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Impressive Red Wines of Bardolino DOC Reflect Nature and History

Along the breezy shores of Lake Garda in Northern Italy, only 30 minutes away from Verona, is the quaint village of Bardolino. There, the elegant red wines of Bardolino DOC and dry rosé wines of Chiaretto di Bardolino are found, too. This beautiful region is waiting to be explored by history, nature, foodies and wine aficionados and a few weeks ago, I did just that.


“To understand the wines, look at the mountains,” said Angelo Peretti, Director of the Bardolino DOC, during a stroll around the charming town of Garda. Our group of journalists and media were invited to discover the region of Bardolino through wine, food and history and help celebrate the new releases of Chiaretto di Bardolino, the Italian dry rosé of Corvina and Rondinella, both indigenous grapes. We also indulged in the exceptional red wines of Bardolino DOC at a master class, during lunches and dinners, and with producers at their properties. Fresh, vibrant wines exposing a thread of minerality were notable.

The Corvino grape

Angelo explained the effect of the mountains. The production areas of Chiaretto and Bardolino overlap and occupy the Venetian segment of the morainic amphitheater-like hills where Corvina is cultivated. These hills were etched out by ancient glaciers that swept rocks from the Alpine mountains and moved them downwards.

Lake Garda

The soils are varied (as much as 66 types) due to the glacial deposits that shaped the Garda basin and by those that descended into the Adige Valley thousands upon thousands of years ago. The different glaciers left a vast number of materials – pebbles, gravel, boulders, hard layers of loess and clays. In the Alto Garda, dolomite deposits, once used for the production of magnesium, are found.

Soil samples at Casaretti

And the Mediterranean climate? The waters of Lake Garda are colder than the air in the summer and warmer in the winter. Hot summers and cold winter temperatures are mitigated despite being located at the foothills of the Alps. With abundant sunshine and lake breezes, lemon trees, olive trees, Mediterranean garrigue and grapevines thrive. Angelo mentioned numerous times that “although the wines are produced on hillsides and thrive in the mild climate, Bardolino should still be considered a wine from the mountains.”

Bardolino DOC

There are three historical sub-zones in Bardolino DOC: La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna. The decision to zone the areas was based on the idea that the terroir should be recognized. The first zoning attempt “as the starting point towards the rediscovery and restoration of the three sub-zones” began in 2005 and in 2015, the “Bardolino Village” project was developed.
The areas were already recognized, although not officially. Vineyards have been present since the Middle Ages when those in local monasteries produced wine with traditional Roman techniques. Fast forward to the 19th century when the region started to be known for the quality of its wines and their ability to age – it became known as “Bardolino wines.” In fact, the wines, along with Beaujolais cru, were met with accolades and sold in large hotels in Switzerland towards the end of the 19th century.


The Bardolino DOC with three unique areas is effective with the 2018 vintage. Bardolino La Rocca represents the ancient Bardolino district. Bardolino Montebaldo signifies the foothill area of Monte Baldo also known as the “Botanic Garden of Europe” due to its biodiversity. Finally, Bardolino Sommacampagna is in the southern hills.
According to new procedure guidelines that are recently approved, Bardolino will be produced with a blend of maximum 95% Corvina (currently the limit is 80%) and Rondinella with a minimum of 5% and maximum of 40% (currently the minimum is 15%). Other grape varieties cultivated in the area are allowed for the blend, but the maximum is 20% and there’s a 10% limit for each variety.
In total, there are 6670 acres of vineyards in Bardolino with 100 producers of Bardolino and Chiaretto. 15.8M bottles of Bardolino and 9.5M bottles of Chiaretto are produced. Rules specify that the color of Bardolino DOC wines must be “light and bright” ruby red.


During a master class, six impressive wines representing the three sub-zones were poured. By all accounts Bardolino DOC wines are “opening a new history” of the region thanks to their ever-increasing quality.
Aromatic wines from La Rocca exuded earthy, savory notes with deep red fruit, juicy raspberries, cinnamon, green tea, tobacco leaves, herbs and to some extent, dried fruit. Wines from Montebaldo, the most north of the three sub-zones, were quite floral and fruit forward with notes of strawberries, cloves, earth and granite. From Sommacampana, the warmest area located in the hills southeast of Lake Garda, wines tended to have cherry, blackberry and chalk notes.


Pairing Food with Bardolino DOC Wines

Of course, red wines of Bardolino DOC pair beautifully with classic Italian cuisine. From all types of pasta to risotto to ravioli to lasagna, the wines complement the spices and textures of the dishes. Consider sipping with an entrée of lake fish… sardines, grilled lavarello, risotto with tench, polenta with cod. How about grilled, baked or stewed meats? For the adventurous, open a bottle for pairing with Asian or Moroccan fare!


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