Our return to Venice from Lago d'Iseo, Erbusco, and Lago di Garda, took us through beautiful, long stretches of the Po Valley as well as the Baldo and Lessini mountain chains. These Venetian Prealps, characterized by steep slopes and deep gorges, boast a colourful history of witches, fairies, wizards and goblins. What bewitched us as we passed through the Valpolicella, the "Pearl of Verona," the vertex of the Veneto was, of course, the vino!
Wine touring in Italy would not be complete without a stop in Fraciacorta. The vineyards spread out from the southern shore of idyllic lake Iseo into a sheltered valley formed by glacial erosion centuries ago. A key contributing element to the terroir are the amphitheater-shaped shills that flank the vineyards, protecting the vines from harsh winds. The climate is warm and generally sunny, giving rise to riper fruit than one would find in Champagne. Furthermore, the topography and soil types are more diverse than in Champagne. Franciacorta is thus a complex collage of different soils, altitudes and aspects; a winemaker's fantasy come to life.
After an intensely enthusiastic (if all too brief) stop in Beaune where the boeuf borguignon was kept company by beautiful Burgundian bottles, our next destinations were Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmont, Italy. A mere 554 kms of highway, overpriced tolls, and very cool tunnels through the Alps brought us first to Turin and from there we went to the province of Cuneo to deepen our appreciation of the "Wine of the King" (Barolo) and "Wine of the Queen" (Barbaresco), made of 100% Nebbiolo grapes with complementary yet distinct features. A risotto al Barolo certainly gave the Burgundian repast a run for its money ... .
After leaving the German Baden wine region, we made our way to France, enjoyed some time in Champagne, and then made our way to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, in the Côte D'Or department of eastern France. We tasted many outsatnding red and white burgundies, and also enjoyed a superb Boeuf Bourguignion in the acient historic walled city by the hills of the Côte D'Or.