Italy's Adriatic Coast (Part 1): Veneto and the DOCG

The Ministry Official: To comply with the regulations, you must produce your wine solely from the single local variety.  This is to preserve the integrity of the appellation, to preserve the terroir.

The Italian: No!  You stifle my creativity; you deprive me of my freedom!  You are heartless and sterile, and your watch is cheap!  I am not a German!

The Ministry Official: Fine.  You can add 15% of anything else you want.  Just nothing too aromatic.

The Italian: Mountebank, scoundrel, villainous purloiner! You steal my artistry!  How can I paint my masterpiece?!  Oh, soulless bureaucrat, you have put me in a box!  I am not a fish in a bowl!  I must express myself!!

The Ministry Official: Yes, yes.  Very well.  Just put 50% of the local grape in the blend, and you can add 50% of Viognier and Riesling, for all I care.  But please put it in wood for a year, so we are sure of its quality.

The Italian: Piss off.  I go outside the appellation!  Viva la tavola!!

Over the last two years, rumor, criticism, and disbelief coalesced around the Italian appellation system.  Declarations of its self-evisceration multiply.  The DOCG is dead, and Italy killed it.  However, the steady drumbeat of new entries at the top level of Italy’s quality hierarchy is quiet now, and what remains is the urgent need for producers in Offida, Suvereto, Castel del Monte, etc. to quickly rise to the occasion.  This seems unlikely, as the wine-drinking public still waits for the prescience governing other admissions of the last decade, like Conero Riserva or Morellino di Scansano, to manifest.  Perhaps the curtains close on the DOCG just as the system proves its irrelevancy.  According to sources in Italy, there will be no future additions to the category: DOCG is a category without a place in the new framework of EU-wide reforms.  Of course, economic conditions could lead Italy out of the EU in the future, and open the doors to DOCG once again, but for now the matter is settled.  Fin.

Geoff Kruth MS and I arrived at the Marco Polo Airport in Venice early in January 2012, amid few tourists, wintry conditions, and the relative quiet of an Italy on holiday.  Our travels took us through Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, Gambellara, Soave, Negrar, and further south; we visited Castelli di Jesi, Matelica, Conero, Piceno, and the Teramo hills of Abruzzo.  In the DOCG wines of Prosecco, we found surprising age-worthiness and class, and Amarone della Valpolicella’s late entry into the DOCG tier seems as puzzling as ever, given the high quality of the appellation’s best wines.  Soave remains a cautionary tale: producers of Champagne eager to expand their borders to satisfy demand should take note.  In Abruzzo, the leading producer in Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG produces wines outside of the appellation.  Likewise, in the Marche some of the top red wines carry the IGT Marche Rosso on their labels; yet the respect accorded Verdicchio is genuine: the two DOCGs for this grape may, in time, prove to be the only Marche appellations worth the extra letter. 

When one travels through the Italian countryside, the country’s fractured identity reveals itself, in folds of mountains, crags, hills and valleys.  Dialects and cultures vary as frequently as the landscape.  Historic dishes and “regional” specialties, such as the Stoccafisso all’anconetana (Ancona stockfish) of Marche’s capital, and risotto prepared with IGP-protected Vialone Nano Veronese rice in Veneto’s Isola della Scala, may be the product of a single commune, with techniques changing from town to town.  As the bird flies, Rome may be only a few hundred kilometers from Pescara, but the spires of the Apennines separate Lazio and Abruzzo; in this way the relative poverty and remoteness of the latter, so close to the capital, is understandable.  One cannot generalize with Italy.

When we study wine, we tend to create lists.  Lists offer conformity and order.  Lists create the illusion of equivalent value.  Lists are associative.  An Italian, Umberto Eco, once wrote “we like lists because we do not want to die.”  Maybe he was just suffering from a fit of compulsive irony, but associative thinking is at the heart of our ability to communicate and relate.  “Lambruschi is totally the Raveneau of Liguria!  Renardat-Fache is like the Chave of Bugey-Cerdon!  Dude, Pepe is the DRC of Abruzzo.”  Perhaps this is not the right way to approach Italy.  Some of the best Italian estates have been making wines in a condition of relative isolationism for years.  Italian wine is, first and foremost, the study of individual, idiosyncratic, stubborn producers; these men make great wines despite themselves.  Perhaps, to really start to understand Italian wine culture, one has to acknowledge that it will be a lifelong study, and that any rote memorization of the appellation system is only worthwhile inasmuch as it feeds the understanding of producers both inside and outside of that system.  This seems self-evident, but all too often our goals in study are backwards.  It is important to understand, for instance, the laws of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane DOCG, if only to understand why Emidio Pepe doesn’t release his wines under the appellation.  A producer of Offida DOCG, which overlaps Rosso Piceno DOC, is more excited to show his reds.  Another irreverent Italian, upon having his own wines rejected as faulty for the DOCG seal, slapped his label on some co-op bottles and passed it through.  Understanding the law is in service to understanding of the wines, but it is not an end in and of itself.  On the other hand, Many DOCs (and some DOCGs) have only a couple of producers, like Carema in Piemonte, or I Terreni di Sanseverino, a Vernaccia Nera-based DOC near Serrapetrona in the southern Marche.  The appellation system in Italy, which appears overwhelming at first glance, becomes manageable when one realizes that many DOCs have only a handful of producers.  If you need to create lists, create effective ones.  

Without further ado: some lists.  Following is a collection of our thoughts on producers, grapes, styles, and trends in the Veneto.  Stay tuned for our notes on Marche and Abruzzo next month.


Soave, Gambellara and Garganega

Garganega, the traditional white grape cultivated in the hills between Verona and Vicenza, is a late-ripening, thick-skinned variety characterized by loose clusters and a high concentration of tartaric acids.  The grape’s thick skin and loose clusters deter mold growth and ease the movement of air, making it a good candidate for the appassimento process.  Producers selectively harvest ripe Garganega for Recioto di Soave and Recioto di Gambellara in mid-September, prior to grapes intended for dry wines, and rest the clusters in drying rooms for about five months before pressing and vinification in February.  Traditionally, the appassimento process occurs in naturally ventilated drying rooms, wherein the grape clusters shrivel on large bamboo mats called graticci, or hang to dry on picai.  The development of botrytis is inevitable during this period, and, depending on producer and vintage, the amount of botrytis may reach 25% of the total Recioto harvest.

Garganega cluster drying for recioto

The best Soave and Gambellara dry wines are crisp (moderate + acidity) yet textural, with light floral aromatics, saline minerality and tones reminiscent of cherry blossoms, apricot and almond. Alcohol levels in the 12-12.5% range are common, and Gambellara wines are typically slightly lighter in style.   The DOC wines of Soave and Gambellara are composed of a minimum 70% and 80% Garganega, respectively, with Trebbiano di Soave as a supporting actor.  Both disciplinari also permit the inclusion of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco.  Recent genetic studies confirm that Trebbiano di Soave is none other than the Marche’s Verdicchio, and a shared streak of electric, malic acidity is apparent—Lugana DOC, straddling the Lombardia-Veneto border, provides a good look at varietal Trebbiano di Soave.  Pliny the Elder first mentioned the vinum trebulanum grape in his “Natural History”, published in the first century AD, and today “Trebbiano” represents a family of grapes rarely connected by more than name alone.  Growers rushed to plant the inferior Trebbiano Toscano (France’s Ugni Blanc) during Soave’s heyday of commercial success, but the grape is no longer authorized for production in Soave DOC wines.

A massive hilltop fortress dominates the landscape of Soave, and its high walls embrace the original medieval town.  Built in the tenth century, the privately owned Soave Castle is a reminder of another age: crenellated battlements, portcullises, a massive donjon and the general panoply of stone, iron and granite combine to exude a sense of the insurmountable.  The castle is interminable, but Soave’s best wines are just beginning to shake off a decades-long reputation for poor quality.  Between the two world wars, producers labeled wines from Soave as “Petit Chablis”, a reminder that Europeans were for many years just as guilty of the sin of appropriation as anyone in the New World; but also a portent of the mineral, textural appeal that these wines, when crafted with care, could show.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s, sky was the limit for Soave: wines from the young DOC were incredibly popular abroad, and producers sought to capitalize on their successes by expanding production.  To do this they needed to enlarge the zone’s boundaries.  Originally, Soave wines came from the volcanic soils of a single stretch of hill—the 1,500 ha Classico zone—that extended from the commune of Soave to Monteforte d’Alpone.  The Consorzio supported an expansion that quadrupled the DOC’s size, and Soave bloated to include a vast, flat alluvial plane.  Co-operative production trumped the quality-minded producer—the Cantina di Soave still produces nearly half of Soave DOC wine today.  While the Consorzio del Soave cheers its status as “Europe’s largest vineyard”, one sees Rome burning in the background.  A few houses tried to maintain an emphasis on quality, but with so much low-end Soave in the marketplace, premium pricing was difficult to justify.  The movement for the distinction of a DOCG culminated in 2002 with the establishment of Soave Superiore.  Pieropan, the oldest family-owned estate in Soave, argued that the new DOCG should restrict the area of viticulture and bottling to the original Classico zone, raise minimum extract levels and eliminate Chardonnay.  The Consorzio did limit production of the DOCG wine to the hillsides, but drafted boundaries beyond just the Classico zone.  Ultimately, detractors suggest that alcohol level became the final assurer of quality in the new DOCG.  Only superiore wines could be DOCG, and only DOCG wines could be superiore.  Consequently, many of the region’s top producers do not bottle a Soave Superiore DOCG wine, and the best dry wines from the area often carry the “lesser” designation of Soave Classico DOC.     

The Soave DOC.  Soave Classico is colored green, and Colli Scaligeri is shaded purple.  For a high resolution download of this Soave cru map, click here  

View of the Soave Castle from Pieropan's "La Rocca" vineyard, located within the Classico zone 

Like many of its top peers in the Classico zone, Pieropan, a winery located within the castle walls, has chosen not to use the DOCG.  Pieropan was one of the first producers in Italy to offer single vineyard bottlings, releasing the inaugural vintage of the consistently superb “Calvarino” in 1971.  When “La Rocca” debuted in 1978, from a hillside cru vineyard overlooking the castle, Pieropan became the first in Soave to employ new oak.  Today, both wines are produced annually.  “Calvarino” is the real gem of the estate: a mineral, saline, fine-textured wine from a 7 ha cru.  “La Rocca”, aged in both 500-liter tonneaux (20% new) and larger botti, takes on creamier notes of honey and apricot and has a more rounded, fatter impression.  Burgundy is clearly the model here, but the estate is most successful with the former wine.  At the base level, the estate produces Soave Classico and Soave.  While all of the estate’s vineyards are located in the Classico zone, and the juice for both is the same, Pieropan bottles its Soave DOC wines with a screwcap.  Classico wines in Italy must currently be bottled under cork, so the estate declassifies.  The estate usually produces its sole DOCG bottling, Recioto di Soave “le Colombare”, in two out of three vintages, when the season permits.  As a producer, Pieropan has enough status and quality to raise perceptions, but many still hold the producer in high regard despite its appellation, rather than reshaping opinions on the potential quality of Soave itself.  As a new generation discovers the great producers of Soave Classico—Pieropan, Inama, Gini, and Prà—old stereotypes may slowly ebb.  Inama, Prà, and Pieropan have severed ties with the Consorzio and founded the Vignaioli del Soave, an organization of independent producers dedicated to “returning dignity to Soave as a denomination.”  Member producers emblazon their capsules with a trademarked “FIVI” logo.  


While the Pieropan family remains attached to the name of Soave despite a failure to affect desired quality controls for the new DOCG, another star of the region has abandoned it entirely.  Roberto Anselmi relinquished the Soave appellation, preferring to release his white wines, sourced from the Foscarino and Croce cru vineyards deep within the Classico zone, as IGT instead.  Anselmi, located in Monteforte d’Alpone, produces wines in the fatter, more masculine style that typifies the commune.  Monteforte, to the east of Soave, receives greater morning sun and warmth, and Chardonnay is more common in wines from the area.    

Gambellara is a smaller appellation to the east of Soave in the province of Vicenza.  Zonin and the Cantina Sociale di Gambellara dominate production, but one small producer stands in big contrast to its neighbors.  La Biancara di Angiolino Maule is among the vanguard of the natural wine movement in northern Italy and the founder of Vin Natur, an association of independent producers committed to eliminating chemical treatments in the vineyard and to promoting “non-interventionalist” practices in the winery.  While the estate likely satisfies fans of the aesthetic it will do little to quell the criticisms of those who see the movement as a justification of bad winemaking.  Some of the wines can be really worthwhile, whereas others have re-fermented in the bottle.  Some wines are bottled with SO2, and some are not—even within the same vintage and bottling.  I have actually tasted better bottles of Maule’s wines back home than at the winery—usually the reverse is true with natural wines.  “I Masieri” 2010 Gambellara hits sherry and lambic notes, with the slight impression of skin contact.  “So San” 2008, an IGT red produced from Tocai Rosso—not the last variant of Grenache we would taste on our trip—tips the scales at nearly 16% alcohol, with liqueur-like fruit and 5 g/l of residual sugar.  In contrast to the fresh, primary “le Colombare” Recioto di Soave from Pieropan, Maule’s Recioto di Gambellara is an intensely oxidative style, with Madeira-like color.  The wine checks in at 195 g/l of residual sugar.  Ultimately, Maule’s most impressive strides are in the vineyard: the family’s steadfast and laborious approach to natural viticulture is refreshing in a region of Italy dominated by more commercial agricultural practices.  This is a model to be praised.  Francesco himself admits that winemaking under the lofty pillars of such idealism is not without struggle and defect, and in 2009 his entire lot of red wine turned to vinegar.  In fact, the “So-San” bottling takes its name from the nearby village of Sosano, a town known for the quality of its vinegar.  But in the local dialect, “So San” is an expression, meaning “I’m healthy!”   

Valpolicella and Amarone

We traveled westward from Soave to the valleys of Valpolicella, eager to visit the two international icons of Amarone, Dal Forno Romano and Giuseppe Quintarelli.  The soft spires of the Monte Lessini and the little Dolomites cut across the northern horizon, and the locals like to think of the mountains as a “hand”, from which the “fingers”, or valleys of Valpolicella extend.  Nearest the Adige River—the appellation’s western border—is the Classico zone, comprising three valleys and the communes of Negrar, Fumane, Marano, San Pietro in Cariano and Sant’Ambrogio.  The Valpantena “cru” region lies in the center of the DOC territory, and includes the valleys of Mezzane and Squaranto.  East of Verona, The broader valleys of Illasi and Tramigna cross the western boundaries of Soave DOC.  Dal Forno Romano’s palatial winery would be more at home along Napa’s Highway 29 than the flat, sparse valley floor of Illasi, and the prevailing impression is of immensity, in both style and ambition.  Quintarelli, on the other hand, is less of an architectural marvel and more of a cluttered, working winery, perched atop a hillside within the frazione of Cerè di Negrar, within the Classico zone. 

Valpolicella represents a collection of appellations—Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG, and Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG—and an equally broad range of styles.  Corvina is the premier grape of the region, often supported by Corvinone, Rondinella, and Croatina.  The acidic Molinara, once widespread, has fallen out of favor, but plantings of the rare Veronese grape Oseleta are on the increase, as winemakers add judicious quantities of its highly pigmented juice to darken their wines.  Cabernet family grapes, common in the area, may creep into some of the top wines in small proportions.  The appassimento process, in which Corvina and its brethren are dried and soft-pressed prior to fermentation, is one of the defining characteristics of style at all levels.  Corvina, the first indigenous grape of Italy to have its entire genome sequence decoded, does not simply dehydrate in this process, but undergoes a series of biological changes which create some of the trademark aromas of Amarone, such as licorice.  Basic Valpolicella wines may include some proportion of dried grape wine, or they may be produced in a ripasso style, in which the winemaker adds the pomace of an Amarone or Recioto fermentation, still high in sugars, to a young Valpolicella wine to ignite a second fermentation.  Some dry a percentage of grapes specifically for ripasso.  Many producers use some variation on the ripasso process without actually labeling the wines as Valpolicella Ripasso DOC.  Even Masi, who “invented” the technique and trademarked the term for their “Campofiorin”, today releases the wine as IGT without any indication of ripasso on the label.  Ultimately, basic “Valpolicella” encompasses everything from thin, fresh cherry-scented reds to dense, high-alcohol, Amarone-like wines.  Foreknowledge of the processes employed by individual producers is helpful, but price may be a clear indication of technique as well.  In the case of Dal Forno, the estate treats its Valpolicella and Amarone wines almost identically, from the drying process to the cellar.    

Michele Dal Forno, one of Romano’s three sons, highlighted the spotless winery’s technological innovations on our tour.  From the stainless steel fermentation tanks and high-powered pressure washing systems to the futuristic, temperature- and humidity-controlled drying room, where mechanized towers of orange fans slowly orbit the room, everything in the winery is automated and state-of-the-art.  This is hypermodern, obsessive winemaking at its finest.  Oxidation is an enemy here, and Dal Forno employs vacuum technology to ensure that the racking and movement of wine is not an aerobic process.  When sampling out of barrel, Michele compulsively sprays a layer of inert gas into each opened bung before sealing it back up, tight as a tomb.  The massive underground cellar—recently expanded, as the winery plans to triple its production of Amarone in the coming years—is somber and church-like, the reverent air matching the world’s regard for the wines.  These are exemplary wines, but classic and typical they are not.  In one sense, Dal Forno completely embraces a most ancient winemaking technique—appassimento­, a concentration method pioneered by ancient Romans—but is otherwise completely modern in style. 

Michele Dal Forno

Dal Forno Romano’s Amarone and Valpolicella Superiore wines are sappy, chewy, powerful, oaky, extracted, raisinated, viscous, and tannic.  Vine age and the length of the drying period mark the only major differences between them.  Dal Forno dries the entire harvest for Valpolicella and Amarone production—grapes destined for Valpolicella dry for one and a half months, and grapes destined for Amarone dry for almost three.  In order to remove any trace of mold-affected fruit, Dal Forno sorts the berries by hand at the conclusion of the appassimento process.  Following fermentation in tank and pressing, both wines age in 100% new barriques for three years.  The Amarone ages in bottle for an additional three years afterward, whereas the Valpolicella Superiore ages for one.  From 2001 through the 2011 harvest, the estate utilized American oak exclusively, although they purchased it from French coopers.  The Amarone typically contains 60% Corvina and Corvinone, blended with Rondinella, Croatina, and Oseleta—Dal Forno harvests much of their fruit from the 12.5 ha estate in Illasi, but supplements with purchased fruit.  The Valpolicella Superiore DOC wine generally includes a slightly higher percentage of Corvina.  While the style of both wines is firmly international, Dal Forno does not incorporate any international grapes. 

Giuseppe Quintarelli, on the other hand, has famously planted a number of “foreign” grapes, including Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and even Nebbiolo—not a common sight in the Veneto—but the estate’s vinification methods remain staunchly traditional.  The old master died five days after our visit to the Negrar estate, on January 15, 2012.  His grandson Francesco Grigoli shepherded us through the cramped, dark spaces, abuzz with activity—a world apart from the gleaming, sterile, and monumental forms of Dal Forno—and guided our tasting through their lineup of wines.  The estate, which dates back over a century, was still drying Corvina and Corvinone for 2011’s Amarone production when we arrived.  Although a few fans punctuated the room, the ventilated chamber was crude in comparison to Dal Forno’s technological marvel, yet results were seemingly similar, at a fraction of the cost and energy.  There is very little barrique in this cellar; old Slavonian botti, oval-shaped to take advantage of vertical space, are the aging vessels of choice.  Quintarelli’s Amarone sleeps in these massive casks for up to eight years prior to bottling.  The 2003 hit the bottling line during our visit, and the 2000 is the current release.

The Quintarelli family crest adorns an old cask filled with Amarone della Valpolicella

Quintarelli releases one white wine, the IGT “Bianco Secco”.  Sold as “Ca’ del Merlo Bianco Secco” in the US, the wine is principally a blend of Garganega, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay; it is fermented in stainless steel and has a fresh, persistent, aromatic character.  The spectrum of reds starts with “Primofiore”, an IGT blend of Corvina and Cabernet Franc in equal proportions.  The Corvina is dried for just under a month for this bottling.  We tasted the 2007; Cabernet Franc’s pyrazine-laden aromatics dominate the nose but the cherry and tart raisination of Corvina take over on the palate.  The Valpolicella Superiore 2003, released in 2011, is mostly Corvina and Corvinone, and 50% of the clusters were dried for two months.  Quintarelli vinified the other 50% in late September, immediately after the harvest, and then “re-passed” the wine over the spent Amarone lees and pomace to add richness and glycerine.  Unfortunately, the wine had been open for some time, and was oxidized.  The best and most emblematic wines of the estate followed: “Rosso del Bepi” 2002, Amarone Classico 2000, and the Recioto della Valpolicella 1997.  The IGT “Rosso del Bepi”—“Bepi” is a diminutive for “Giuseppe”—is declassified Amarone.  In 2002, a hail-stricken and terrible vintage, Quintarelli produced this wine instead of their benchmark.  The drying and aging processes are identical—four months of drying and eight years in botti—and while slightly lighter, the wine is still of very high quality at a much lower price.  The Amarone Classico ‘00, swinging in at 16.5% abv, and the Recioto della Valpolicella ’97 (15.5% abv) are heavyweights, and exemplify Valpolicella.  At 7 g/l of residual sugar, the Amarone is basically dry with tremendous fruit concentration, and tones of mulberry, date, and coffee.  The wine wears its alcohol and savory tannins well, and maintains firm acidity.  The Recioto is ashen, smoldering, and port-like, with 110 g/l of residual sugar.  These are signature wines for an estate, and for their respective appellations.  The Quintarelli estate has seen ups and downs, and the wines have had problems with oxidation and volatility—“rusticity” is the usual backhanded compliment—but now, at the moment of the old master’s death, the benchmark wines are better than ever.  The only wine that fell short of expectations was the IGT “Alzero” 2000.  A blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot, the wine was conceived by the American importer Robert Chadderdon, a long-standing personal friend of Giuseppe, and launched in 1983.  The Alzero is produced in almost every vintage, unlike the Amarone, which was declassified and released as “Rosso del Bepi” in three years (1994, 1996, and 1999) during the 1990s.  The grapes are dried, albeit for about half the duration of Corvina destined for Amarone, and the wine is aged for two or three years in 500-liter tonneaux—not in smaller barriques, as is commonly reported.  Additional aging of four to five years occurs in larger casks.  At 20 g/l of residual sugar, the plummy impression of the wine is richer and sweeter than the Amarone on the palate, and the cultish adoration this wine receives in America is not hard to imagine.  96 points from Parker! 

Ultimately, in comparison with their peers in Soave both Francesco and Michele seem happier with—or at least ambivalent to—the new Amarone DOCG, which limits production of the wine to 60% of the total DOC harvest.  Both, however, made the effort to raise an eyebrow at the neighboring Bardolino Superiore DOCG.  It will be some time before the DOCG seal graces a bottle of either Quintarelli or Dal Forno, due to the extended aging each wine receives.  The DOCG applies from the 2010 harvest forward. 

The story of Valpolicella neither begins nor ends with Dal Forno and Quintarelli.  Even the category of Amarone itself offers a spectrum of styles, from the traditional, medium-weight wines offered by Bertani and Bolla, pioneers of the style in the 1950s; to the richer, sweeter, denser liquids of Allegrini and Bussola.  Pieropan has a new Valpolicella/Amarone project (Ruberpan) in the Illasi hills above Dal Forno, and naturalistes can look for Monte dall’Ora, which comes highly recommended by both Maule and Valdobbiadene’s Casa Costa Piane.  Some are more suitable for the table; others are strictly wines of meditation.  What food pairs best with Amarone?  Pastissada de Caval, the traditional Veronese horsemeat stew, made with paprika and Amarone.  Does it really taste like beef?  Oh well.  In the immortal words of a fellow Master, “F—k it.  I don’t eat horse.”      

Clockwise from top left: Dal Forno's state-of-the-art drying room, Maule's Garganega grapes hang to dry,
Pieropan's Garganega drying on bamboo graticci in an open attic, Corvina drying for Amarone production at Quintarelli 

A Final Word on Veneto's Newest DOCGs

In the end, our visit to Veneto reaffirmed, to some extent, the classic wines of the region and their reputations.  But the other side of Veneto's story lies in the surge of recent DOCG approvals: Veneto has now surpassed Toscana, trailing only Piemonte in sheer number of DOCG zones.  Amarone della Valpolicella may well be justified, but is Piave Malanotte?  Who knows?  The only example of Rabosa we tried during our visit was a victim of poor restaurant storage.  And what of the new "Super-Venetian" appellation Montello Rosso, whose DOCG recipe mandates Bordeaux grapes?  We stopped for dinner at a highly recommended, wine-savvy restaurant on the Via Montello, between Conegliano and Vicenza, in the heart of the young appellation.  The wine list was serious, spanning every single major style of Venetian wine, from Prosecco to Valpolicella to Lugana to Bardolino.  The sommelier had never heard of it.  We shared a moment of mutual confusion, shrugged, and ordered a bottle of something classic.