Notable wine regions can be found in the vicinity of two northern Italian Lakes in particular — Iseo and Garda — both of which foster vineyard-friendly microclimates.
The tall ridges flanking Lake Iseo funnel cool winds from the north, and perpendicular Mount Orphan blocks warm air masses from the south. These geographic features (among others) result in terroir ideal for making sparkling wine, and nowadays, Franciacorta makes some of the world’s best, competing with Champagne.
Much larger Lake Garda moderates the temperatures to its south and east. A number of small wineries cluster in the region, but most notable are Lugana, which produces refined whites, and Valpolicella, responsible for the lively red of the same name, as well as rich Amarone. Valpolicella got something of a bad reputation in the mid-to-late 20th century, as vineyards expanded too far out of their classic boundaries and one or two giant wineries flooded the export market with plonk. Even expensive Amarone became associated with heavy, raisin-forward wines. But I’m pleased to say that, in general, Valpolicella has deepened and Amarone has freshened. I encountered numerous examples of each that were absolutely delightful.