Discovering Bardolino Cru Wines: La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna
On a recent trip to Bardolino, in Verona Italy, I was able to explore the region and culture, taste the latest vintages and learn about the new guidelines and procedures for wines produced in the region. Bardolino refers both to the scenic village overlooking Lake Garda and to the wines of the region. Bardolino has a temperate climate and very conducive soils. Wine production in Bardolino dates back to the Roman times for the rose and to the Middle Ages for the red wines, and the region has been producing high quality wines ever since. The wines in this region, made from the Corvina grape, include Chiaretto and Bardolino (whose name changed in 2021 from the previous Bardolino Chiaretto in order to enhance the wine and its target, that widely differs from the one of the red Bardolino). Corvina is also included in the Valpolicella blend (Amarone and Ripasso). Moreover, Bardolino has been concentrating its efforts on promoting the three historical districts of La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna. Wine merchants have mentioned grapes in this area dating back to the 19th century, or as early as 1825. As of April 14, 2022, these three wine districts of the Veronese Rivera and surroundings have been recognized by the Italian Government and today produce what are now called Bardolino Cru wines. The new DOC’s for these three areas are effective as of the 2020 vintage. Let’s examine these districts further.
Montebaldo Bardolino DOC represents the foothill area of Monte Baldo, known as the Botanic Garden of Europe due to its immense biodiversity. This district encompasses the areas surrounding Lake Garda close to Monte Baldo and includes Affi, Caprino Veronese, Caviaion Veronese, Costermano sul Garda and Rivoli Veronese.
La Rocca Bardolino DOC represents the ancient Bardolino district. It runs along the Garda coast and includes Bardolino, Castelnuova del Garda, Lazise, Peschiera del Garda and Torri del Benaco.
Sommacampagna Bardolino DOC accounts for the southern hills. Sommacampagna extends across the morainic hills of Garda in the municipalities of Bussolengo, Pastrengo, Sommacampagna, Sona and Valeggio sul Mincio.
Diurnal temperature variations between day and night, proximity to Lake Garda and the winds that blow (Peler from the North, Ora from the South) from Monte Baldo and the Adige Valley all contribute to the complexity in these wines. Then there’s the high amounts of rainfall, high vineyard altitudes (65-750 meters) and the glacial moraine soil that lead to the freshness and sapidity. As a result of their terroir, all of these “mountain” wines are fresh with undeniable minerality. Nevertheless, each of the historic districts have very distinct identities and personalities.
The Wines of Bardolino have been mentioned throughout history:
“Longevita ed eleganza.” (Longevity and elegance) Giovanni Battista, Italian Painter and Scholar 1820
“Tra i piu reputati della regione sono quelli di bardolino… competono con i migliori della penisola.” (Among the most reputed of the region are those of Bardolino…they compete with the best of the peninsula.) Giuseppe Solitro, Italian Historian 1897
The procedures and guidelines have been modified a bit for the production of these wines. According to the Consorzio, wines in the Bardolino Cru areas can consist of up to 95% Corvina Veronese and only fresh grapes can be used. The yield per hectare allows for a maximum yield of 10 tons (but all the wines currently produced in the Crus have lesser yields, between 8-9 tons). The wines must age for at least 1 year, with less than 2 grams of residual sugar. Typically, the cru wines of this denomination are dry, elegant, savory, spicy, with good aging capability. They pair well with local cuisine and a variety of other foods. The unique soils and terroir gives these mountain wines character.
While in Bardolino, I was able to taste several of these cru wines during a walk-around Corvina Manifesto tasting, as well as during a delightful wine and cheese pairing. The Bardolino Cru Wine and Cheese Pairing was hosted by La Casara del Baldo, a lovely cheese shop in San Zeno. There, we tasted a lovely selection of four cow-milk cheeses and five wines, all from the Monte Baldo District.
It is clear that what grows together, goes together. These cheeses and wines paired perfectly!
As if the wine and cheese tasting wasn’t delightful enough, I was able to learn even more about these Corvina-based wines via a Bardolino Cru Masterclass with Angelo Peretti, Director of the Consorzio di Tutela Chiaretto e Bardolino. Here’s what I sipped during the Masterclass:
The Wining Hour Tasting of Bardolino Cru Wines
- La Rocca Bardolino 2020 Casaretti This was the very first wine released after the appellation was created. 13.6% ABV
- La Rocca Bardolino 20220 Poggio delle Grazie Only stainless steel tanks are used. Very fresh with a lovely nose. 12.5% ABV
- La Rocca Bardolino 2020 Giovanna Tantini This wine comes from the southern part of the appellation. 80% aged in stainless steel for 8 months and then the other 20% in tonneaux for 5 months. 13% ABV
- La Rocca Bardolino Soracuna 2021 Villa Calicantus This wine is not yet released. In fact, at the time of the tasting, it was just 3 days old and the label was not even ready! This was the only 2021 in the tasting. This wine had beautiful aromas already. Young and fruity. Villa Calicantus is known to use very old vines, and they practice biodynamic viticulture.
- Montebaldo Bardolino Eocene 2020 Bigagnoli This wine is produced in steel tanks and includes Sangiovese. 12% ABV
- Montebaldo Bardolino Le Grotte 2020 Vinicio Bronzo Steel fermented and then aged in amphora. 12.5% ABV
- Montebaldo Bardolino San Verolo 2020 Gentili Fermented partially in steel and amphora, then finished in big barrels. This wine also adds Sangiovese. Very spicy. Bottled 18 months after the harvest. 12.5% ABV
- Montebaldo Bardolino Brol Grande 2020 Le Fraghe. This wine is not yet released. Le Fraghe is the first organic winemaker in the territory.
- Montebaldo Bardolino Morlongo 2020 Vigneti Villabella Very enjoyable expression of Bardolino Cru. I tasted this wine several times during my visit.
- Sommacampagna Bardolino 2020 Monte del Fra Bonomo This is the first and only producer in the Sommacampagna appellation. Single vineyard. Beautiful Bardolino.
The wines of Bardolino Cru are definitely worth further exploration. They show very good signs of aging capability and pair well with a variety of dishes. I am very happy to have been exposed to these additions to Bardolino.
Discover more about Bardolino, Corvina, Chiaretto and Lake Garda with The Wining Hour:
Corvina Manifesto: Honoring the Historical Grape of Verona
The Lake Effect: Lake Garda’s Impact on Chiaretto
Chiaretto di Bardolino: How Italian’s do Dry Rose
Uncovering Corvina with Vignetti Villabella
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