It’s the first Monday after the Christmas and New Year holidays and I want to proclaim that standard service is now resuming. I have a queue full of wines and notes, so it should be simply a matter of switching from holiday mode to work mode. These reviews aren’t going to write themselves, right? While I’m feeling somewhat bleary from both the holidays and the heat (over 100°F/40°C here) this is just the wine to get me through the transition, Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto DOC 2010.
Coming up on the anniversary of the infamous WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam which I managed somehow to pass last January, it’s a good time to reflect on how little I actually know about wine, in particular with respect to what I should know. For instance, within the syllabus for North East Italy there is a link to an OCW entry for Bardolino which describes the geography, the grapes grown and the style of wines produced. Sadly, my reaction when I first encountered this wine was “I’ve never heard of that.”
Had I been a better student, I would have recalled that Bardolino is a region within the Veneto. It is best known for light red wines, typically made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara, which are grown on a large plain to the east of Lake Garda. The soils are fairly fertile, made up of fine gravel and silt, especially in the southern end of the region. The climate is mild and moderated by the proximity to the lake. As with many Italian denominaziones, there is the greater Bardolino region as well as a core Classico area which has slightly more stringent requirements (an extra 1% ABV and a year of ageing) though the differentiation is more to do with a relatively recent expansion than with an appreciable quality difference. The Bardolino Superiore DOCG, on the other hand, does represent a step up. Rosé wine has its own DOC called Bardolino Chiaretto, and there is a corresponding Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante DOC for sparkling rosé wine.
While three grapes are grown in the region, this wine only makes use of Corvina and Rondinella, and as this if the first time I’ve covered a wine made of either, they’re both worth a mention. Corvina, or Corvina Veronese as it is officially called in Wine Grapes, and Rondinella are not only both red grapes native to the area around Verona, but are in fact related, with Corvina believed to be a parent of Rondinella. Both are used, along with Molinara, in the light, red blends of Valpolicella and Bardolino, and Corvina may be used on its own in Garda DOC wines. Of the two, Corvina is generally regarded as being a higher quality grape, though Rondinella produces higher yields. Neither is widely cultivated outside of North East Italy, though Freeman Vineyards in New South Wales apparently has plantings of both and uses them, by way of a prune dehydrator, to make an concentrated wine in the style of Amarone (which obviously I must now seek out).
Azienda Agricola Benazzoli Fulvio is a relatively young company but with family roots going back four generations. The family business was established in Trentino after World War II and as it grew it passed from father to son to grandson over the decades that followed. In 2009 two of the founders’ granddaughters, Claudia and Giulia with qualifications in winemaking and viticulture respectively, established the Benazzoli brand in Bardolino and bottled their first vintage. Their holdings are comprised of 28HA of Corvina and Rondinella vines, from which they produce Bardolino, Chiaretto and Chiaretto Spumante, all DOC. They also produce a Veneto IGT Pinot Grigio.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright with quick thick legs and a medium plus salmon colour. On the nose it’s clean and youthful with medium intensity and notes of strawberries, vanilla, peaches, and bananas – real smoothie material. On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium plus body, medium intensity, medium minus alcohol, medium minus tannins and medium plus length. There are notes of strawberries, raspberries, banana, and little hint of tart cranberries.
This is a good wine. The fruit notes on the nose had me worried there might be some residual sugar but a sip banished such thoughts. It has slightly more weight on the palate than I might have expected given that it’s light in terms of alcohol and tannins, but it gives it a nice texture. And while I don’t generally care so much about a wine’s colour, this one is a particularly pleasing shade of pink.