Discovering Chiaretto – the pale Italian rosé wine from Bardolino

Have you ever heard the word ‘Chiaretto?’

If you haven’t, you will surely be saying it with the correct Italian accent (key-ar-et-toh) by next summer, as the Italian Bardolino lake region is gearing itself up to make their pale rosé wine as popular as Provence rosé.

Both wines are produced in very pale shades of pink — sometimes pale copper for both — but the wines come from very different grapes, different climates, different soils, and have dramatically different flavor and aroma profiles.

Beyond the pale pink/copper color, both Provence and Bardolino rosé call to mind all sorts of summer fun:   picnics by the beach or lake, refreshment after a game of sports, and of course the fantasy world of jet-set yachts. Both are wines to drink as an aperitif or with food, yet because Chiaretto is typically made with the Corvina grape (yes, the same grape used for the world famous, very expensive Amarone wine) you will find it has that pleasant underlying dry, crisp tannic bite that red wine lovers appreciate.

While one might presume that Chiaretto is a new wine created to compete with Provence rosé, legend has that it was created by Pompeo Molmenti, a lawyer and writer who had a vineyard on beautiful Lake Garda. For whatever reason (thirst?) he began to produce it in 1896.  Yet it wasn’t until 1968 that Bardolino Chiaretto was among  the first appellations in Italy to be awarded the DOC in recognition of the wine’s historic tradition and quality.

Chiaretto is presently a leader in the Italian rosé sector, with 8.5 million bottles produced each year. The internal Italian market – and Germany – is the biggest market but now exports are growing in the US. Canada, and Scandinavia.

My journey to Chiaretto was more about discovering a new style of pale rosé wine. In Italy, Chiaretto is taken very seriously and both terroir and climate are key concerns. Chiaretto is marked by freshness and a stony minerality from the morainic hills where Chiaretto is grown. These hills were created by ancient glaciers which actually took the rocks from the mountains and moved them downwards. So that is why even though Chiaretto is produced in the mild climate of Lake Garda, it can be considered a wine from the mountains.

Though most people think of rosé wine as a wine of summer, because of the pleasant tannic bite of the Corvina grape it pairs well with all sorts of cuisine. During my week in Bardolino, I had Chiaretto with almost every type of food imaginable, from game to tortellini to dessert.

Chiaretto is always dry, always a pale shade, and always delicious! Below is a breakdown of my Chiaretto adventures.

Chiaretto Wine Experience at Vigneti Villabella winery and hotel  

Vertical Tasting of Tortellini at Ristorante Alla Borsa

Valetti Winery with Cristiana Bettilli

Visit to Seiterre Winery

Chiaretto meets Lugano: Le Morette winery

 Le Fraghe winery & Albino Piona Winery

Tinazzi Winery & Cooking Class

Chiaretto meets Valtenesi at Villa Galniga

Chiaretto meets Custoza at Cantina di Custoza

Chiaretto meets Valpolicello at Cantina di Negrar

Visiting the Young Producers of Bardolino

Visiting the Castelnuovo del Gardo Cooperative

Visiting Tenuta La Prese

Visiting the Bardolino Wine Museum and Zeni

Filed under: Bardolino, News


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