The beauty of borderlands is that they tend to take the best of each of the lands they straddle, adding a little extra something of their own to the mix. On the Verona side, we have the famous dry white wines of Soave, on the Vicenza side the rare Vin Santo of Gambellara, and where the two meet, the excellent sparkling wine given the name of Durello. Basically, there’s something for everyone.
Soave: soil and climate
We are on the eastern fringe of the province of Verona, on the slopes of the Lessinia foothills where they merge into the province of Vicenza. The climate here is mild and always breezy. The soils in the Soave DOC zone are highly variable: towards the west (Colognola ai Colli, the Mezzane valley and the Val d’Illasi) calcareous soils dominate, while to the east (Val Tramigna and Val d’Alpone) dark, basalt-rich, volcanic soils abound.
Soave: the land
The vineyards of Soave have recently been declared “Italian Rural Landscape of Historical Interest” and have also been designated a “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System” by the FAO. There are full 33 crus (recognised as Additional Geographical Units) which can be stated on the labels as of the 2019 harvest, 29 of which are found in the oldest part of the hills where Soave Classico is produced.
Soave: grape varieties and wines
Garganega is the main autochthonous variety and is often used as a standalone, although it can be finished off with a touch of Soave Trebbiano or Chardonnay. Generous and versatile, it presents an infinite range of nuances: from the fresh, fruity notes of vintage Soaves to the more evolved, sapid notes of a wine that stands aging well. The expressivity and evolutionary complexity of Garganega can also be appreciated in Soave Superiore DOCG (which is aged for longer) and in Recioto di Soave DOCG, the historic dessert wine made from dried grapes.
Gambellara: soil and climate
The soils are all of volcanic origin, with varying amounts of limestone and clay: as proof of this, we need look no further than the imposing basalt columns in the village of San Marco, which enchanted British naturalists and painters in the 18th century.
Gambellara: grape varieties and wines
The Gambellara DOC appellation in the bordering province of Vicenza has also historically formed part of the “land of Garganega”, and often uses the grape as a standalone. As well as the standard version – labelled ‘Classico’ in the historic growing area – Gambellara is available in a number of different forms, from the sparkling to the Recioto DOCG (either still or sparkling) and the rather rare Vin Santo di Gambellara Classico DOC, a unique sweet wine in Veneto with very limited production.
Lessini: soil and climate
We find ourselves at the foot of the Lessinia mountains, where grapes are grown on the hills on the border between the provinces of Verona and Vicenza. The highest vineyards are located at 600m above sea level. The volcanic-origin soils are moderately deep, presenting a basaltic skeleton that becomes more marked the further beneath the surface it goes.
Lessini: grape varieties and wines
A rustic, late-ripening variety distinguished by its tough skin and strong acidity, the Durella used to be used as a corrector for other wines, or added to base wines for sparklings. Today, however, Lessini Durello is a sparkling wine in its own right. Two thirds of the annual production is made in autoclaves, while one third is made using the traditional method, with the wines staying on the yeast for upwards of 60 months.