In northern Italy travel east from Milan towards and beyond Brescia or west from Venice through Verona and you will reach the southern shore of Italy’s largest lake. Lago di Garda is famous for many things, including an open invitation to pass through its gates to reach the Dolomite mountains. On either side of the lake two grand edifices gaze at one another across the crystal clear water. At the southeast end Castello Scaligero di Sirmione and fortress guards the harbour below Monte Baldo and across to the western shore Villa Galnica rises above the lake in Puegnago del Garda. It is on the hills and plateaus behind these great structures where something pink is happening.
Two wine regions on these opposing shores are disparate bedfellows but together sluice the Rosé key to collective success. Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi are the most recent and important Rosato designations in Italy and their hopes, plans and dreams rest on the shoulders of two leading grape varieties, corvina and groppello.
Simply put, Chiaretto (key-are-et-oh) is the Rosé version of Bardolino. It’s made from those same grapes (corvina, rondinella and molinara) and the colour varies from rosy pink to coral-red. “Chiaretto Pink” is the battle cry of the Italian dry Rosato, “a lighter shade of pale,” hence the name “Chiaretto”, which derives from the Italian “chiaro,” meaning light or pale. The grapes are vinified using white winemaking practices, wholly apposite and antithetical to its other usages, namely in Bardolino, Valpolicella, and Amarone.
As with Garda-west neighbour Valtènesi, Chiaretto from Bardolino’s roots go back to 1896 when Pompeo Molmenti learned of the Rosé vinification technique in France. In 1968 Bardolino Chiaretto was among the first Italian wines to receive DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status. Since the 2014 harvest, Chiaretto’s winemakers have collectively pursued a “Rosé Revolution,” choosing a pale pink colour and more floral-aromatic notes. Consorzio di Tutela Vino Bardolino President Franco Cristoforetti invokes the Rosé revolution in his introduction of the Chiaretto, confirming the region’s commitment to a very specific style and the key to its success. “Together, the Chiaretto of Bardolino and the Valtènesi Chiaretto,” explains Franco Cristoforetti, “produce 12 million bottles, placing Lake Garda in the role of absolute leader in the Italian production of Rosé designation of origin.” The region’s greatest ambassadorial asset is Angelo Peretti, an economist and writer who fully understands that by gaining a true sense of community and having a common goal the two regions can be highly successful in their pursuit of Rosé. Chiaretto for the win.
Extending from south to west between the towns of Desenzano and Salò, in the heart of the morainic amphitheater on the Brescia side of Garda, Valtènesi includes the territory of the following municipalities in the province of Brescia, characterized by the microclimate of Lake Garda: Salò, Roè Volciano, Villanuova sul Clisi, Gavardo, S.Felice del Benaco, Puegnago del Garda, Muscoline, Manerba del Garda, Polpenazze del Garda, Moniga del Garda, Soiano del Lago, Calvagese della Riviera, Padenghe sul Garda, Bedizzole. It also includes part of the territories of the municipalities of Lonato del Garda and Desenzano del Garda.
In Valtènesi the first and most commonly employed method makes use of a white vinification with red grapes and a short maceration to obtain colour, by direct pressing of the destemmed and crushed grapes. The second makes it possible to obtain more hue and structure in Rosato by means of a short maceration of the must and grape seeds in order to increase the extraction of anthocyanin and tannin. The first process is specifically used to vinify Rosé wines only. The second, not so widespread method has the primary purpose of enriching and improving the remaining red wines, which remain in the tank, after the subtraction, for salasso. The regulatory board instructs that the release for consumption of Valtènesi Chiaretto may take place from the 14th of February following the harvest, while the release for consumption of Valtènesi can take place from the 1st of September after harvest. The Denomination of Controlled Origin (DOC) was recognized in 1967.
Alessandro Luzzago is the President of the Chiaretto Valtènesi consorzio and tells us that over the last four years the Valtènesi have been working with the association of Provençe, sending their wines over to see where they are in relation to the region that produces the type of Rosé they want to imitate. The communication is leading to making better wines. “A change of philosophy is taking place and perspective,” notes Luzzago, “you start the work in the vineyard, thinking of Rosé.”
Back in October of 2017 I joined a group of intrepid sommeliers for a week long investigation into the wines of Bardolino, Valtènesi and Custoza. A report of the red, whites and sparkling from these regions will follow but this is strictly a Chiaretto exposé. I tasted these wines with thanks to the producers, John Szabo M.S., Bill Zacharkiw, Anton Potvin, Nadia Fournier, Maja Baltus, Brad Royale, Al Drinkle, Véronique Dalle, Pascal Arsenault, kidnapped American turned adopted Canadian Nicolas “Nicky Ray Beaune” Capron-Manieux, our chaperones and educators, Angelo Peretti and Paola Giagulli. Here are 30 reviews of Bardolino Chiaretto and Chiaretto Valtènesi.
Bardolino Chiaretto DOC
Bergamini is located in Lasize with 13 hectares of vineyards farmed organically but not certified. The Bardolino Chiaretto is corvina of the minimum 70 per cent plus rondinella and molinara. Subjected to a 24 hours soak and it is the combination of location and the full maceration that drifts a bit darker than some, yet with plenty of salty sapidity. The molinara brings the salt. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 bergaminiaziendaagricola Bergamini Azienda Agricola
A gathering of corvina, molinara and rondinella in the simplest Rosato, so similar in profile to the cantina’s whites. Metallic and balmy at the sam time, like citrus salve on a copper pipe. Drink 2017. Tasted October 2017
Customer’s Chiaretto Classico is the conventional one, also like the cantina’s whites but with more mid-palate weight and overall intensity. This carries some acidity, real, natural or otherwise. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017
The cooperative’s Rosato is a full and fleshy one, with a healthy 7.8 g/L of residual sugar after two hours of skin-contact and a compressed version of gentle pressing. This is Rosé from an outfit that makes 1.2 million bottles of Amarone, one tenth of the total production in the area, out of a cooperative made up from 230 members. They produce 300,000 bottles annually (inclusive of the two different Chiaretto), this being the tart one, somewhat saline but more so tangy with the sugar so it’s ultimately sweet and sour Rosé. Would love to have had a bottle or two of this around with Cantonese food in 1975. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 cantina_valpolicella_negrar @ @CantinaValpolicellaNegrar
From vines with some established street cred (10-25 years old) the Ca’ Vegar is Rosato raised on promises and morainic, calcareous-cay soils. It’s a traditional Lago di Garda blend of corvina veronese (80 per cent) with rondinella (15) and molinara. So similar in vein to the Spumante and the Custoza in that it’s faintly herbal, with mild acidity and a rustic, sweet coppery sensation. This is just one of those really inexpensive far from petty wines that taste just fine for the less discerning but who also won’t drink fake and dishonest wine. You could sell the farm to promote and get temporarily rich off of pushing this Chiaretto. She was, a Veneto girl. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 cantinacastelnuovo @ Cantina Castelnuovo del Garda
Classic Rosato from the eastern shore of Lake Garda, composed of corvina (70 per cent), rondinella (20) and molinara. Both colour and impression suggest a somewhat longer bleed though its maintains freshness, lightness and a reserve of attitude. It has some but also more fruit than many other examples, of red berries but not in any over the top way or tangy hyperbole. Pays ode to its reductive side of the Chiaretto tracks. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 stefano_rossi Azienda Agricola Casaretti
Chiaretto Rõdon is 80 per cent corvina and 20 rondinella picked at red wine phenolic ripeness and subjected to six hours skin contact, i.e. a quick (50 saignée) and 50 pressed (no maceration) soak. Rõdon means pink (or Rosé in Greek) and Le Fraghe the “wild strawberry” which this so closely resembles. This is a prime example of how screwcap helps to keep freshness because it’s an easy wine (and varietal) to oxidize. This is really sapid, dry, sharp but so beautifully finessed Rosato. If you need to know the present and immediate future of Chiaretto Pink, look no further than this perfectly pure and honest effort from Matilde Poggi. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018 #lefraghe #matildepoggi #lefraghe #MatildePoggi Le Fraghe Matilde Poggi
In a stroke of pure Rosé genius and unwavering consistency Le Fraghe’s Matilde Poggi writes the next Chiaretto Pink chapter with this piu salé 2017 Rōdon. It’s both charming in its rusty rusticity and yet also crisp, clean and perfectly tangy. The wild strawberry is faint this early on and still beneath the sweet aromatic compost but by the time late spring comes this will bring all that fragola pleasure and unbridled joy. Rōdon is as good as Rosato gets in all of northern Italy. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2018 #lefraghe #matildepoggi #lefraghe #MatildePoggi Le Fraghe Matilde Poggi
Gentili sits above Costermano in the northern part of Lago di Garda, with high altitude vineyards, high sand soils with stone and light clay. The second generation winemaker follows in the footsteps of his father who started in the late 1970’s. “My dream was to select the best vines from the best vineyards.” Bardolino Chiaretto 2016 comes from the same vineyards as the red but not the same grapes. There is a selection here, from corvina, rondinella and molinara (60/30/10). This has the faux sugary, South African chenin blanc styled extract, tannin and personality. Apple and peach skin, somewhat tropical, fresh, vital and then a bite into red apple. A tart, somewhat sweet and crisp apple. Different than some Chiaretto but there is no residual sugar here. In its completely dry state there too is no flint, sulphite or struck notes. Very interesting. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted twice, October 2017 and January 2018 Azienda agricola Gentili
From oenologist Marco Ruffato, here Chiaretto comes from a vintage of low sugars and quiet phenols, but high acidity so expect a specific style that is lean, direct and prompt. A 24-hour soak in tank with no enzymes and then sulphites after fermentation. Mainly (80 per cent) corvina with rondinella and corvinone, all together leaving this at a great pale Rosato. Also with thanks to the Pergola training. So direct, really quite beautiful, on the right side of acidity. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2017 leginestrewine #LeGinestre Marco Ruffato
A typical blend of corvina (55 per cent), rondinella (35) and molinara picked in the production area of Bardolino hence the label “Classico.” You really get the peach skin and ubiquity of strawberry, also with a fresh squeezed lemon, juiced and tart. So very tangy and a sour candy flavour takes to a dry finish. Truly a “made” Rosato in a compressed and reserved style, lean and near-searing. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 lemorettelugana @ @lemorette.lugana
From a southeastern location on the outer morainic range of Lake Garda, the Morando famiy’s Bardolino Chiaretto is composed of 60 percent corvina, (20) rondinella, (15) molinara and (five) sangiovese. A gentle 12-15 hour soak on the skins promises classic Chiaretto texture and flavour, broad in the mouth, with tons of lemon mixed into red fruit and a decided leesy texture, from some bâttonage. Really easy drinking with good acidity. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 ilpignetto Cantina Il Pignetto
Silvio Piona’s Chiaretto is from Custoza, in the south of Lago di Garda, between the lake and the city of Verona, the furthest village south in Bardolino. Albino Piona goes back to 1899 and here 118 years later we find a fine and elegant Rosato, void of power because frankly it never needs it. Fruit and spice, but certainly light, a prodigy by glacial till, some argileux clay and alluvial deposit. A different soil than up where they make Chiaretto on the steps of Monte Baldo. The climate is still the same and heavily influenced by the lake. Piona’s may or not be 100 per cent corvina, which would technically be illegal, so if you read this don’t write about something Albino may or may not have got a way with, the quasi legal Chiaretto. Light and fruity, sapid and fresh, just openly aromatic enough, knock it back Rosato. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 Silvio Piona #albinopiona Azienda Agricola Albino Piona Monica Piona
Baldovino the brand is corvina (70 per cent) with rondinella (20) plus molinara and the Bardolino outlier, sangiovese. Sourced from a twofold terroir, the Caprino Veronese and Località La Presa. Baldovino’s is the palest of the coppery-hued Chiaretto, with more sugar than is perhaps warranted and as so suppresses the inherent saltiness of the parochial appellative spirit. That said the salinity insists on paying heed to some necessary balance and proper personality so in the end this technically sound Rosato points the compass’ arrow straight up the DOC ruler’s median line. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 tenutalapresa @tenutalapresa Tenuta La Presa
Out of Castelnuovo del Garda, Poggio delle Grazie’s is exactly what any doctor would and should order for a Chiaretto prescription. This a very fruity, ripe and balanced Rosato, from the predominant corvina (80 per cent) and rondinella. Raised only in stainless, 12 hours on skins, with the first vintage having been 2014. A very lithe and pretty strawberry blush, with rounder acidity than most, but light and perfectly pleasant. An 8,000 bottle export possibility steal at 4.0 euro ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 poggiodellegrazie winerypoggiodellegrazie Poggio delle Grazie – ufficial page Elisabetta Panetto Massimo Brutti
Highly typical Garda blend of corvina, rondinella and molinara from Cantina Seiterre, a group with holdings in Piemonte, Toscana, Valpolicella and here, in Bardolino. Big box Rosato yet full of weight and secondary thoughts. On the darker side of Chiaretto hue but in retention of the light and the salty, at least in terms of citrus and floral aromas, mild berry flavour and approved texture. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 cantina_seiterre #cantinaseiterre Cantina Seiterre Verona
Tinazzi makes wines in the Veneto and Puglia and the Chiaretto is drawn off of the Valleselle Estate in Bardolino. The blend is 70 per cent corvina, with molinara and rondinella for a straight-ahead fruity and vinous Rosato, tart, the red fruits felt coated by a lactic, yoghurt shell. There’s a semblance to something akin a later harvest Rosé, something that could only happen in the Veneto. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 cantine.tinazzi @ Cantine Tinazzi
Valetti’s Rosato is composed from 70 per cent corvina, 20 rondinella plus the outlier, 10 sangiovese. The faux sugary Rosé sniffed blind could very well be value Cape South African chenin albeit with a rhubarb savoury edge. Yet it has reached a phenolic ripeness which only the Bardolino area can achieve, unlike in Valpolicella where corvina can’t get there from here. It’s the Mediterranean climate and you feel it here. It gets neither more straightforward nor more small village, family tight commercial than this. Textbook Chiaretto. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 valetticantina @ Azienda vinicola Valetti Luigi srl
Organic Chiaretto from 75 per cent corvina and 25 rondinella, for what Franco Cristoforetti refers to as “the Rosé revolution that started in 2014.” A short maceration/time on skins does the right thing for hue and in extracting citrus and orange from the corvina skins. Here it’s very much more like a white wine produced from red grapes, the only imagination of colour being red fruits, and so the method and the style deliver as much palate replay as any Rosé on the planet. So very not vinous and so far from the oxidized style that was still so very prevalent in the recent past. The difficult 2014 vintage marked the turning point. Picking was accomplished between September 10 and 20. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 vignetivillabella villacordevigo @
Heaven Scent in the words of Franco Cristoforetti offers “the feeling like here was to be in heaven,” speaking of his vineyards and this “place in the sun at Cordevigo. The style is similar to the Bio VillaBella but it thinks more in terms of an international customer, with less acidity and further roundness on the palate. More lemon but a preserved, compressed one and less orange. Still produced from the dominant corvina and the picking times are the same, albeit now in a less structured, milder acidity result. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017
Villa Calicantus is the organic, biodynamic, terroir defending, smallest of Bardolino estates passion project of winemaker Daniele Delaini and his natural, vin de garde wines on the moranic hill above Bardolino and Lazise. Higher up than Cavaion, in Calmasino. Delaini also produces a bigger and deeper Rosato called Chiar’Otto but this Classico ’15, though very different than most still adheres to the paler, lighter and cleaner DOC example. Mostly. It’s certainly less of a geek out Rosé but again, like the Otto its methodology is essentially descried to that of a red wine. Young vines of corvina, rondinella, molinara and sangiovese of extremely low Chiaretto yields, native yeasts, five months of ageing in small still wood vats and zero clarification dole out a base, forward and natural blush. This just feels like trouble melting away and like a child comfortable in its alternative skin. A child encouraged and allowed mutual respect and friendship with its parents. For Daniele, sometimes you make the wine and sometimes the wine makes you. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted October 2017 villacalicantus thelivingvine #villacalicantus @ @VillaCalicantus The Living Vine inc.
Chiar’Otto is Daniele Delaini’s Vino Rosato from a natural fermentation, the name meaning “Big Rosé” as opposed to the smaller, lighter and saline examples directed by the Bardolino Chiaretto DOC. The deferential and apposite qualities in Delaini’s are at the far end of the morainic Garda spectrum, far and away from any other winery in the entire region. It’s oxidative, the natural wine that isn’t, but it spills over in ubiquitary must while acting Garda-funk specific. This is a red wine spoken in a gamay cru way, almost Jura, like trousseau, but it really smells of oranges, red fruit and also the calcareous soil from which it comes. It’s certainly possessive and expressive of these affinities but also a matter of open barrel, overnight fermentation. Otto is the outlier and the pioneer for what the future holds in Rosato off of Bardolino lands. As a red wine of light composition and soil-loyal admonition it’s very good. As a Rosé it requires further understanding and evolution to elevate its game. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2017 villacalicantus thelivingvine #villacalicantus @ @VillaCalicantus The Living Vine inc.
Substantial vine vigour and generous yields of corvina 50 (per cent), rondinella (40) and molinara deliver substance in perfume. It begins with fennel and lemon thyme urged forward by a feeling of sulphur and Saccharomyces. Lean and tart on the palate, simple and easy in dimension. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted October 2017 zeni1870 @ @zeni1870
Valtènesi Chiaretto DOC
The blend is groppello (60 per cent), marzemino (20), barbera (10) and sangiovese (10) in a well extracted and bled, highly flavourful Rosato expressly Chiaretto and decidedly Valtènesi. Even the name suggests something haute in class and couture, for relaxation time, on a shore, in the sun. Ever-bearing strawberry and cherry meet a clay richness smack in the middle where salt and air collide. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 @cantinelapergola
Costaripa’s Valtènesi Chiaretto is the perfect opener to gain a contrastive and apposite feeling from across the lake on this western side of Garda. It is here that Rosato takes on a decidedly Provençal feel. Nicole Vezzola explains. “I feel as much French as I do Lombardian.” Groppello is such a delicate grape and here the percentage is set around 60, with marzemino, plus 10-15 sangiovese and barbera. Costaripa is the only winery fermenting 30 per cent in old barrels before making the blend. “My father (Mattia Vezzola) believes that to make a good Rosé you have to make a blend, of varieties and parcels.” As a grape groppello carries more spice than let’s say, pinot noir, but this is a Rosé matter so the reference point need be cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre, but it’s just a matter of idea that starts and ends there. “The aim we have as Valtènesi is to shift the idea of colour to a structured wine.” It alights with lightness and freshness, then moves to salinity and finesse. Structure is more ideal than reality, or perhaps in Rosamara, just a different state of mind. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted three times, October 2017 costaripa nicolevezzola lenotecadimorenodemarchi @ Costaripa
The Molmenti Chiaretto spent two years in tonneaux and two years in bottle. This is something completely different for Rosé, treated with red wine poise and attention. Same blend as the Rosamara, with the intention to create more structure and ultimately, longevity. The saltiness persists and there is weight, even metallurgy but very little wood-addendum. The lightness of Rosé just doesn’t really attract too much barrel sheathing, perhaps in mild spice and texture, but not in bitters, tannin or any sort of salve. This too because even with two years of barrel time there is no achievement of malolactic, thanks to temperature control but also by virtue of being a low acidity, Mediterranean climate wine. Molmenti is likely a whereabouts that you have never been to before, in so many ways. There are a mere 4,000 bottles for a Rosato in command of 13 euros, cellar price. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted October 2017 costaripa nicolevezzola lenotecadimorenodemarchi @ Costaripa
Here Chiaretto exemplifies its position as a most characteristic and typical wine of the west coast of Lake Garda. A few hours of pressing leads to the desired pale, salmon and peach skin colour, replayed in stone fruit aromas mixed with citrus and dried clay. Stainless steel is used to lock in freshness and preserve aromatics. Guarda makes use of the characteristic processing method called “levata di cappello,” litterally to “take of the hat” with their classic blend of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese from the morainic hills of the Valtènesi. This is one of the more sapid tasting Chiaretto though with a mild mannered acidity. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 @LaGuardadiNegri
From Raffa di Puegnano (a fraction of the Brescia municipality on Lago di Garda), in contest for a perfect introduction and overview of the area of Valtènesi. Pasini’s is a blend of all four grapes, including sangiovese at less than 10 per cent (but for strength), whereas the groppello is 65 per cent, with the barbera (for acidity) and mazemino (sugar) delivering the overall balance. This organic Rosato is what Paolo Pasini refers to as the “overnight wine,” a child of only a slight vinfication and brief contact with the grape skins at the midnight hour of the first night. Carries the western Garda personality in pocket but with more sulphite-struck rock and iodine saltiness, even a note of hematic plasma. The palate delivers some sugar (4-5 g/L), just up from the bone dry style, not obtrusive but acting with the metallurgy on the nose to tun out more compression and down weighting. Price is 6.65 euro, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 pasinisangiovanni @ @pasinisangiovanni
Unlike the classico Chiaretto, the skin-contact is elevated from eight to 24 hours in the Rosagreen. It’s also a switch to varietal, single-vineyard (Soiano) groppello. The groppello can handle the triple contact time without darkening and compressing, remaining in its necessary state, vital and energetic. Not so much the sapid style but plenty of verve plus the elegance and easily achieved balanced by the singular and solo groppello. Conversely dried too, with less than 2 g/L of RS. Just a touch more expensive at 7.10, ex-cellar. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted October 2017 pasinisangiovanni @ @pasinisangiovanni
Scolari’s is the thoughtful, intuitive and even philosophical Chiaretto, a matter so gentle, pale and in their words, to “know how to grasp the fleeting moment.” The first and most pristine clusters of groppello, marzemino, barbera and sangiovese are chosen for the production of Chiaretto, into contact brief and subtle then moving to separate the must from the skins. What is fundamental is the sensitivity of the maker, who “must apply technology as art.” Scolari’s begins with salinity and a silky texture, passes by wild berries and then ends with a bitter almond note. It’s textbook and yes, everything is accomplished with a whisper, all things mild, even acidity and then the moment is gone. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted October 2017 #cantinescolari Cantine Scolari
Good to Go!