Explore Lake Garda and Garda DOC With Insider Access

An insider perspective on what makes Italy’s Garda DOC wine region worth exploring. Specialty wines distinguish Italy’s largest lake and its charming locales.

By Francesca Ciancio
Apr 23, 2021
tagAlt.Malcesince Lake Garda landscape Cover

A LAKE OF GRAPES
 

Try and imagine the Garda DOC appellation area laid out as an umbrella:  big enough to shelter 10 appellations spread out over a vast landscape of three different Veneto-centric zonesVerona, Mantua, and Brescia all are within the Garda DOC jurisdiction, along with 31,000 hectares of vineyards.  A sea of grapes, or better yet, a lake of grapes.

Indeed, we are focusing here on Italy’s largest lake, a coveted tourist destination ever since the Belle Epoque era.  Lake Garda can count few cousins in terms of prestige and touristic history, although perhaps its closest relatives could be Lake Balaton (Hungary), and Lake Geneva (Switzerland).  Today’s guests are more variable depending on which shores we’re looking at, but what’s indisputable are the ancient traditions of international tourism, and the fidelity demonstrated by generations of visitors and guests.

This flow of tourism was naturally stable up through 2019, when the worldwide health emergency dictated major changes modifications to guest behavior.

The desire to welcome back visitors is strong however, and with recent records indicating a guest presence of 24 million visitors per year, the area is eager to open its doors back up the the world.

Permanent vacationers, day visitors, international visitors - the Garda DOC region is desirous for the day when sojourners can include a visit to Lake Garda once more.
 

 

MANY TERRITORIES, DIFFERENT GRAPES

Let's take a closer look at the area’s 10 appellations, some more recognizable and others you’ll want to discover promptly.  We’re talking about Valtènesi, San Martino della Battaglia Lugana, Colli Mantovani, Custoza, Bardolino, Valdadige (a part of the Trentino region, which borders on the lake, is also part of the DOC), Valpolicella, Durello and Soave.

Grapes cultivated locally are Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and garganega for whites, merlot and corvina for reds.  To this overall list, we can also add the different varietals cultivated within the different area appellations.

The unifying wine between both grape colors, in both white and rosé form, is sparkling wine.  The concept of introducing a Sparkling wine originating in this area was born from the desire to have an indigenous Garda wine that wouldn’t interfere remotely with the other Garda DOC wine brands.  The wine would also need to correspond to a clear role of Wine Ambassador for the Garda region, and would be expressive of the unique style born from this lakeside area.

The project was born in 2017, with the presentation of the DOC’s first vintage and a clear, identifiable logo.  The underlying goal of the Garda DOC wine is to become “the bubbly wine of the lake.”

"At the moment, consumption of the Garda DOC sparkling wine is growing at circa 1 million bottles, primarily sold and enjoyed on the shores of Lake Garda,”  Carlo Alberto Panont, the Garda DOC Consortium Director, reports.  Panont’s confidence and belief in the Garda DOC project is clear, and his dedication to the project since its inception is without doubt.

“The existence of the Garda DOC project is no small challenge.  The wine region is literally surrounded by excellent Italian bubbles at each corner - just think of Valdobiaddene’s Prosecco, the Trento DOC appellation, and the Franciacorta DOCG’s sparkling wines.”

Finding space in this panorama is complicated, but I’m confident we’ll find our niche thanks to the natural beauty and productivity of our lands bordering on Lake Garda.”

The terroir of the Garda lake area is particularly enviable, thanks to its varied climate and ancient viticultural history.

“Which condition must you have to ensure the quality of your wines?  That’s an easy answer:  a healthy, happy, ripe grape, the clear product of a favorable climate.  Perfect grape maturation is the dream of all winemakers, and here along the Garda coast, this dream often becomes reality.”

“The Garda DOC appellation features vineyards cultivated on fertile moraine or clay soils.  When you factor in the area’s idyllic insolation typical of the 45th parallel, along with the cooling, drying lake breezes, you’ve essentially created the ideal vineyard environment.

The Garda DOC wine producers have an extra ace up their sleeves:  their local oenological knowledge and rural wisdom results in silky sparkling wines, savory white vintages, fine rosé options and long-lived red wines,” Panont concludes.   

The Garda DOC appellation also is quite adept at conquering its loyal fan base thanks to the wine’s concepts of lightness, fruity notes, and reliably ample versatility when paired with local gourmet selections.

"Our local culinary specialties are at the heart of our wine creation.  Why do we focus on this sort of inspiration?  Because ultimately, the complete Garda experience is what we aim to share with the world, and we want our message to be inclusive of a consummate Garda-style approach to life.

Garda DOC is a fundamentally sunny, elegant, modern vintage.  The wine is also highly reflective of its Northern Italian terroir, and is a top-tier expression of the local climate and know-how of wine producers,” Panont closes.
 

 

GARDA DOC WINES, LAKE GARDA LIFE

Lake Garda is the reflection of much more than just a simple locale in Italy’s Veneto region.  Instead, the Lake mirrors the best aspects of the Belpaese, and with its strong focus on wine tourism, is poised to re-inhabit its role as an ideal destination for those interested in fine wine and foods in Italy.

Are you looking for a single location blending history, culture, art, nature, food, and wine?  Lake Garda offers entry into all of these arenas, as well as being the ideal location for your overall enjoyment, and to enjoy your well-earned R&R.

Panont concludes his assessment of the Garda DOC’s success and future enjoyment by visitors.  “The Garda DOC label has a market presence of 21 million bottles.  The Garda lifestyle is strongly associated with the presence of each and every bottle, and is a clear demonstration of the international tourist experience to be enjoyed locally.

“Combining what we call the Italian Touch with the notion of Bel Vivere, time spent in the Lake Garda region provides visitors with the highest, most ample expression of Italian lifestyle, a truly unforgettable experience we hope to share with the world.”

“Therefore, it’s no coincidence that our Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay selections feature quite strongly abroad, particularly in Germany and Northern Europe.  Sales are vigorously reflected  both in hotel and restaurant sales, but also in large-scale distribution methods like supermarkets.

Our work was initially born in 1996, and has resulted in the Garda DOC.  This has also ushered in the ‘Garda system,’ a productive local asset that bas been of great economic value to the entire Lake Garda region.”


If these bold words and assessment of the Garda DOC wine appellation has got your curiosity piqued, be sure to read up on additional Garda wine information.  Lele Gobbi, Mamablip wine & food journalist explores more very variable Garda wine selections with the Garda: Lakeside Wines Reflected on the Water's Edge article.  To learn more about Garda’s Valtènesi appellation, don’t miss Valtènesi, Professionally and Perennially Pink, Gobbi’s closer look at the Valtènesi wine region.  Want more?  Andrea Grignaffini checks into the Valtènesi heritage with Valtènesi: the genesis of a territory.

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