Most people know Lake Garda (above) for its crystal blue and green waters, its gentle undulation, its celebrated neo-Gothic villas, and its many famous residents — current and historic.
The largest lake in Italy, it’s one of northern Italy’s most popular tourist and vacation destinations, for Italians and foreigners alike. Millions of people visit its shores every year to enjoy water sports, the views, and the many fine dining venues that dot its perimeter.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Lake Garda (or Lago di Garda in Italian; LAH-goh dee GAHR-dah) is the “centerpiece” of one of Italy’s most prolific agricultural and viticultural hubs.
Lake Garda was formed by melting glaciers. As a result of the flow of ice and water, the subsoils to the southeast, southwest, and south of the lake are morainic in character. In other words, they are composed of glacial detritus: Boulders, stones, and pebbles of various sizes created by the massive flow of water.
Morainic subsoils are ideal for the cultivation of olives and wine grapes because of their drainage. As the roots of olive trees and vines search for water, the energy they must expend to reach the water table makes them more vigorous. The resulting fruit is all the more flavorful.
Even as early as Roman times, the townships surrounding the lake were known for their superb olive oil and fine wines.
But their renown wasn’t owed solely to the morainic nature of the subsoils.
The breeze created by the large body of water, which cools warm air in summer months and warms cool air in winter months, is ideal for farming. Not only does it help to ventilate olive groves and vineyards, thus protecting them from disease and mold. But it also helps to moderate and mitigate extreme temperatures during winter and summer.
And what’s more is that during the late months of summer, when ripening is critical, the maritime influence helps to cause “diurnal shifts” in temperature. In other words, as the grapes are reaching full ripening toward the end of summer, it creates a shift in temperature between day and night. These conditions allow the grapes to ripen slowly and with more balance.
As we will see in future posts, the Zenato family envisioned Lake Garda’s potential for the production of fine wine back in the 1970s.
Second image via Wikipedia Creative Commons.