Raising the Bardolino: Three New Subzones for Bardolino Rosso

By Jack Brostrom
April 15, 2021

The wines of Bardolino have been well known on export markets for decades as light, pleasant quaffs that fill the role of an earlier-drinking, simpler, less expensive substitute for its neighbor Valpolicella—much the same as Dolcetto does for Nebbiolo in Piedmont or Beaujolais does for red Burgundy in France. However, in recent years, producers in Bardolino have been working to expand out of that typecast role on two fronts.

First came an emphasis on the excellent pink wines that can be made from Corvina grapes on the shores of Lake Garda, where such wines are called Chiaretto. Now, the denomination is looking to show that it can also be a source for heartier, more serious wines in the Valpolicella model (if perhaps not yet Amarone della Valpolicella).

For red Bardolino only (60% of production), the denomination has been divided into three new subzones:

  • La Rocca (pictured above), which comprises the entire lakefront, including the vacation towns of Garda, Bardolino, and Peschiera del Garda
  • Montebaldo, to the north and east of Bardolino town, approaching the southern end of 7,000-foot (2,200-m) Monte Baldo
  • Sommacampagna (pictured below), the southeastern part of the denomination in the direction of Verona

The consorzio refers to these subzones as “crus” and says that merchants recognized these three crus for their distinct characteristics at least as early as 1825.

The consorzio is in effect downplaying the Bardolino brand and creating its own quasi-denominations to spotlight the styles it wants to be known for. The wines of the three crus will show the subzone name above the actual denomination name in letters twice as tall. The rosato wines, too, will feature “Chiaretto” above “Bardolino”—or together as “Chiaretto di Bardolino.” (The Classico subzone around the commune of Bardolino still exists, as does the small-production Bardolino Superiore DOCG, but these do not appear to be on the front burner of promotion for the moment.)

The most significant of the other changes being introduced with the latest disciplinare revision is a moderate adjustment to the recipe for all Bardolino DOC wines, pushing producers to increase the proportion of Corvina grapes in their blends (now 40–95%), with a resultant decrease in the amount of Rondinella, Molinara, and/or other minor grape varieties.

The new rules can be retroactively applied to the 2020 harvest, which means that any producer who has wine that meets the requirements for one of the cru subzones can make plans to use the new nomenclature. The cru wines require most of a year of aging before release, so they will first be available for sale in September 2021.

Rules before 2021Rules effective with 2020 harvest
Corvina35–80% (Corvinone can substitute for up to 20%)40–95% (Corvinone can substitute for up to 20%)
Other grape varieties0–35%0–20%
Aging for basic and Classico red winesNot specifiedUntil next January 15
Aging for reds from 3 new subzonesN/AUntil next September 1

Top: View of the La Rocca subzone of Bardolino along Lake Garda (photo by Vladimir Carrer on Unsplash)
Map and photo of Sommacampagna vineyards courtesy of Consorzio Tutela Vino Bardolino DOC

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