Lake Garda is a true gem of northern Italy. With breathtaking landscapes, excursions, and culinary experiences, it’s almost impossible not to find the perfect activity for you. Are you among those curious about the wines of the Lake Garda tradition? This journey will help you to discover all the typical local wines.
The best wineries of Lake Garda now export their wines nationally and globally. The location of this water basin enjoys a mild climate and ideal conditions for cultivating high-quality vineyards.
As you arrive in the area, you will find rows of vineyards in every direction, scattered throughout the territory. This characteristic sight leaves everyone who sees this expanse of vineyards for the first time in awe.
The lake extends across three regions, each with different characteristics, allowing for the cultivation of numerous grape varieties. This results in wines with different properties, giving them unique aromas and flavors. It is impossible, therefore, not to find one that suits your taste! On the contrary, choosing just one among the best wines of Lake Garda seems like an impossible task.
The calm waters of the lake in front of you, the sun slowly hiding behind the mountains, the lake breeze gently caressing you and chasing away your worries. With a nice glass of wine in hand, it will truly feel like paradise on earth, don’t you think?
Among the white wines of Lake Garda, Lugana is born from the Turbiana. It is a fresh and floral wine. The cultivation area extends to five municipalities in the lower Garda! You will surely know at least one of them: Sirmione, Desenzano del Garda, Lonato del Garda, Pozzolengo, and Peschiera del Garda, the last town is the only one on the Venetian side.
Centuries ago, this area was covered by dense marshy woods, which, once reclaimed, left a clayey soil. Because it is rich in mineral salts, it gives this white wine its characteristic acidity and sapidity. Despite this, it remains very fresh and aromatic, with fruity notes ranging from almond to citrus.
Lugana from Lake Garda is, therefore, a white wine with two styles under its denomination: still and sparkling. Nowadays, it can be found in five different types:
- The Lugana known as the “base” vintage, with a pale yellow color.
- The Superiore, which is aged for at least one year.
- The Riserva, which must age or mature for at least 24 months, including 6 months in the bottle.
- The Vendemmia Tardiva (Late Harvest), where the grapes are harvested between late October and early November.
- The Spumante, which can be refermented in the bottle or in a barrel.
Each of these variations has its own distinctive aromatic and flavor elements, which are all waiting to be discovered.
So, all that’s left for you to do is visit the towns around Lake Garda… And in one of the numerous restaurants you’ll find there, you’ll have the opportunity to pair it with an aperitif, pizza, pasta dishes, or cheeses. Alternatively, you could savor it directly at one of the wineries of Lake Garda!
The next wine among the best wines of Lake Garda that I present to you is an elegant red, produced in the ancient Morenic Hills on the Veronese shore.
The production area includes the municipality of Bardolino, Cavaion Veronese, Costermano, Garda, and Lazise. However, it has recently been discovered that the oldest production area of this red wine from Lake Garda is actually much larger. In fact, it includes the entire area that extends northward into the Adige Valley, reaching the foothills of Monte Baldo.
Can you believe that vines were already cultivated here during the Bronze Age? It was the monks of the early Middle Ages who encouraged its development, preventing its disappearance. Later, thanks to dedication and advanced technologies, it became one of the first consortia in Veneto to obtain the DOC certification in 1969.
Recently, the three historic subzones of Montebaldo, La Rocca, and Sommacampagna, known as “cru,” which were already well-known until the 19th century, have been recognized with a new set of production regulations. The wines from each zone are currently produced in limited quantities!
Bardolino is produced from different grape varieties. The most important one is Corvina Veronese, an indigenous grape variety used for up to 95% of the blend. The remaining part is reserved for Rondinella, Molinara, or other local grape varieties. It is the skin of these grapes that gives Bardolino its characteristic ruby red color.
There are two designated wines produced: Bardolino DOC and Bardolino Superiore DOCG, which is the aged product. However, the Bardolino DOC has different types:
- The Classico is slightly fruity with notes of cherry, strawberry, currant, raspberry, and sour cherry.
- The Chiaretto and Chiaretto Classico have a pink color with hints of citrus and small berries.
- The Chiaretto Spumante is soft and delicate.
- The Novello is a young wine bottled within the harvest year of the grapes and is definitely worth trying, especially with roasted chestnuts.
However, you can taste it in all its facets at the numerous wineries to visit in the eastern side of Lake Garda. In any case, it is a versatile product, so it can be easily paired with any dish… Especially with the first courses of our classic Italian cuisine.
Furthermore, in the various towns to visit on Lake Garda, you can enjoy excellent lake fish, with which this wine pairs perfectly.
GARDA CLASSICO GROPPELLO
Another typical wine of Lake Garda is Groppello, which is produced on the hills of Valtènesi, on the Brescia side. The name derives from the compact shape of its blue-violet clusters, resembling a knot, which in the local dialect becomes “grop.” It is a native red grape variety that is found almost exclusively in this area and is considered a true excellence. However, other grape varieties such as Marzemino, Sangiovese, and Barbera are also present in the blend, combining a perfect match. Today, it comes in two types:
- The first is Garda Classico Groppello, included in the Valtènesi DOC. It is a light and delicate red wine, yet very elegant, with floral and red berry aromas. On the palate, it is pleasantly spicy with a subtle fruity note, making it very pleasant and velvety. It can be paired with a flavorful pasta dish, meat, or various types of cheese.
- The other type is Garda Groppello Riserva, which is made with the same grapes but aged for at least two years. Unlike the classic version, it is much richer, intensely spicy, and full-bodied. It is suitable for pairing with red meat dishes and other main courses. Above all, it is an excellent accompaniment to the typical Brescian spit-roast… It is definitely a must-try among the local gastronomic excellences!f
In the hilly area enclosed between Verona to the east, the Prealps to the north, and Mantua to the south, one of the most beloved wines of the Lake Garda Tradition is produced. I’m talking about the Custoza white wine.
The production area of Custoza is spreak over a total of 1,400 hectares. It includes the municipalities of Sommacampagna, Sona, Villafranca, and Valeggio sul Mincio, as well as Peschiera and Lazise. The soil in this area is predominantly calcareous, which imparts a savory and mineral character to the wines produced here.
Custoza is made exclusively from white grape varieties, including Trebbianello, Bianca Fernanda, and Garganega. When combined, they complement each other and give the wine a complexity that reflects the personality of the producers and the terroir. It has a delicate and floral aroma with aromatic hints that make it particularly refreshing.
This wine is also available in different styles, which you can savor during a complete tasting of the typical wines of Lake Garda:
- The Superiore, made from late-harvested grapes and matured for at least 5 months.
- The Riserva, representing longevity and aging potential.
- The Spumante, produced using both the Charmat method and the traditional method.
- The Passito, made from dried grapes, a true sweet gem of the area, with an intense and fruity aroma.
If you’re looking for a local dish to pair with Custoza, I recommend trying Valeggio’s tortellini. It also complements risottos, lake or sea fish dishes, as well as white meats and cured meats. As for the Passito, you can enjoy it with the excellent sfogliatine from Villafranca, which were also praised by Gabriele d’Annunzio in some of his poems.
Continuing our journey through the places to visit around Lake Garda, let’s now introduce another wine: the red Marzemino.
TRENTINO DOC MARZEMINO
Marzemino is typical of the Vallagarina region, located south of Trento around Rovereto and north of Lake Garda. Interestingly, the origins of this grape variety are not Italian but Asian. Historical records indicate that it was brought to this area from the shores of the Black Sea through the trade routes of the Republic of Venice. The production area surrounds the Adige River and has volcanic soil, which imparts pleasant minerality and a distinctive aroma to the wine.
Compared to other red wines typical of Lake Garda, Marzemino has a dark, almost purplish color with reflections ranging from garnet to deep blue.
But don’t be deceived by its bold appearance because it hides an aroma with fragrances of wild berries and floral tones. When tasting it, you might recognize notes of violets or mint, balsamic tones, and other spicy nuances.
Regarding food pairings, Marzemino pairs perfectly with polenta made from corn and mushrooms, a traditional dish from Trentino. However, it also goes well with roasted or grilled meats and seafood dishes. In addition to Trentino DOC Marzemino, there is also the category of Trentino DOC Superiore Marzemino, which meets even higher quality standards.
Here’s an interesting fact: Marzemino has been appreciated for centuries and is famous as a beverage that never missed the tables of nobility. It is also known as the wine of Mozart, who celebrated it in his opera Don Giovanni with the line “Pour the wine, excellent Marzemino!”
Therefore, it’s no wonder that it is still loved today as it was then and continues to satisfy our palates. Let’s conclude with one of the most known wines of the lake garda Tradition which is exclusively produced in the Valpolicella region but renowned worldwide: Amarone della Valpolicella.
AMARONE DI VALPOLICELLA
Amarone della Valpolicella is a dry passito red wine that originates from a very expansive area. It is protected by the Lessini Mountains to the north and extends from Lake Garda to the outskirts of the province of Verona. The grape blend is primarily composed of the Corvina variety, along with Rondinella and other indigenous grapes.
The producers pay great attention to achieving the best quality, starting with the selection of the grapes, which are harvested in early October. What makes this wine an excellence is the appassimento process, where the grapes are dried for approximately 120 days. The berries are arranged on plateaux to allow for air circulation. Once placed in the drying lofts, which must be free from excess humidity, they are constantly monitored. Finally, the obtained must undergoes fermentation for 1-2 months, and the minimum aging period is two years.
Amarone is a very elegant and refined wine with a strong personality. Tasting it, you can recognize floral and fruity notes with a subtle hint of coffee, while its aroma is spicy and balsamic. It pairs perfectly with autumn and winter dishes such as game meats or roasts. Additionally, it complements traditional dishes like “pasta e fasoi” (pasta and beans) or, above all, the typical Amarone risotto.
Indeed, all these Wines of the lake Garda Tradition fully express the complexity and diversity of the region. In other words: wherever you go in the towns around the lake, you will find a unique wine!
Therefore, you should definitely include a wine tasting or a visit to one of the many wineries in the area in your ùitinerary. This way, you can discover and find your favorite wine from the region!