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The pink wine Chiaretto di Bardolino, from the eastern shore of Lake Garda, is increasingly popular, and the volume is growing. Discover the new vintage of one of Italy’s most popular rosé wines. A conversation with one of the producers and a selection of some of the best wines.

Chiaretto di Bardolino is made in 16 municipalities in Veneto, northwest of the beautiful city of Verona. Like in Valpolicella, the red grapes corvina and rondinella are used, but unlike their eastern neighbour, the grapes are not left to dry (much valpolicella is made with appassimento never in chiaretto). On the contrary, they are pressed immediately, after short skin contact, and therefore give vini chiari, light rosé wines.

—We changed the production method in 2014. Before, we had a more extended skin contact, and the wines were darker, says Franco Cristoforetti, director of the area’s consortium and a wine producer. Since moving towards a lighter colour, both price and demand have increased.

Whether it’s because of the colour, which flirts with the popular style in Provence, or because the rosé wines are one of the categories that increase their sales the most on the international market, is difficult to know. Maybe success depends on both factors.

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A wide range of colours and shades in Chiraretto di Bardolino, copyright BKWine Photography

The pink wines from Bardolino are fresh with fruity berries and with hints of citrus. The proximity to Italy’s largest lake, Lago di Garda, is crucial for maintaining the wines’ freshness.

“The water of Lake Garda has a cooling effect during the summer and warming during the winter, which is why we can grow lemons and olives this far north,” says Franco Cristoforetti.

The wind also plays a significant role. It blows a lot throughout the year, which means that you avoid rot and maintain the wines’ freshness, he says.

The soil varies. Sixty-six different types have been identified in the 16 municipalities.

—A characteristic feature is that it is a very salty soil with a lot of material from the Dolomites, which the glacier that created Lake Garda brought with it. A saltiness that many feel in the wines, says Franco.

Most wines are made from 80 per cent corvina and 20 per cent rondinella. From next year, it will be permitted to increase the proportion of corvina to 95 per cent.

“The character of our wines is based on corvina, so the decision feels right,” says Franco Cristoforetti.

Today, more than 12 million bottles of Chiaretto di Bardolino are produced annually on approximately 1,000 hectares. Other Italian regions associated with pink wines produce less. For example, Valtenesi, on the western shore of Lake Garda, makes 2 million bottles a year and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 6 million.

Here are my ten favourites of the fifty wines I got sent home in 5cl bottles:

  • Ródon from Le Fraghe (organic),
  • Le Tende (organic),
  • Le Morandine from Il Pignetto,
  • Le Morette,
  • Birà from Le Muraglie,
  • Monte del Frà,
  • Albino Piona,
  • Sartori,
  • Vigneti Villabella

All are from 2020. Interesting and different was also the wine from Zeni1870 2019, which is had been aged in terracotta vessels.

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Fifty samples of Chiraretto di Bardolino, copyright BKWine Photography

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