Why Tre Venezie for an article? I was invited by my local enological society to make a presentation about the area because one of the members had donated wine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, one of the three regions of Tre Venezie. And, always, when researching a particular grape or region, it makes me aware of how many different varieties of grapes there are -- and in countries that I would love to visit.
In one of my recent wine magazine publications, Prosecco was awarded the 2011 Wine Region of the Year -- Prosecco is also a grape and an Italian sparkling wine. The Prosecco region is in Veneto, one of three northeastern regions known as Tre Venezie; the other two regions are Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. These three regions, The Three Venices, are united by their historical relationship to the Republic of Venice, as well as producing some of Italy's most stylish, highest-quality white wines. Virtually all of Italy's top pinot grigios, pinot biancos, sauvignon blancs and chardonnays come from Tre Venezie. Combined the three regions only produce about 15 percent of all Italian wines, but account for 30 percent of DOC -- that is, premium -- wines. Freshness, crisp acidity and purity of varietal character personify the wines of Tre Venezie.
Of the three regions that make up Tre Venezie, the Veneto is by far the best known. Two of Italy's most well known and widely exported wines come from the Veneto: Soave, a white; and Valpolicella, a red. The Veneto also produces several sweet wines made by a method called recioto where the grapes are left to hang on the vine a little longer, then spread on bamboo shelving or mats and left in cool drying lofts for three to four months. Thus, the grapes lose up to a third of their weight, mostly water, then are crushed and fermented, resulting in wine that is opulent and full-bodied. One is the well-known Amarone. The grapes are the same ones used in Valpolicella: mainly corvina, rondinella and molinara.
In Trentino-Alto Adige, the wine region extends the farthest north and the Alps rise up majestically (and virtually perpendicularly) behind the vines. These are some of the most breathtaking vineyards in the world. The region boasts a large number of grape varieties, including chardonnays, pinot biancos, pinot grigios, traminers (the progenitor of gewürztraminer) and sparkling wine. The top Trentino-Alto Adige wines have precision, grip and focus. The most widely planted red grape is lambrusco, which forms the base of many inexpensive reds.
Usually just called Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia sticks out like a small ear from the northeastern top of Italy. In a country where "real" wine generally means red wine, Friuli is acclaimed as one of the top places in the world for snappy whites. As a group, Friulian wines are spirited, creative, highly varied and wholly individualistic. Some of the best whites are intriguing blends of native varieties, tocai friulano and ribolla gialla, along with international varieties such as pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, pinot bianco and chardonnay. Though the reputation for fine wine was built on white wines, about half of total production is red. Merlot is the leading variety, along with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, plus indigenous red grapes schioppettino and refosco.
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