Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
The town of Garda is located on the southeastern corner of Italy’s largest lake. Just to the north is Punta San Viglio, reputed to be the most scenic spot on the whole lake, and the lovely and the unusually tourist-free town of Torri del Benaco. To the south of Garda town is Bardolino, which gives its name to the famous light red wine of the Veneto wine growing region, one of Italy’s most important. The history of the southern part of Lago di Garda is dominated by the struggles between the powerful city-states of Verona, Venice and Milan for control of strategic lake towns. The far north of the lake has a different feel about it having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was under Austrian rule right until 1918.
Last month we flew from Cork to Verona and transferred to a nice three-star hotel in Garda town. We made various ferry trips from Garda including to Gardone Riviera on the western shore to visit the world-famous Heller Gardens.
For me the highlight of the trip was a visit to one of the Veneto’s best wineries. By a most fortunate coincidence, a good friend from Torino who was manager of one of the O’Brien’s wine shops in Dublin for the past 10 years, had recently become Assistant Export Manager of the prestigious Guerrieri-Rizzardi Estate. We met Federico for dinner in a Garda Trattoria one night and he generously offered a personal tour of Rizzardi’s state of the art winery along with a tasting of their fine wines. First of all he drove us around the Bardolino hills affording wonderful views through olive trees and vineyards down to the lake. As we passed one famous winery after another it reminded me of the California wine district portrayed so enticingly in the popular film Sideways.
The entire back of the wine-making buildings are lined with solar panels, which thanks to the wonderful lake climate, produce surplus to needs energy which can be sold to the town of Bardolino. It was amazing to see the enormous vats, some steel, some wooden, in which the wine is made and stored. Finally we got to sit down with some specialty snacks of the area and taste five different Rizzardi wines. First up was a slightly sparkling rose or chiaretto as it is called in this area. Next was a delicious Soave white wine.
The third wine was one of my favourites, Tacchetto (pronounced ta-ketto) Rizzardi’s trademark Bardolino. (see below). Next up came the Munus, unusual because it is made with Merlot, not one of the main grapes usually associated with Bardolino wine. Last of all came a tasting of the magnificent and powerful Amarone, along with Chianti Classico and Barolo one of the kings of Italian wine. Amarone acquires its bitter rich style from sun drying Valpolicella grapes on mats for a number of months. Both of my pocket wine guides list Guerrieri-Rizzardi as one of the best producers of Bardolino, which is generally a light, cherry-scented red delicious with lighter cuisine or just imbibed on its own.
Tacchetto. Gorgeous single-vineyard Bardolino. Unoaked, spicy, purfumed and tasting of bitter black cherry. Simply Wonderful. €16.45, although often less on special. O’Brien’s have the exclusive rights to Rizzardi wines in Ireland. Nearest shop, Douglas, Cork.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Duca di Sasseta) 2011. €15 on special in Lidl. Superb wine made from the chianti grape in the town of Montepulciano, thus not to be confused with lesser wine made with Montepulciano grapes used in the Abruzzo region.