If you’re a wine lover, the ritual of tasting is a unique opportunity to visit charming wineries and always discover new ones.
However, there’s a particular area in Italy where the tradition of historic wineries merges with vineyards embraced by breathtaking landscapes: I’m talking about Valpolicella, by Lake Garda.
Lake Garda: Many Climates, Many Wines
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, and you surely know that its shores touch three different regions: Lombardy, Veneto, and Trentino.
Travel just a few tens of kilometers and you might transition from alpine landscapes to the flatter areas of the Po Valley.
This diversity is reflected in the climate, and consequently in the wines that these lands can produce.
This land is particularly suited for the production of wine and olive oil. It’s the birthplace of many wine regions, some more famous like Trento DOC, Lugana, and Valpolicella, others less known, but no less valuable!
Here, I’d like to share some personal notes on the wine regions that arise around our lake, particularly the lesser-known ones that I personally love.
Trento DOC in the North, Lugana in the South
Let’s start with the most well-known territories.
The northern shores of the lake belong to Trentino, where the Mediterranean climate blends with the alpine environment.
In these places, you will find a cool climate where the unique characteristics of the soil create an ideal environment for the production of fresh, fruity wines with a delicate taste, such as the Trento DOC, the Garda Trentino DOC, and the Vino Santo Trentino.
On the southern shore, you have the Lugana area, home to the municipalities of Peschiera del Garda and Sirmione.
The clayey and limestone soils of this region produce fresh and fruity white wines, perfect to pair with the local fish dishes.
Lugana is a DOC wine made from the Trebbiano di Lugana grapes, a native varietal of the area, and represents one of the best-known white wines from this region.
Valpolicella, the land of precious marble. It is undoubtedly among the most famous wine regions in the world. Located to the north of Verona, it can be reached from the eastern shore of Lake Garda.
The landscape is captivating: the hills are dotted with premium vineyards, stunning villas, and medieval villages. You will not easily forget it, especially given the richness of its wine and food traditions. Hidden among these villages are some of the oldest and most traditional trattorias, where you can taste the authentic flavors of Veronese cuisine.
It is a region known for its red wines: the Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico, Recioto, and Ripasso.
These wines are full-bodied, esteemed, and rich in history. Each expresses different characteristics of the region and the winemaking techniques that originated here, such as “Appassimento” – a drying process.
Bardolino, An Authentic Wine
Let’s start discussing the lesser-known areas, beginning with our homeland.
Bardolino is a small village of 7,000 inhabitants located on the Veronese shore of the lake and is known as the “happiest village in Italy.” The Bardolino DOC production area is named after it, a niche tucked between Lake Garda and the Adige River. The Classic Bardolino area directly overlooks the lake and includes the municipalities of Bardolino, Lazise, and Cavaion Veronese.
Lazise is a wonderful village enclosed within the walls of the Scaligero Castle. Overlooking its ancient port are the Venetian Customs House and the Church of San Nicolò. Take a stroll through its narrow streets to admire captivating views. I recommend indulging in a dinner at Lazise’s historic restaurants, where you can savor risotto with tench, pike “in saor” with polenta, and grilled lake fish. Dishes that deserve to be paired with a chilled glass of Bardolino (yes, the red one. Cold.) If you want some advice on our favorite restaurants, contact us on WhatsApp.
The mineral, clayey, and calcareous soil of this region produces fresh, savory, and fruity wines. Wines that we love to call “table wines” because we love bringing them to our tables every day.
Bardolino Classico is an elegant and very versatile wine. Chiaretto, its rosé counterpart, is fruity, fresh, and youthful.
The wines from this region are authentic, genuine, and simple. Just like the inhabitants of this area, heirs to the farming tradition and the humility of the lakeside villages.
Custoza and the Inland Villages
And when we speak of simplicity and elegance, we cannot forget Custoza.
Another denomination that takes its name from this small village nestled in the hills of Lake Garda’s hinterland. Here, history, culture, and tradition merge perfectly.
Custoza is very close to Verona, the city of love, and it’s also not far from Mantova, a city of unique charm. But it is near this little village that you can find the Mincio regional park, the Sigurtà Garden Park (a must-visit during spring and autumn), and the enchanting and romantic Borghetto, which, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
And of course, there is also delightful cuisine: the many taverns, often run by entire families, hand-make the very famous Valeggio tortellino, known as “the love knot”. You cannot miss the risotto with tastasal, which pairs perfectly with Custoza, nor can you skip the sweet Custoza broccoli.
Here, native white grapes such as Garganega, Trebianello, and Fernanda Bianca are cultivated. Thanks to the mineral-rich soil and the unique microclimate influence of Garda, excellent quality white wines are produced, ranging from the simplicity of Custoza to the elegant evolution of Custoza Superiore.
Soave and Durello, at the Foot of the Lessini Mountains
To the east of Verona, a few kilometers apart, stand two outstanding wine regions: the Soave DOC and the Lessini Durello DOC.
We are at the foot of the Lessini Mountains, where both Garganega and Durella are cultivated. The soils are volcanic, and this land is particularly suited for producing high-quality white wines, which are ideal for creating sparkling wines using both the charmat and traditional methods.
Soave is also a village encircled by the walls of a Scaliger castle, which you can explore on guided tours (you can book a visit at this link). As I mentioned, since you already are at the base of the Lessini Mountains, why not combine a cultural, gastronomic visit with a mountain stroll?
The Lessini Mountains offer an authentic experience amid pristine nature. You can begin your journey by exploring the paths of the Lessinia Regional Natural Park, where you can admire some of the most scenic landscapes in the region.
Among the must-visit places, you’ll find the stunning Madonna della Corona Sanctuary, perched on a rocky cliff with panoramic views of the valley below.
During your visit, you can taste one of the region’s gastronomic treasures, the Monte Veronese DOP cheese, carefully produced in local characteristic farms. One of the best stops for tasting this delicious cheese is Malga Lessinia, one of the most famous local farms. Here, you’ll have the chance to witness the production process and, of course, savor the cheese straight from the skilled cheese makers’ hands.
For a dive into local history, visit the Geopaleontological Museum of Camposilvano, which houses a vast collection of fossil remains, evidence of the rich paleontological heritage of the Lessini Mountains. Lastly, conclude your visit by exploring the picturesque villages of the region, immersing yourself in local culture and traditions. Among them, Bosco Chiesanuova stands out, a charming mountain village dotted with stone houses and narrow lanes revealing hidden gems.
As you can understand, the wine tradition of Verona and Lake Garda is as rich and varied as what we can offer you.
Come and discover them in our Marchesini Winery, and gift yourself an unforgettable experience.