Rosé just kind of screams “SUMMER,” don’t you think? It’s the wine you want in your glass as you take in the sunset by the water, any water, whether it is a lake, the sea, or a pool!
Two Amazing Rosé Style Wines from Italy
This past year, I discovered 2 amazing rosé style wines from Italy. These two wines come from different regions and are made from different grapes, but both are delicious.
The first Chiaretto Valtènesi comes from the North of Italy in the Lombardia region.
The second Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is from Abruzzo on Italy’s Adriatic Coast.
Valtènesi sits on the southwest shore of Lake Garda in the Lombardia region of Northern Italy. Here on the Riviera del Garda, this region between the Alps has a Mediterranean climate. They grow lemons here! In the summer, I have heard that the small 2 lane road that skirts the lake is bumper to bumper with tourists all here to grab a bit of “La Dolce Vita.”
Luckily our visit was in the fall, when many tourists were gone, and we could meander at a relaxing pace. We visited the Vittoriale degli Italiani, the one-time residence of Gabriele d’Annuzio, an important poet and a hero of the first world war who was an artist and a bit of a heretic.
This 9-hectare park encompasses gardens, orchards, sculpture gardens, waterways, museums, an amphitheatre, and a ship of the Italian Royal Navy mounted into the hill, looking out over the lake.
It is also home to a small vineyard maintained by the Consorzio Valtènesi. Trellised as stars rather than rows, this honors one of the poet’s preferred signatures, an asterisk. The vines here are all Gropello, the primary grape for the rosé here, which locally is called “Chiaretto.”
We tasted at “La Casa del Vino Della Valtènesi,” which the Consorzio Valtènesi maintains for their offices and tastings overlooking the lake.
The room was lined with backlit bottle in vivid shades of pink and salmon.
Alessandro Luzzago who was at the time President of the Consorizio Valtènesi Riviera del Garda, greeted us.
(Alessandro has since completed his term and the new Consorzio President is Paolo Pasini. More on him below.)
The Chiaretto may include other varieties besides Gropello, like Sangiovese, Barbera, and Marzemino. Many of these wines are made in the “Molmenti” method.
“One night wine” – The Molmenti method
In 1896, the former mayor of Moniga del Garda, Pompeo Molmenti, created his own method for making Chiaretto, inspired by his trips to France. Grapes were gently pressed and left on the skins for only a few hours, creating a soft pink color.
We tasted many Chiarettos while visiting. Here are two of our favorites.
Pasini San Giovanni Lettera C
Pasini San Giovanni makes both wines of Lugana and Valtènesi, as many of the local wineries do. We tasted with Paolo Pasini, the 3rd Generation winemaker at Pasini.
The Lettera C received a Tre Bicchieri and Rosé of the Year 2023 from Gambero Rosso.
This rosé is 100% Gropello from old vines. They age this wine in steel and ceramic (Clayver) on the lees. This is a rose that will age!
The nose has an element of tangerine, white peaches, herbs, and white flowers.
Costaripa Rosa Mara
We spent an afternoon with Nicole Vezzola, who works with her father, Mattia, at Costaripa. She is passionate about their Chiaretto! Her father is considered one of the experts on rosé in Italy.
This wine is 50% Groppello Gentile, 30% Marzemino, 10% Sangiovese and 10% Barbera. Vines are over 25 years old and harvested by hand in the early morning. They use the “teardrop” method with free-run juice from static dripping. Half of the wine ages in white oak for 6 months.
This wine is delicate pink in color, with notes of peach, small red berries, grapefruit, black pepper, and spices.
*they also make a sparkling rosé called Mattiavezzola, which is celebrating 50 years of production this year! If you can get your hands on a bottle, do it! (Then be sure to invite me over to share it with you!)
On the eastern coast of Italy, halfway up the boot, lies the region of Abruzzo. Here you can enjoy Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, a rose made from Montepulciano.
Originally this was the wine drawn off the red and given to the laborers in the vineyard.
While in the region, I tasted Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo at several wineries and during a Masterclass Session led by Filippo Bartolotta. We tasted 7 wines with an amazing array of hues, aromas, extractions, and flavors.
Here are two of my favorites.
Cirelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2022
Cirelli has been certified Biodynamic from vintage 2021, and Francesco makes his wines in Amphora.
Francesco, the winemaker, says he finds this the most authentic wine from Abruzzo. It was the farmer’s wine, the wine of the poor people. The original Cerasuolo was the final press of Montepulciano and was given to the farmer as a partial wage.
With just 4 hours of skin contact, the color is vibrant and rich for a rosé. This Montepulciano rosé has power. “Cerasuolo,” Francesco tells us, “is the only wine you can match to all the regional cuisines.” This region which spans from the coast through the hills to the Apennine Mountains has regional dishes of seafood, white meat, and game. Cerasuolo can pair with all 3 styles of dishes.
This wine has notes of red fruits, brambles, orange peel, pomegranate, spices, and wonderful savory smoky notes.
Emidio Pepe 2022 Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo
Emidio Pepe is a pioneer of biodynamic winemaking in Italy. While the family estate has existed since the late 1800s, it was not until 1964 that Emido decided to make his own wines. Eschewing the industrial approach to winemaking, he focuses on making artisanal wines. Today the vineyards are run by his daughters and granddaughters, with his granddaughter Chiara serving as the winemaker.
This 2022 Emidio Pepe Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo was foot-stomped (as are all their wines) and is aged 50/50 in stainless steel and concrete. Unfined and unfiltered, They make just 5,000 bottles. The wine smelled of wild fruit (strawberries picked by the roadside or raspberries from the woods), gunpowder, cedar, and a bit of sapidity.
Searching for more than just a rosé
Pink wine is perfect in summer. Beyond the color, there are stories and places behind these wines that will enhance the enjoyment of sipping them.
Remember, rosé is more than just pink wine; the variety, the region, and the winemaker all come together to create delicious and exciting wines with a range of flavors and colors!
These 4 wines are delicious; if you find them, grab them quickly!
Look for Chiaretto Valtènesi and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo in your favorite wine shop, and if you can’t find them, ask! Let the store know that these are wines you are interested in!
More from Crushed Grape Chronicles on these regions.
- Piave, Grana Padano and the wines of Lombardia
- Lombardia – the overlooked region of Italy that is producing wines you need to find!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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