Chiaretto di Bardolino

The name may not be as familiar as some of Italy’s wines, but the pink wines of Bardolino, known as Chiaretto (key-ar-er-toh) are distinctive and historic. Coming from vineyards around the shores of Lake Garda, close to the Alps and 30 minutes west of Verona, the name derives from the Roman ‘clarum’, meaning light in colour. The Lake is an influence on the climate as its constant breezes moderate summer heat. Soils are composed of eroded rock from ancient glaciers.

Bardolino is in the Veneto region, and the grapes that makes the red Valpolicella and Amarone are used here, mainly Corvina which may be up to 95% of the blend, and Rondinella which must be at least 5% of the blend. That minimum percentage of Corvina has crept up from 65% ten years ago, the local Consorzio persuading the authorities that Corvina is the variety that best expresses their terroir.

The last decade has seen a move by producers in the area towards a paler, fresher style of pink wine, surely with a nod to the runaway success of that style from Provence in France? I was invited to taste 50 samples from the new 2020 vintage, allowing a very good overview of the 100 producers of Chiaretti di Bardolino. Clearly with 50 wines from the same region, same vintage, same grapes and similar styles there were going to be a lot of similarities in these wines. Add in the fact that they are very young, and may still show the ‘pear drop’ aromatics of cold fermentation, and I have not attempted to dream up unique adjectives to describe each one. I have, however, tried to highlight any aspects that were particularly distinctive.

In general, this was a fine set of summery wines. A number showed the elderflower character of ‘thiols’, as exhibited by early picked Sauvignon Blanc for example, and for me that’s a trait I do not look for in a rosé. This may or may not be a symptom of the move towards the paler style, but overall, I preferred the wines that did not display this character. When I asked, Franco Cristoforetti, President of the Consorzio, suggested this was also a property of the cool 2020 vintage.

The Wines

There are a few retailers with 2020 Chiaretto already on the shelves, including Valvonna Crolla, Majestic and Ocado.

Aldo Adami, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Peach, pear and lemons, fresh raspberry and lots of juiciness on the palate, quite long. 86/100

Benati, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘I Gadi’ 2020
More discreet, subtle, mineral salts aromas, lovely peach juice and rosy apple freshness. 87/100

Benazzoli, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Tecla’ 2020
A little twist of citrus to the raspberry and peach. 86/100

Vinicio Bronzo, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Rosa Canina’ 2020
Youthful ferment aromas, but then a nice touch of passionfruit, even mango, lots of juiciness. 87/100

Cantina di Soave, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Roca Sveva’ 2020
High and fragrant, talcum and floral notes, a little herbal quality. Dry, fresh, punchy and lightly saline palate. 88/100

Cantina Caorsa, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
A little bit of elderflower thiols here, fruity and fresh. 85/100

Casaretti, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Organic. Dry and crisp, slightly earthier, pure, lean palate, not so fruity. 87/100

Cavalchina, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Quite punchy on the nose, and on the palate too, a surprisingly vivacious style, plenty of sweetness but a zipping, zesty acidity. 89/100

Corte Gardoni, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Nichesole’ 2020
A lightly smoky, maybe slightly oxidised quality here, sweet fruit, though finishes just a touch sour for me. Not sure this sample was in A1 condition. Provisional 85/100

Costadoro, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Strikingly deep colour compared to most here. A creaminess aromatically, bright and juicy red fruits, tangy finish. 86/100

Costadoro, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Pink Diamond’ 2020
Similarly deep in colour, subtle and a touch more herbaceous, the palate quite juicy and full, a more robust style. 87/100

Gentili, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Gently smoky, peach, minerals, quite a lot of ferment aroma too at this stage, somewhat masking the character. Good balance, zesty lemon finish. 86-88/100

Gorgo, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Organic. Subtle raspberry, flowers, peachy, minerals again. Mouth-filling ripe fruit. Stylish. 88-89/100

Guerrieri Rizzardi, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Keya’ 2020
Very subtle, clean, touch of sherbet and flowers. Precise. Balanced and subtle palate showing mineral chalkiness and purity. 89/100

Il Pignetto, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Light elderflower hints, the palate juicy and nicely punchy berry and red apple freshness. Medium length. 86/100.

Il Pignetto, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Le Morandine’ 2020
Subtle, perfumed, floral notes again, a little more refined. Very nice juiciness, citrus core of acid, long and balanced. 88/100

La Rocca, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Quite subtle peach and small red berry fruit, citrus too. In the mouth dry and a certain saltiness to the acidity. 87/100

Le Fraghe, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Rodon’ 2020
Organic. Soft, subtle, attractive soft herbs and under-played fruit. Very juicy with a streak of lemon that is appetising and fresh. 88-89/100

Le Ginestre, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Slightly deeper, smoky aromatics, a touch of thiol influence. Good fruit and pretty good balance. 86-87/100

Le Tende, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Organic. Very bright, a tiny spritz from bottling, some watercolour paintbox aroma and very pretty fruit with good balance. 87-88/100

Le Vigne di San Pietro, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Corderosa’ 2020
Less fragrant than the previous wine, bitter lemon and a touch of more sour cherry and pithiness. A reserved style but maybe lacks a bit of joie-de-vivre. 85-86/100

Le Morette, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
In the gently elderflower, thiol spectrum again, a streak of pea-pod green and that lemony, citrus character on the palate. 85/100

Le Muraglie, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Biro’2020
Some leafiness and bright red berry fruit on the nose with some peach. Sweet and juicy fruit, lemon and lime and a tangy finish. 87/100

Lenotti, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Quite a vibrant, more fuchsia pink to this and the next wine. Pretty floral and rosehips. Lots of fruit sweetness and a light sherbet finish. 88/100

Lenotti, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Decus’ 2020
Aromatics slightly toned down, but still vivid. More subtle palate but good intensity: a concentrated effort and good length. 88/100

Marchesini Marcello, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Cool, subtle, small red berry aromas of redcurrant. There is punchy fruit sweetness here before good, zesty lemon acidity. 87/100

Marchesini Marcello, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Coralin’ 2020
A touch of elderflower over redcurrant into peach. A little more concentration and a lot more bite on the palate: quite pithy edging towards sours. 87/100

Monte del Frà, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Very pretty, refined confectionery aromas, a touch of rose. The palate follows on with the most delicate fruit character, minerals, but pure and long. 88-89/100

Morando Lorenzo, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Quite a vibrant pink this, though the nose does not sing. Slightly under-fruited palate, lemon carrying most of the load. 85-86/100

Albino Piona, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
A little elderflower, a little peach or passion fruit, pleasantly balanced with quite punchy fruit. 86-87/100

Poggio delle Grazie, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Organic. Slightly less fresh and clear on the nose, a touch funky, the palate has a cool freshness but possibly lacking a little fruit. 86/100

Righetti Enzo, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Another with a more vividly pink hue, youthful tank aromas at this stage, a little cherry and confectionery note. Very sweet and ripe, vivid. 87/100

Giovanna Tantini, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
More subtle, gentle peach aromas, a touch of red apple. A juicy, quite salty and mineral palate with dry, accurately-positioned fruit and acid. 88/100

Santi, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Infinito’ 2020
Slightly yeasty, reserved aromas here, the palate balanced between citrus of orange and lime and a streak of more pithy lemon. 86-87/100

Sartori, Chiaretto di Bardolino 2020
Good fruit, background touch of herbaceousness. Initial sweetness on palate moving into a pithy lemon finish. 86-87/100

Sartori, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Mont’Albano’ 2020
Not too flashy, but correct light red fruits and a touch of stony minerals. Very juicy, sweet and peachy, lots of ripeness and good lime and salts acidity. 88/100

Seiterre, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘El Salgar’ 2020
More passion fruit and elderflower character, striking though arguably a touch over-done. Sweet fruited. Good balance in the end. 87/100

Tenuta la Presa, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘I Territori’ 2020
Bold peach and nectarine, a little redcurrant suggestion of dryness too. Lovely palate sweetness, the fruit gently creamy and the balance very good. 88/100

Tenuta la Presa, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Le Selezioni’ 2020
Less immediately aromatic, but an interesting stone/mineral note. In the mouth similarly generous, sweet-fruited and creamy-textured. Good intensity and a lick of saline in the finish. 88-89/100

Valetti, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Quite punchy and distinctive, bright peach juice and ripe pear. Plenty of sweetness here, acid arguably very slightly abrupt, but I rather like its personality. 87/100

Villa Calicantus, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2019
The colour stands out a mile on this: yes, it is 2019, but it is much more orange than pink, and it is clearly moving in the natural wine direction. I tasted these wines blind, with no prior knowledge of the producers. I later discovered this does come from a producer in the ‘natural wine’ spectrum, so I would like to try it again some time, and not in the middle of a 50-wine line-up, where 49 of the other wines were in a broadly similar style. However, on tasting I found this sample oxidised, and unacceptably so for my palate. 81/100

Villa Medici, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Some herbs and straw-like dry notes to the soft red fruit. A lot of sweetness here, mist be some residual sugar, though good balance with the acid in the finish. 87/100

Zenato, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
Quite subtle and reserved aromas, the palate elegant with a finesse to the fruit and acid, a lingering, stylish finish. 89/100

Zeni 1870, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Anfora’ 2019
Something different expected from this amphora 2019, but quite straightforward. Nice creamy summer pudding fruits and acid balance in a very attractive wine. 88/100

Zeni 1870, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Vigne Alte’ 2020
Gentle salty mineral notes to the red fruit and light herbal touches. Very good balance, with inherent fruit ripeness and sweetness, and fine acidity. 89/100

Vigneti Villabella, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico 2020
A little creamy, toffeed note to the soft peachy fruit. Orange and nectarine on the palate with very clear acid structure. 88/100

Villa Cordevigo, Chiaretto di Bardolino Classico ‘Gaudenzia’ 2018
The only 2018 here, but the colour very vibrant and youthful. Would never know this was two vintage older, punchy and raspberry/cherry fruited and finishes with fine balance. 88-89/100

Vitevis, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Ca Vegar’ 2020
Pale peachy pink, this has a subtle, almost Albariño-like character, less red fruit but lovely. Balanced, subtle, a touch of marshmallow in the finish with good acidity. 89/100

Vitevis, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Cantina del Garda’ 2020
Creaminess and a bit of strawberry character, the palate has good balance, sweet fruit though acid a little pithy in the finish. 86-87/100

Vitevis, Chiaretto di Bardolino ‘Terre di Castelnuove’ 2020
Cerise pink, cool lipsticky aromas, subtle cherry. The palate has very nice fruit, with sweetness and precision, but an easy-going charm. Balanced and refined. 88/100

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