Bardolino: Chiaretto Spumante, Chiaretto, and… Bardolino

The 2012 Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante

The 2012 Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante

It would seem obvious, but how one approaches a vintage presentation has a profound influence on how one sees the wine. And for the past few years, I have approached the Bardolino presentation in steps, starting with the Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante, then Bardolino Chiaretto, and finally Bardolino tout court, which is red. And I have published the notes in sets to keep them of manageable length.

Because of this, I have managed to miss seeing the forest through the trees, as it were. Over the past five years Bardolino has undergone significant changes, all for the better as I see things. Bardolino (the red wine) is, as wine lovers know, something of a lesser relative of Valpolicella, a lighter red made from the same varietals that go into the Valpolicella blend, and during the 90s and early 2000s, when there was much more emphasis on concentration and extraction than there is now, it ran into what one might call an identity crisis: consumers wanted – or so producers thought – bigger wines, and they attempted to meet this need by bulking up their Bardolino, and also adding more substantial varietals along the lines of the Cabernets. The result was less than satisfactory; the wines were bigger but lost the grace that Bardolino was traditionally known for, and also character, as the non-traditional varietals overshadowed the more delicate nuances that Rondinella and especially Corvina can reveal in the soils around Lake Garda.

Demand collapsed, and with it prices – in 2007 grapes for making Bardolino sold for 28 Eurocents/kilo, and it’s very hard to make a living from that. Something had to be done, and Angelo Peretti, President of the Consorzio, convinced the winemakers to take a radical step: Shift their attention from Red Bardolino to Bardolino Chiaretto, the region’s rosè, which has always been a popular spring/summer/cookout wine.

Rosès don’t require weight (quite the contrary), and therefore winemakers began to eliminate the foreign varietals, and also aim for less concentration and extraction from the traditional varietals, and it all clicked: In the space of five years production of Bardolino Chiaretto more than doubled, from 5 to 11 million bottles, and the wine began to make its way into markets that had hitherto been unthinkable, including France.

And the improvements have spilled over from the Rosès: Bardolino the red wine is returning to what it once was, shedding excess color and concentration, becoming defter, more elegant, and more agile, and while there are some holdouts that still continue to make the wines of a decade ago, they are by now a minority and decrease in number yearly.

In short, Bardolino has turned itself around, and things are looking up.

The Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante wines of the 2012 vintage, tasted in March 2013

The Bardolino Anteprima

The Bardolino Anteprima

Enzo Righetti

Enzo Righetti Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale pink with lively pinkish perlage that’s fairly persistent. The bouquet is fairly rich, with jammy wild strawberries supported by some sweetness and a certain airiness. Refreshing. On the palate it’s fresh, with lively mineral laced strawberry fruit supported by raspberry acidity and by a degree of gunflint mineral bitterness, while the sparkle provides fullness and peppery accents. Quite refreshing and will be a nice aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal..
2 stars

Vigneti Villabella

Vigneti Villabella Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale slightly salmonate pink with salmon reflections and fine slightly orange perlage. The bouquet is fairly vegetal, with greenish accents supported by some peppery spice and by some minerality. Still very young. On the palate it’s delicate, with sour cherry  fruit supported by some greenish accents and peppery sparkle that confers a degree of creaminess, and by sour cherry  acidity as well. It will work nicely as an aperitif.
1 star

Tre Colline

Tre Colline Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Delicate pink with rose petal pink reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is young, with some strawberry and jammy accents supported by hints of chalk, and by moderate acidity. On the palate it’s mineral, with minerality and mineral acidity that has some wild strawberry accents supported by the sparkle, which confers a degree of creaminess. Pleasant in a mineral key and will work well as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Valetti

Valetti Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale salmon with salmon reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is fairly ripe, with berry fruit and some underbrush, supported by slight greenish accents. On the palate it’s quite creamy because of the sparkle, with pleasant sour strawberry fruit supported by wild strawberry acidity and hints of raspberry, with underlying minerality that provides depth. It will work nicely as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Lorenzo Morando

Lorenzo Morando Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale slightly salmonate pink with salmon reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is moderately intense, with some berry fruit supported by strawberry raspberry acidity and by some sweetish accents. On the palate it’s ample, with creaminess from the sparkle supporting moderate fruit and fairly bright mineral wild strawberry acidity that also has some bitter accents, and flows into a fairly bright sour berry fruit finish.
2 stars

Frezza

Frezza Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante Chiarezza
Salmon with brilliant salmon reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is moderately intense, with minerality and some fairly sweet vegetal laced berry fruit. On the palate it’s full, with sour strawberry fruit supported by sweetish jammy notes and mineral acidity that flows into a fairly savory peppery mineral finish. Pleasant, and will work well either as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

La Cà

La Cà Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante Quattro Venti
Brilliant slightly electric pink with electric pink reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense, with red berry fruit supported by some smoky gunflint bitterness and some greenish spice. On the palate it’s fairly bitter, with gunflint minerality more than fruit supported by bitter mineral acidity and some spice, which flow into a clean bitter finish. I’d have liked a little more richness to the fruit.
1 star

Roeno

Roeno Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante Matì Rosé
Pale rose petal pink with brilliant rose reflections and fine perlage. The bouquet is fairly rich and fairly sweet, with greenish red berry fruit supported by sweetness and by slight gooseberry and sweat that bring a Sauvignon to mind, and by greenish acidity. On the palate it’s full, and more mineral than I expected, with minerality more than fruit supported by creaminess from the sparkle, and by peppery notes. It made me think, and that’s a good thing.
2 stars

Le Tende

Le Tende Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante Voluttà
Brilliant rose petal pink with electric pink reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is muted, though swishing brings up some red berry fruit and hints of pomegranate with slight acidity. On the palate it’s fairly bright, with lively pomegranate fruit supported by creamy sparkle and by fairly bright sour berry fruit acidity that flows into a tart peppery finish. Pleasant in a rather bracing key, and will work well as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal, including with fried fish or meats.
2 stars

Monte del Frà

Monte del Frà Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante la Picia
Rich rose petal pink with brilliant pink reflections and fairly fine persistent perlage. The bouquet is sweet, with jammy raspberry and strawberry notes, and some greenish accents. On the palate it’s direct, with fairly sweet wild strawberry fruit supported by moderate wild strawberry acidity and by creaminess and peppery notes from the sparkle; there is sufficient acidity to hold it up but also an underlying sweetness, and this means that if you are a purist who prefers drier wines it won’t work as well for you. If you are not it is however quite approachable and will be a nice aperitif.
1 star

Costadoro

Costadoro Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale onionskin rose with brilliant onionskin reflections and fine persistent slightly onionskin perlage. The bouquet is deft, with pleasant minerality and underlying red berry fruit; it’s quite clean and rather bracing. On the palate it’s bright, with creamy fullness supporting bright minerality and mineral acidity, while there is also some red berry fruit that flows into a fairly long tart berry fruit finish. Pleasant, displaying considerable finesse, and will work well as either an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Fratelli Zeni

Fratelli Zeni Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale antique rose pink with brilliant reflections and fairly fine perlage. The bouquet is moderately intense and fairly mineral, with some wet underbrush as well; it is still coming together. On the palate it’s brighter, with fairly rich fairly sweet mineral laced berry fruit supported by some greenish acidity and by creaminess from the sparkle, which flows into a fairly long bright peppery savory tart finish. It will work nicely as an aperitif and also a tutto pasto, throughout the meal. It grew upon me.
2 stars

Casaretti

Casaretti Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Brilliant rose petal pink with pink reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is fairly rich, with yellow peaches mingled with peach fuzz and some greenish accents, and some underbrush as well; there is also some sweetness to it. On the palate it’s ample and soft, with moderate berry fruit supported by a fair amount of sweetness, and some peppery notes as well. A bit more fruit would have been nice.
1 star

Corte Gioliare

Corte Gioliare Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Brilliant rose petal pink with lively reflections and fine perlage that fades fairly quickly. The bouquet is a bit disjointed, with underbrush and brambly accents supported by a degree of bitterness. On the palate it’s ample and fairly creamy, with berry fruit suported by bitter accents and peppery creaminess form the sparkle, which flows into a fairly bitter finish. I’d have liked a bit more fullness from the fruit.
1 star

Cantina Caorsa

Cantina Caorsa Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale antique rose with brilliant reflections and fine persistent perlage. The bouquet is mineral, with some gunflint bitterness and some ripe berry fruit; it gives an impression of struck granite. On the palate it’s fairly sweet, with strawberry raspberry fruit that is supported by some acidity, though less than I’d have liked; it’s approachable in a fairly sweet key and if you like the style you will enjoy it. If you prefer drier wines it won’t work as well for you.
1 star

Cantina di Castelnuovo del Garda

Cantina di Castelnuovo del Garda Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale rose petal pink with brilliant reflections and fine intense perlage. The bouquet is fairly rich, with rich fruit and some floral accents supported by some greenish acidity and hints of gunflint. On the palate it’s bright, with lively mineral laced berry fruit supported by minerality and moderate creaminess from the sparkle, while the finish is fairly peppery. Pleasant, and will work nicely as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Bigagnoli

Bigagnoli Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale rose petal pink with brilliant salmon reflections and fine persistent perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense,w ith greenish peaches supported by red berry fruit and some minerality; it’s still quite young. On the palate it’s fairly mineral, with minerality more than fruit supported by mineral acidity and some creaminess that has peppery notes as well, and flows into a rather bitter finish. It’s not quite as bright as I might have liked, and is slightly lacking in fruit.
1 star

Cà Bottura

Cà Bottura Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Brilliant rose petal pink with bright reflections and fine persistent perlage. The bouquet is muted, with some bitter accents and hints of brambles, but not much in the way of fruit. On the palate it’s brighter, with fruit laced bitter minerality supported by creamy peppery sparkle, and by brambly acidity that flows into a bitter brambly finish. Pleasant, in a fairly brash key, with nice acidity, and will work well as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Fulvio Benazzoli

Fulvio Benazzoli Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante
Pale rose petal pink with brilliant reflections and fine persistent perlage. The bouquet is moderately intense, with strawberry fruit supported by greenish brambly acidity and some underlying bitterness. On the palate it’s bright, with lively sour strawberry fruit supported by wild strawberry acidity and some greenish bitter accents, while the sparkle confers a pleasant creaminess with some peppery spice. Pleasant, and will work well as an aperitif or a tutto pasto, throughout the meal.
2 stars

Bergamini

Bergamini Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante Iride
Brilliant slightly orange pink with brilliant reflections and fine fairly persistent perlage. The bouquet is fairly sweet, with some minerality but not much in the way of fruit. On the palate it’s mineral more than fruit driven, with peppery creaminess and underlying bitterness that flows into a fairly bright peppery mineral finish. I’d have liked a little more fruit, though it is bracing.
1 star

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About Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.
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