Veneto Food & Wine from Half a World Away
Moral of the Story: Beware!
Warning, if you learn a bit about a region’s food, wine, geography, customs, you just may develop an unstoppable urge to visit. The only question is, when do we leave?
How do you explore a region in Italy from half a world away?
1. Study up!
So where, exactly, is the Veneto? It’s in the northeastern corner of Italy, with some famous coastline on the Adriatic sea. Home of Venice (canals, gondolas, gondoliers in striped black & white shirts red scarves and straw hats). Boy, I have a lot to learn.
I had an excellent introduction to the key wines of the region from Vino Italiano and Slow Wine, but I needed some help on the food front. Thanks to Amazon, I found a great regional cookbook by Julia Della Croce.
Julia goes into a bit of history of the region and its foods. Venice (Venicia) with a harbor acted as a center of trade. Venetian cooking, then, includes lots of international influence along with seafood. Interestingly, not much pasta! Risotto and polenta, yes. There’s more to the Veneto than just Venice, however. Up in Belluno, you’re closer to Austria (105km) than to Venice (107km). Surprise, pork and sauerkraut are on the menu! Relax though, you eat it with polenta. I was drawn to the pork and sauerkraut due to my Polish and German ancestors, so I knew I’d need to try that dish.
Now after all that research, how about a little refreshment?
Adami Garbèl Brut Prosecco Treviso (South Lyndale Wine Shop $16)
We love opening an inexpensive sparkling wine on almost any occasion. Good day at work? Bad day at Work? Tuesday? Prosecco always fits the bill. Light and refreshing, it’s a great way to start your evening or welcome friends over to your house.
Prosecco is produced in multiple areas north and west of Venice, centered in the towns of Treviso, Conigliano-Valdobbiadene, and Colli Eugenei. Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, where the wine ferments in a sealed chamber. The carbon-dioxide produced during fermentation goes into solution and makes the wine sparkling. The pressure in the bottle is not as high as Methode Champenoise, resulting in finer and a little more relaxed bubbles. And it tastes great.
2. Find the wines – Valpolicella
First, let’s focus on the main red wines of the region. The wines of the Veneto don’t have the greatest reputation in the U.S. Overproduced in bulk in the past, they have faded from view. Except for Amarone, you hear very little about Valpolicella. Would this be a big waste of time? No! As it turns out, you just need to search out quality producers and spend the time to understand the wines.
I was surprised to find the same combination of grapes are made into a whole family of wines with varying levels of flavor intensity. Versions of Valpolicella range from light, bright fresh sour cherry to deep dark raisiny mystery. The main grapes are unfamiliar: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and “other”. Luckily, we just need to remember Valpolicella.
Valpolicella – Vineyards out on the plains, choose your producer carefully here, as there are some mass-produced wines with little character. Classico wines are so reasonably priced, you may be able to skip the wines from the plains.
Valpolicella Classico – Made from grapes grown in the original zone which were the hilly areas headed to the Alps. These wines still offer bright sour cherry flavors, lively flavors and smooth tannins. In Minnesota, these wines are easy to find from $10-20.
Valpolicella Classico Superiore – The best classico wines are aged for at least 1 year and at least 12% alcohol, and are a step up in the richness you feel. These are also available for less than $20.
Valpolicella Ripasso – A relatively recent invention, and a good one at that! The Ripasso method involves putting the spent grape must from the Amarone back into a barrel of Valpolicella and allowing further fermentation. The resulting wine, a “Baby Amarone” is richer and riper than normal Valpolicella, not as ripe and rich as Amarone, but much less expensive. Nice! These wines offer great value and are often priced < $30.
Amarone della Valpolicella – The top of the heap. The wine is produced by the apassimento method. Grapes are picked extremely ripe, then left on mats to dry for 60-90 days. The dessicated grapes are made into wine and allowed to ferment to dryness, then stored in barrel for at least 2 years. Amarone is pricey, $30-100+. We found a couple of examples in the $40-50 range that were very nice.
3. Put on the Opera Music, get cooking!
I’ll follow up this post with some detailed posts of the wines and the meals. Over the last few weeks, we’ve had fun getting acquainted with the wines and foods of the Veneto, as well as trying the wines with familier dishes and even leftovers.
Italian Food, Wine & Travel: #ItalianFWT
Thanks for joining again our 1st Italian Food, Wine & Travel event on the Veneto, but it doesn’t stop here. Follow along with some other great blogs featuring different aspects of living in the Veneto and what it has to offer.
Vino Travels – Sensational Soave
Cooking Chat – A Valpolicella for Grilled Swordfish and Eggplant Pasta
Food Wine Click – Veneto Food & Wine from Half a World Away
Curious Appetite – Traditional Artisan Cheeses
Just Elizabeth – Venetian Shadows
Italian Journeys – Asolo and Basana del Grappa
Monica Cesarato – Veneto Off the Beaten Path
Make sure to join our bloggers conversations on Twitter throughout the day at #ItalianFWT . We also post on #ItalianFWT throughout the month so feel free to join us all the time and share your Italian experiences! Make sure to check back on December 6th for our 2nd Italian Food, Wine & Travel event. Next month’s feature will be Piedmont!