Valtènesi: the genesis of a territory

Check out what makes the Lake Garda coastal wine region, Valtènesi, such a great wine region. More about the red and rosé wines of Valtènesi.

By Andrea Grignaffini
Feb 15, 2021
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The Valtènesi territory was born following the glacial movements of the Quaternary Period’s second phase.  During this unique moment in time, alternating phenomena of glacier advancement and regression modelled the morainic amphitheater of today’s Valtènesi area.  Life was consequently breathed into a startling juxtaposition of concentric hills, naturally positioned in a charming semicircle gently sloping down to the lake.

This very lake is also the key player in characterizing the area’s Mediterranean climate to be enjoyed between the lakeside villages of Padenghe del Garda, Moniga del Garda, Manerba del Garda and San Felice del Benaco, and the hillside villages of Puegnago del Garda, Polpenazze del Garda and Soiano del Lago.

As for the other area villages, by mentioning only Gardone Riviera, Salò, Roè Volciano, Villanuova sul Clisi, Gavardo, Muscoline, Calvagese and Bedizzole, as well as part of the territory of the municipalities of Desenzano del Garda, Pozzolengo and Sirmione, you might know what part of Italy we’re talking about.

If not, where are we?  Why, nowhere else than the enchanting Valtènesi, a territory with an undeniably strong wine-making (and enjoying) talent.  Experts of both wine-making and local geography would also include the villages of Cunettone di Salò, Drugolo and Maguzzano di Lonato into these coveted areas mentioned above.  The reputation the Valtènesi region revels in makes vintners in any town eager to fall into the coveted wine-making region, as you can see.



Seen from a distance, it’s clear that we’re viewing a landscape both most unique and minute.  This small jewel, composed of 45,553 square kilometers has long and incorrectly been considered a hinge between the Brescia side and the Valsabbia side from above.

Even the Valtènesi names speaks of the area’s lofty origins.  Linguists believe Valtènesi is the shortened pairing of Vallis and Atheniensis.  The second name of course is testimony to the ancient colony of Athenians who likely populated this very area.

The theory of the land also recalling the panoramas of ancient Attica also could be true, however.  Yet another theory would have the area called Valtènesi in deference to a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Athena…as you can see, there are seemingly boundless explanations for the region, although the most likely tends to come from the more modern Medieval days.  Emanating from the Medieval term “tensa,” formerly indicating “tense,” we arrive at “Valley of the Tense,”, shortened to today’s Valtènesi - a clear road to its modern name.



The Valtènesi lands today, when looked upon closely, are a jovial, peaceful, and romantic land, furrowed with winding roads, dotted with olive groves, knurled with vineyards and zigzagged with cypresses. The gentle slopes of Valtènesi are graced with laurel bushes, and the elder statesmen of Italian forestry, centennial-era massive oak trees lounging throughout this docile countryside.

We then can stumble upon the small, solitary churches peppering the land, symbolic banners indicative of the land’s past bubbling with the people’s faith.  The area is steeped with the classic Mediterranean feel, from which the Groppello vine comes from, and is expressed in both its “gentile” variety with its characteristic winged bunches, and the “mocasina” variety

The Groppello grape finds its name origins mirrored in its compact, knotty shape of the grape vine, known as “groppo” in local dialect.  Thanks to the Groppello grape, the Valtènesi wine region is home to the production of red and rosè wines.  These wines, locally and internationally called Chiaretti, reflect a delicate yet powerful character enjoyable for a wide variety of palates.

Chiaretti wines are reputed to have ancient roots:  history strongly indicates that rosé wines in Valtènesi were first created in the glorious Serenissima (Venice).  Records show that the codification work created by Venetian Senator Pompeo Molmenti is at the base of   a wine technique that has been refined by years and years of local know-how from area wine makers and local culture.

With this beginning look into one of Italy most beloved lakeside wine regions, be sure to check out the Valtènesi Wine Consortium page to see all the wines produced here, and the role the Consortium plays in bringing these wines to you.

For even more Valtènesi perspectives, Mamablip’s food and wine journalist Lele Gobbi also pays a visit to the region here.  Fill up on Valtènesi info now, and begin planning that visit soon!

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