Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, has a surface area of around 370 sq kms. Such a huge mass of water acts as a giant heat sink and it produces a mild, balmy climate all year round despite its proximity to the Alps. This makes it a very popular tourist destination. The glacial valley that the lake occupies goes deep into the mountains and with the Alps to the north and the Po valley to the south this generates other microclimatic effects, such as winds that blow down the valley from the mountains in the morning and reverse direction in the afternoon. Plants such as lemons grow here, which is most unusual at this latitude.
Bardolino is a town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. The roots of Bardolino go back to around 1,000 AD but there have been people enjoying the climate of this area since prehistoric times. The eponymous wine of the region is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Molinara. The lack of specific proportions in the regulations governing this DOC wine allow great flexibility for the winemaker.
In the hills above Lake Garda is the smallholding of Graziano Lorenzini, Garda Natura di Graziano Lorenzini, where he and his wife Ivana have been producing wine and entertaining guests since 2005. The Lorenzini family are somewhat of an institution in this area as he has six brothers, four of whom run a hotel on the shores of the lake. Graziano is fizzing with a zest for life, always busy and always with a smile. From a very small piece of land he produces around 10,000 bottles of wine a year. However, as well as wine he has olive trees, five different varieties, which enables him to make DOP oil. He even makes soap from the oil. He also produces wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and grappa. In his orchards there are cherry trees and kiwi vines and his kitchen garden provides fresh produce for his restaurant. If that is not enough, his hens produce eggs for the fresh egg pasta and also, happily, Christmas lunch. When the Bible tells us that God gave man dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth I think he must have had Graziano in mind.
His is a winery in miniature consisting of four 1,000 litre steel tanks but, as with everything else, Graziano maximises potential and minimises waste. He makes two DOC wines, both from the same blend of 60% Corvina, 30% Rondinella with the balance made up from Molinara and Rossara grapes. The first is a Chiaretto, Marciaga, which is a rosé. This wine is made from the first of two harvests and Graziano leaves the must on the skins for just six hours to produce the colour which is a very attractive bright copper. On the nose there are cherries and wild roses with a somewhat surprising peach and green apple in the mouth. The acidity is light and pleasant.
His second DOC wine is a Bardolino, also called Marciaga; this is a dry red. In producing this, Graziano stays true to his philosophy of wasting nothing. He ferments this on the lees of the Chiaretto, in a ripasso style. This gives the wine a deep garnet colour with cherries and raspberry on the nose. On the palate the tannins are soft and the wine is dry with almost a hint of pink pepper.
If you visit Lake Garda, and you should for it is very beautiful, make a point of seeking out Graziano and his little oasis of self-sufficiency but don't be in a hurry when you get there. Relax, breathe it all in and enjoy a meal which Ivana will have conjured up from produce growing all around you. You will not be disappointed. More about this vineyard