Chiaretto: the Rosè of Garda
There are few things better than sitting beside Lake Garda on a sunny afternoon and one of those is sitting beside Lake Garda with a glass of Chiaretto, the outstanding rose wine from the lake’s region. While most wines within a denomination are made from the same combination of grapes, Chiaretto grapes are determined by their location around the lake. On the east side of Lake Garda, Chiaretto is produced within the Bardolino appellation. It is made from the same grapes that give us Amarone, Valpolicella and Bardolino. Its pink hue is acquired by shortening the contact between the juice and the dark skins of the Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. On the western side of the lake, Chiaretto is made in the Valtenesi appellation, using mostly Groppello grapes that are grown in the morainic soil left behind from retreating glaciers many thousands of years ago. This area stretches between Desenzano and Salo. The color may change from pale pink to blood-orange and the nuances of citrus and berries may vary from winery to winery, but the underlying wine always has the same characteristics; it is clean, fresh, dry and balanced. These are noble attributes indeed! As a category, rosé wines are showing a strong upward trend. The category has shown quarterly growth of over ten percent for last few years. This growth has been driven by the consumers thirst for clean, fresh, quaffable wines. The rosé trend began in the Provence region of southern France and has spread throughout the wine world. Consequentially, if you look around your favorite wine shop, you will most likely find floor stacks and end caps filled with rosé wines. Even though rosé is the ‘trendy’ wine of the moment, it is not a new phenomenon. In fact, like most of my wine industry colleagues, I have been a fan of rosé, and specifically, Chiaretto, for more than twenty years. It is always my go-to wine while having lunch al fresco in one of Verona’s iconic piazzas. But before the recent demand cycle, rosés were thought to be a wine that was meant to be consumed exclusively in the spring and summer. This could not be further from the truth. Chiaretto is perfect with a variety of foods. The light tannins and crisp acidity compliment everything from shellfish to grilled meats. Don’t let the color deceive you. Just because the color is light, it does not mean that the wine is neither thin, nor tasteless. After all, the wine is made from red grapes. The only thing missing is the harsh tannins that come from the skins and wood aging. The absence of those characteristics allows the freshness of the fruit to take the lead instead of sitting quietly in the background. Here are a couple of Chiaretto’s, one from each side of the lake that are readily available in our area. I am also including a few white wines that can help you beat the heat of the summer.
Piona Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé $14.99 – The Piona Estate in located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda in the Bardolino region of the Veneto. This is the region where Chiaretto was born. The grapes are the same that are used to make Valpolicella, as well as Amarone, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. What I like about this wine is that during fermentation, the winemaker lets the chilled wine rest on the lees. This gives the wine a fuller and rounder mouth feel, without impeding the floral aromas or the delicate crispness of the wine. It is perfect as an aperitif and well-suited for raw and grilled seafood. A nice wine at a nice price.
Pratello Sant’Emiliano Chiaretto Rosé $17.99
Broccatelli Galli Grechetto Umbria $12.99
MaremmAlta Vermentino Toscana $14.99