Veneto, Italy, the former Venetian Republic that ruled this part of the world for a millennium, from the seventh century AD to the eighteenth century. Located in the northeastern part of Italy, bordering Austria and close to Slovenia, Veneto has a population of approximately 5 million, making it the 5th largest of Italy’s 20 regions.
The climate in Veneto ranges significantly from Adriatic coast to mountainous with the Dolomites to the north. The region, however, is protected from the harsher, more northern European climate by the Dolomites, located at the foothills to the Alps. The Adriatic also keeps the winters warm and the summers cool, making Veneto one of the most ideal locations for growing many different grape varietals. Generally, the climate is warm and temperate in Veneto with an average annual temperature of 60 F and precipitation of 19 inches.
Venice is the cultural center of the region with a rich and storied history along with annual art festivals, which attract tourists from all over the world. Many notable people in history were born in Venice, such as the playwright and notorious lover Giacomo Casanova, the explorer Marco Polo, and composer Antonio Vivaldi.
Modern Veneto is divided into seven provinces, each named after the provincial capital. These are Belluno, Padua (Padova in Italian), Rovigo, Treviso, Vicenza, Verona, and Venice (Venezia). Each province has a distinctive character and, as we shall see, unique cuisines rich in dishes and local produce.
Veneto is slightly smaller than Italy's other main wine-producing regions, yet it generates more wine than any of them.
The Terroir of Veneto
The terroir, like the climate, is diverse in Veneto. The soil is rocky and major made of alluvial soil based on chalk or volcanic origins in Veneto. In the northwest, the foothills of the Alps descend along the eastern edge of Lake Garda where the renowned Valpolicella, Amarone, and Bardolino reds are produced. These cooler climes are also well-suited to white varieties like Garganega, which is the main grape for Soave wines, grown on volcanic soils.
The region’s vineyards cover is 90,000 ha, with 35,400 of that being acclaimed DOC;
annual wine production is 8,500,000 hectoliters; 55 % white, 44 % red; 29 % is DOC and DOCG wines.
The Red Wines of Veneto
Red grape varieties in Veneto: Rondinella, Negrara, Cabernet Sauvignon, Corvina, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Molinara, and Roboso.
Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara: These are the principal indigenous grapes used in Valpolicella reds including Amarone, Ripasso and Recioto dessert wine. They have large berries and thick skins needed to withstand appassimento.
Oseleta: “Little bird” takes its name for its small berry size. This structured red grape is arousing great interest among winemakers and is often added to Amarone.
The White Wines of Veneto
White grape varieties in Veneto: Trebbiano di Soave, Prosecco, Tocai, Garganega, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Pinot Bianco.
Garganega: The basis of Soave, Garganega is well suited to volcanic soils and produces crisp, dry white wines with flinty aromas and flavors of citrus, honey, and almond.
Glera: Formally known as “Prosecco,” vigorous Glera remains the basis for Prosecco DOC and DOCG still and sparkling wines. It is widely planted in the areas of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene near Treviso.
Pinot Grigio: Planted across northeast Italy (“Delle Venezie”), Pinot Grigio represents one of Italy’s largest exports.
Trebbiano di Soave: A synonym of Trebbiano di Lugana, this white grape is used in smaller percentages in Soave wines.
The Food of Veneto
Venetian food, as you would imagine, is world class and well known. The cuisine of the Veneto is characterized partly by the carbohydrates eaten all over the region. Unlike many parts of Italy, pasta is not the staple – that role is played by the double act of polenta and rice.
The Venetian pasta is bigoli, and is like thick spaghetti made with buckwheat or whole wheat and usually eggs (although as with many things in Italy, there are lots of variations).
The large Venetian lagoon and Adriatic coastline to the east of the Veneto provides much fish for the dishes of the region (not forgetting that the western edge of the Veneto is dominated by Lake Garda). Mussels, clams, crabs, anchovies, and sprats are in abundance and often on the menu. Bream and sea bass are found in the area and are often served as secondi (main courses). The black goby, a resident of the lagoon, often swims its way into risotto di gò.