The Other Vento
The Veneto region of Italy is most famous for the production of the Veronese trio of wines: Bardolino, Soave, and Valpolicella. Two-thirds of the production of the Veneto is centered in the province of Verona. This is where tourists make their pilgrimage to find the famous balcony of Romeo and Juliet. I'm sure that dinner conversations regarding the legitimate historical and/or Shakespearean links to this fateful couple are accompanied with plenty of these wines.
The lesser-known area of Padua in the Veneto is also making some very good wines. This is the home of the St. Anthony of Padua Feast on June 13. (Did you know that St. Anthony was actually born in Portugal?) The Italian DOC of Colli Euganei is the most important wine-producing region in this area.
Most of the wines that we see in the United States from this DOC are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based. Some of them will be labeled varietally; however, some of the better ones that I have found are blends. The Colli Euganei DOC label to look for is its Rosso.
I enjoyed one of these Rosso wines recently; Riolite was the producer. They call it Scaranto, a term in the local dialect that means a schistic stone found in the volcanic soils of the Euganei hills. This wine is a medium-bodied dry red wine with a beautiful purple color. I have read many positive reviews of this wine from both the east and west coasts, so I hope that it is readily available to you. I had the 1997, but you should probably be looking for the 1998 or 1999 at the time of this writing. This wine is ready to be enjoyed as soon as you purchase it. At under $10, I think it is a very good value.
Lucio Gomiero runs a winery called Vignalta in Colli Euganei. He loves the wines of Pomerol (famous Merlot-based wines in the Bordeaux region of France). His goal is to replicate these wines in Italy. The Vignalta Gemola is this expression. It is a wine comprised of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. This wine is fermented for 21 days in stainless steel vats, and then aged an additional 20 months in varying types of oak barrels. It has been awarded the prestigious Gambero Rosso Three Glasses Award in Italy. It looks like Lucio has achieved his goal. This wine may be a little more difficult to find than the Scaranto mentioned previously. Expect to pay $20-$30 for it.
The Rosso wines of the Colli Euganei would be a very nice accompaniment to any of your barbecuing this summer. Don't hesitate to put them in your refrigerator for 15-30 minutes if you feel that the temperature at which they had been stored is too warm to complement your meal on a warm summer's evening.