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Volcanic Rocks | and wine production


edit by Laura Riolfatto .

From the Venice lagoon, especially from the island of Pellestrina, on clear days it is possible to see at distance a group of small conical peaks, isolated in the Venetian plains. Those are the Euganean Hills.

From the other side instead, always on clear days, from the peaks of the Gemola Mountain it is possible to see the tower bell of Piazza San Marco.

These hills of volcanic origin, also called ‘Venetian hills’, are located in the south-west area of Padua and are about 60 km far from Venice. Isolated and of different heights, they are recognizable by their conical shape. Today, the entire natural area is protected and preserved by the ‘Regional Park of the Euganean Hills’.

The climate is mild, almost Mediterranean, with mild winters, warm summers and a good termic excursion between day and night. The peculiarity of the soil of these hills, rich in minerals and micro-elements, is the breakdown of the volcanic rock. It is an incredible territory with soils of different types, extrusive rocks with rhyolite, trachyte and basalt, or red sedimentary rocks, biancone and marna, to end with areas composed by alluvial soil. The Euganena landscape is characterized by a rich biodiversity that has been kept through the centuries thanks to the presence of the woods and of tree-based cultivations, which have shaped the sides of the hills with olive trees, almond trees, cherry trees, jujubees, pomegranate trees and the incredibly fascinating vine trees, which continue to carry out an important and complex role.

The combination of various factors, the morphology, the climate, nature and the uniqueness of the soils make these Hills an ideal territory for the cultivation of vine trees and the production of great wines.

Vine-trees represent life to this marvelous land.

Viticulture has a millenary tradition in these Hills; vines were cultivated already in ancient times and archaeological finds from the Paleo-Venetian era prove its presence. In Roman times too, vines and wine were mentioned by several Latin historians, like Tito Livio. Different documents from the medieval ages show the presence of cultivated areas, especially in the Monte Ricco, which overlooks the town of Monselice. A pioneer in the vine-tree cultivation in the Euganean area was Earl Alberto da Baone from Padua, who brought back from his Slavonian travels some vine-trees to plant in the Euganean hills, he was considered forward-thinking because he built an agricultural patrimony of notable consideration, around 1180. The poet Francesco Petrarca in 1371 described his beloved Arquà Petrarca as a wonderful place surrounded by olive-trees and vines. Between the 1500s and the 1600s, Euganean wines were drank and appreciated among the Venetian nobility.

Another important figure was Earl Augusto Corinaldi, who around 1868 brought to the Euganean hills vines from France and Germany and explored the potential of foreign vines in his country house in Monte Lispida di Monselice. So from this moment, the various Cabernat Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Furmint, Gamay, Syrah, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer became object of study in these hills.In 1900 the Earls Corinaldi, with their Cabernet, won an important prize, the Gran Prix at the Universal Expo in Paris. We like to think that this adventure of excellence and experimentation led to the current tradition of the DOC Rosso Colli.

Venetian hills | euganean hills | wine production | Venetian wine

An important year was 1969, when the DOC denomination was recognized, this was an extraordinary event for the entire community and area and from that moment the words quality-locally sourced have always been associated and the concept has become essential.

It was a victory obtained thanks to years and years of hard work, sacrifices of families and growers, of hard physical work in the vines and in the canteen, in a peasant land that has been able to find its balance between nature and progress, respecting the tradition, and has been producing ever better wines.

The most representative wine of the Euganean hills, which stood out over the years both nationally and internationally, is definitely the Moscato Fior d’Arancio. It is produced in three varieties: sparkling, dry and sweet; in 2011 it received the DOCG recognition.It is obtained for 95% from the aromatic grape moscato giallo, which distinguished itself for its perfume that recalls orange blossom and has an intense bouquet of citrus, ripe white peach, white flowers and fresh moss (from which the name, in late Latin language the word muscus meant nice perfume). The origin of this variety is still uncertain, it is assumed that it has a Syrian origin and that it arrived in Italy through Greece during the Middle Ages thanks to Venetian merchants. Anyhow, in the Euganean area, it has found an ideal place to highlight all its qualities and unique intensity and complexity.

We cannot describe these Hills without mentioning the Serperino, a fizzy white wine that historically represents this area. It is a perfect summer wine, of a nice straw-yellow, fresh and sparkling, light and scented, with a delicate floral bouquet and perfumes of pear, apple and white peach. Easy to drink, excellent as an aperitif but also with first courses based on local herbs. It is vinified as sparkling wine and sweet sparkling, in respect of the current laws, with the Martinotti method. The native vine is the ‘serpina’ bio-type of the glera, not to be confused with the glera used for the production of prosecco; the territories and soils are different and the results too. The cultivation and production of serpina is so radicated in the territory to have become part of the history of the land and people of this place.

The other productions of white wines, equally important, are Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Manzoni Bianco, as well as smaller productions, carried out by some wine-makers we could define as outsiders, of pure Pinello and Garganega.

Venetian hills | euganean hills | wine production

Speaking about the Colli Euganei Rosso is more complex because it means telling about a story of future and long-term visions, experimentation and specialization. To understand how these intriguing wines are born we must go back in time, to around 1868, when Earl Corinaldi in his lands in the Monte Lispida, first in the Veneto, started producing from imported grapes his Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Carménére. The earl immediately understood the potential of these grapes and studied the most ideal soil for each type, setting in the area the first example of the concept of zoning, and he also introduced the use of modern technologies, availing himself of the help of foreign enologists, among which Mr Lehner from the Klosterneuburg School (the first enology school in the world).

In only a few years, his canteen became the biggest and most important in the Veneto, composed of 9 parallel tunnels, and 2,000 sqm of space. It is said that between the end of the 1800s and the early 1900s, 25,000 hectoliters were produced and exported to the rest of Europe, and that the company had about 600 employees.

This inheritance led the Euganean Hills to create an important tradition in the production of red wines. The soils have a decisive and essential influence on these wines, to summarize we could say that the volcanic origin gives to the wines complex and elegant notes, while the limestone gives shape to more structured and alcoholic wines. A combination of positive factors make these ‘tagli bordolesi’ elegant and soft, refined and intriguing, and at the same time powerful. A long and historical tradition that has led me to see these grapes as more native than ever, considering how they have been perfectly integrated in the Euganean territory.

Venetian hills | euganean hills | landscapes | wine production

We have seen how this territory has a long agricultural tradition and is highly vocated to wine production, but what is missing in these wines to compete with the famous national denominations? The quality of certain productions remains excellent, but they are still not so well known and haven’t been so far able to stand out at a national and international level. Perhaps the lack of a tradition in the production of quality wines in the area and the absence of a native grape able to compete with a sangiovese or a nebbiolo, are part of the reasons why this region has remained a bit behind other regions that, instead, have strongly underlined their identity. Perhaps identity is the most correct word, what is missing is the ability to stand out with a production that can be immediately identified by consumers with the Euganean territory. Mine is just a reasoning, a question I have asked myself many times when presenting the wine production of these Hills.

sunset in the Venetian hills | euganean hills | wine production

The advice remains to visit and loose yourself in these Hills, to enjoy the perfumes of the woods and savor local produce, to discover fascinating and unique places and people, to wander around walking or by bike, to enjoy at the fullest these volcanic lands surrounded by vines and woods, Mediterranean and Alpine flora, and by towns and castles, Venetian villas and thermal baths, monasteries and Roman acqueducts, trekking, walks among olive trees, cherry trees and jujubees, enjoying some hours of peace in a farmhouse, drinking excellent wine and tasting the dishes of the peasant tradition.

“… to the Euganean Hills, very fertile and vine-bearing mountains, full of olive trees and vineyards with numerous villas and houses of citizens and towns rich in every good”.

Albertino Mussato, 1317

sunset in the Venetian hills | euganean hills | wine production



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