marzipan, yellow orchard and stone fruits, and ripe lemon ornament the best examples. On the palate, they boast crisp acidity, a textural mouthfeel, stony minerality, and a refreshing bitter almond finish.
Add a luscious, honeyed sweetness balanced by lively acidity, at moderate 12.5% to 13.5% alcohol, and you have the region’s exquisite, appassimento white wine: Recioto di Soave DOCG.
A combined maximum of 30% Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay are permitted as secondary blending grapes in Soave wine production.
Pinot Grigio: The Powerhouse Veneto Varietal White
According to Jancis Robinson et al’s “Wine Grapes”, Pinot Gris/Grigio is a colour mutation of the Pinot Noir grape. It is an early-budding and early-ripening grape, producing distinctive pinkish-hued grapes.
The Veneto IGT is a region-wide classification used to produce large volumes of mono-varietal and blended white, rosé, and red wines. At the DOC level, the delle Venezie appellation is also widely used in the Veneto (and in neighbouring Trentino and Friuli-Venezia Giulia).
Pinot Grigio is one of the most common varieties produced in both of these categories. It is generally semi-aromatic, with moderate acidity and a rounded mouthfeel, bordering upon “oily” in warmer growing areas. These mild, smooth flavours are a major part of the grape’s popular appeal world-wide.