Le Morette, Chiaretto Classico di Bardolino


Delight in these food-friendly, good-value rosés from the north-east of Italy.

Le Morette Chiaretto Classico di Bardolino from €7.75, $13.99, 13.50 Swiss francs

Find Le Morette Chiaretto Classico di Bardolino

Monte del Frà Chiaretto di Bardolino from €6.99, 1,386 Japanese yen, 48 Romanian lei, 12.70 Swiss francs, £11.95, SG$24, $18.90, CA$21.90

Find Monte del Frà Chiaretto di Bardolino

Le Morette winery, vineyards and Lake Garda in the background
Le Morette winery, vineyards and Lake Garda in the background

The Zenato family have been growing vines near the shores of Lake Garda since 1960, when Gino Zenato established a vine nursery in the region. Today, Gino's son Valerio, together with his sons Fabio and Paolo, farm more than 40 ha (99 acres) of vineyard, making consistently beautiful red, white and rosé wines under the Valpolicella, Lugana and Bardolino DOCs. Their Luganas are exceptional. However, the sun is finally shining its heart out in the UK, we're eating al fresco, and it's put me in the mood for their rather scrumptious, elegant yet robustly food-loving rosé.

From left to right: Paolo, Valerio and Fabio Zenato
From left to right: Paolo, Valerio and Fabio Zenato

I first came across their Chiaretto di Bardolino in 2020 during a COVID-19-enforced Zoom tasting, and again in 2021 in the Consorzio's first online 'Antiprima del Chiaretto', delivered to doorsteps around the world in 50 tiny bottles. Over the past four years, it has remained one of my firm favourites. Like most Chiaretto di Bardolinos, it's a blend of Corvina (55%), Rondinella (35%) and Molinara (10%). The grapes come from vines grown on the classic but complex mosaic of morainic soils on the south-eastern shores of Lake Garda. Winemaking is straightforward cool-temperature stainless-steel fermentation. Vineyards are organically farmed, without pesticides or herbicides, treated with minimal spraying and fertilised only with organic matter. They place particular importance on preserving natural biodiversity, encouraging natural cover crops and pollinators. In 2013, they built a new winery, designed to be as sustainable as possible, including enough solar panels to provide the entire winery with clean energy.

The Morette winery
Le Morette's winery (note solar panels on the roof)

While the prevailing winds (the pelér, blowing from the north in the morning, and òra, blowing from the south in the afternoon) are believed to be responsible for the freshness and the moderating influence of the lake for the ripeness of fruit, it's the high magnesium content and mineral sediments of the soil in the Bardolino vineyards around Lazise that, I'm told, is why good Chiaretto snaps with salinity.

Lasize village which is surrounded by the Bardolino vineyards
Lazise village, where the Le Morette Bardolino vineyards are situated

And this is exactly what this gorgeous little wine does. It's flooded with fruit – ripe peach, strawberry, redcurrant, pomegranate – but the fruit is really just the canvas for the acidity, minerality and textural structure. It almost feels like rock-salt crystals in the mouth. It glitters! But under the refracting prisms and angles there is a cool-stone smoothness, like white river pebbles; it curves, like the sinuous, laminar flow of a mountain stream. Drunk young, it tumbles out the glass with exuberance. As it ages, the fruit slows and blurs, and spices appear: black pepper, clove, nutmeg.

Biodiversity in Le Morette's vineyards
Biodiversity in Le Morette's vineyards

Contrary to popular belief, Chiaretto di Bardolino ages well, and it's the reason I haven't specified a vintage. I recently tasted a bottle of the 2019 vintage of this wine from my cellar, and took as much pleasure in the four-year-old wine as I did in the latest release (2022). The head of the Bardolino consorzio asserts that good Chiaretto can age well for five, even up to 10 years.

It's a wine that could be sipped with nothing more than a little bowl of nuts or olives, but it's proven itself over and over in our household as one of the most gregarious table wines on record. It works as easily with grilled fish as it does with charcoal-barbecued pork. It doesn't shrink when paired with spice (cheeky harissa, for instance) or, on the other hand, herby salads. The other day, just home from Armenia and inspired by the sensational food I'd eaten there, I caramelised onions (for hours!) and then threw in roasted pistachios, walnuts, loads of fresh roughly chopped parsley and a bowlful of freshly shucked pomegranate arils. With Le Morette Chiaretto di Bardolino, it was a heavenly combination.

Le Morette Chiaretto

The wine is widely available in the US, starting at an incredibly good-value price of $13.99, and you can also find it in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. It's imported into the UK by London-based Carson & Carnevale; however, because it is not so easy to get hold of, I'm recommending another favourite Chiaretto for UK-based readers – the one made by Monte del Frà (their Custoza wines were a recent wine of the week). It's available from Justincases for a mere £11.95, as well as from around 10 other independent wine merchants around the UK. It is also available in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Singapore, Canada and the US. Like the Morette, it's VGV!

All images are from Le Morette except for the main image of Porto di Bardolino, credit Westend61 via Getty Images.

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