Le Fraghe – a delightful Bardolino, any time
Regular readers will know that recent articles have been exploring around the shores of Lake Garda – virtually, of course, as travel hasn’t been possible. Those wanting to catch up with these can find pink wine from Chiaretto di Bardolino and whites from Custoza and Lugana, all of which are DOC wine regions. But what about those that prefer red wine? This article features Bardolino, the red DOC on the Eastern Shores of Lake Garda. One of the best examples of Bardolino comes from the Le Fraghe winery.
Le Fraghe received an “honorary mention” from me earlier this year for their Chiaretto di Bardolino. That wine would be a top pick, except that it’s sadly unavailable in the UK. However, their Bardolino is.
The details about the Bardolino DOC can be found in the recent article on Chiaretto di Bardolino, as they share the exact geographical boundaries. Recent rule changes are to improve the identity of the wines. For example, there are three new subzones, or “cru”, all with lower maximum yields and a minimum maturation of at least one year.
While Corvina and Rondinella are the compulsory grapes in the blend, the amount of Corvina allowed in the mix has increased, and Rondinella decreased. Corvina must form 35%-95% of the wine (the previous maximum was 80%), while Rondinella is now 5%-40%. However, that’s still flexible, as is the optional inclusion of other grape varieties such as Molinara (max 15%) and other Venetian reds (max 10%).
The Bardolino style
The defining characteristic of traditional red Bardolino is lightness; in colour, alcohol, tannins and body. Hence this makes it ideal for young drinking, whether alone or with food. Bardolino is often compared to Beaujolais, as both wines share these “quaffing” characteristics and yet the best examples are underrated. Indeed, following Beaujolais’ success with Nouveau, Bardolino can also make a “Novello” wine using the same Carbonic Maceration fermentation bequeathed by Beaujolais Nouveau. But whether Bardolino comes as Novello or Normale, there is no dried-grape tradition or authorisation in Bardolino to beef the wines up, unlike in neighbouring Valpolicella with their Amarone and Ripasso.
Also, like Beaujolais, the best producers make Bardolino that is both true to its tradition and origins and delicious too. Le Fraghe being one!
In the heart of Bardolino, Matilde Poggi runs her 28-hectare organically certified estate in the river Adige valley in the northeastern Montebaldo subzone. The vineyards are in Cavaion Veronese and Afile, at around 190 metres altitude. This zone is the furthest from Lake Garda and most rugged of the three, with the most significant temperature swings and rainfall.
Matilde Poggi’s first harvest was in 1984, as before that time, other wineries bought their grapes. The wines have always been of high quality, while organic certification was in 2009. Corvina is the main grape variety grown here. In addition, there is Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc in red, plus Garganega in white. These make a range of six wines, including the Bardolino.
Le Fraghe Bardolino DOC, 2020, 12 %
The Le Fraghe Bardolino blend is 70% Corvina with 30% Rondinella. The two varieties ferment separately in stainless steel, then the wines age in stainless steel tanks for three-four months, seeing no wood. Finally, in the spring, the blend is made. Bottling has been under screwcap since 2008.
In the glass, this wine is a bright ruby red with purple tinges. There are attractive scents of cherry, blueberry and rose. Then the palate has precision balance; tannins are soft and silky and harmonise with the refreshing acidity and fruit flavours. There’s sour cherry in abundance, with hints of cranberry and orange, all underpinned with black pepper, herb and cinnamon tones. All these gradually fade away on a surprisingly long dry finish. Such elegance and complexity will have you pouring a second glass with almost indecent haste.
While designed for young drinking, this wine will happily keep for 3-4 years, so there’s no rush.
Being a light red wine, Bardolino shows real versatility with food, and a slight chill when serving is welcome in summer. It’s also a red wine ideal for fish. Alternatively, light pasta and risotto dishes are an obvious match, especially those including mushrooms. Further abroad, try middle-eastern dishes and Chinese-style spare ribs. Salumi and young cheeses mean this wine is also ideal for antipasti or a picnic.
This red wine excels in summer. However, there’s plenty of enjoyment here in all seasons. For example, during autumn or at Christmas, try it with a plate of roasted chestnuts. It’s all you need for a feast.
In the UK, this wine is stocked by The Wine Society, £11.95.
Here is a delightful wine with sustainable credentials, carefully made and with a strong sense of place. Terrific value too. It would be churlish to ask for more!
Azienda Agricola Le Fraghe
Loc. Colombare 3
37010 Cavaion Veronese (VR)