In wine as in life I’ve always been somewhat of a contrarian; ask my wife, she’ll tell you. So here we are, in the high heat of the southern Arizona summer and by all rights I should be promoting crisp whites or easy drinking Rosé, but that’s not going to be the case. Instead I’m suggesting that one of the best summer wines is yes, a red. Most envision a fine red wine in terms of its intensity, richness and structure, and many fall into this category. One that does not is a style of wine that hails from Italy’s Veneto region: Bardolino.
The town of Bardolino, where this wine gets its name, is located on the eastern shores of Lake Garda and about 20 miles from the City of Verona. The grapes for this wine, primarily Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara, are grown in approximately 6,000 acres of vineyards that surround the town. These grape varieties are also used in some of the more robust reds of the Veneto including: Amarone, Valpolicella Ripasso and Valpolicella Classico.
It is important to remember that much of the peninsula of Italy has a warm Mediterranean climate. Except for the far north, summers can be quite hot and because of this there are several styles of Italian wine developed to be refreshing, not overpowering. Wines of this type tend to be off dry, low in alcohol and tannins with moderate acidity and a fruit forward nature. Bardolino falls right into this category. Usually served chilled like a white wine, one can envision sitting on a terrace overlooking Lake Como, watching the sun set and enjoying a glass of Bardolino. We may not have scenic Italian lakes, but we do have gorgeous sunsets and this is a perfect wine to accompany the red and pink hues cast on the Catalina Mountains.
You are not likely to find a Bardolino in the local grocery stores, but examples can be tracked down in wine specialty shops. My favorite producers are Le Fraghe, Monte del Frá and Cantine Lenotti. Like most Italian wines, the term "Classico" found on the label indicates that the wine was produced from grapes grown in the original historical area of the region and tends to be of higher quality. Similar to shopping for Rosé, look for the most recent vintage as Bardolino is best when young and not intended for extended aging. The good news for budget conscious, year-round residents looking for a refreshing summer wine is that most examples of Bardolino tend to be quite affordable.
A local source for Cantine Lenotti Bardolino Classico is the ever-reliable Plaza Liquors on Campbell Ave. After introducing a few friends to this wine I found myself making multiple trips to Plaza and buying it by the case to stock several neighborhood wine coolers. This wine is bright, nicely balanced, possessing flavors of black cherry and strawberry with a hint of clove. At $12 a bottle this should be a bulk buy for just about everyone. I suggest calling the store first to make sure that the wine is in stock prior to making your run (520-327-0452.)
So if you happen to be driving down my street during a summer evening when spectacular desert sunsets are on full display there is a high likelihood that we’ll be sitting on the front patio enjoying the show with a chilled glass of Bardolino in hand.
Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England. He is available to assist you with wine events or answer your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org