For the wines of northern Italy’s Veronese plains, misappraisal reigns. Amarone, though complex and challenging to produce, is awarded undue reverence and fails on occasions other than the rare and sumptuous (at which it must be much older than it is usually served). Fine Valpolicella swaps the concentration and ballast of its prestigious cousin for acidity, gentleness and grace, but of course, all that is considered rather too inconsequential, and so to the “lesser red wine” über-category it goes. Ripasso aims to strike a balance between Amarone’s intensity and Valpolicella’s freshness, but too often is subject to fussy interference in the cellar and emerges overpainted.

Meanwhile for the whites, Soave gets 1/84th the respect it deserves as a serious, multitiered beauty. But perhaps lowest of all on the totem pole, and most egregiously overlooked, is Bardolino. Not even my most trusted resources for wine ampelography and geography, respectively Ian D’Agata’s “Native Wine Grapes of Italy” and the “World Atlas of Wine” by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, afford it more than a passing sentence. In Robinson’s “The Oxford Companion to Wine,” the Italian wine specialist Walter Speller opens the Bardolino entry with the gently damning, “generally modest but attractive light red wine.”

Well, yes, precisely. And isn’t that pretty much the best thing to be? Every once in a while I want to spend time with people who are incomparably brilliant, stupendously beautiful or absurdly funny. Most of the time I want to spend time with people who are generally modest and attractive. Bardolino is a humble wine with an immediate, unique character: cordial, sleek and satisfying, brought to shimmering life slightly chilled, its touches of deep fruitiness offset by high acidity and higher refreshment.

Like all great modest, attractive wines, Bardolino is unobtrusive if that’s what you need, culinarily helpful and quietly charming without overstatement, but simultaneously interesting and solicitous of deeper attention if you’d prefer. Think of it as a good Lambrusco without sweetness or bubbles. (Actually, some Bardolino wines capture a touch of the CO2 that naturally results during fermentation, introducing a very light fizz.) It’s Lambrusco-good with casual, salty dishes – salumi, fried veggies, a hunk of cheese – or burgers and other simple foods from the grill. Tomatoes with olive oil, salt and fresh basil are a beautiful match.

The appellation of Bardolino lies northwest of Verona, hugging the eastern banks of Lake Garda. To the north lie the cities of Trento and Bolzano, and then Austria. Travel east from Bardolino and you arrive in Valpolicella. As in Valpolicella and Soave, Bardolino has a Classico zone to distinguish it from the broadened area established to produce more denominated wine. But unlike in Valpolicella and Soave where the Classico areas benefit from hillside vineyards, Bardolino Classico and Bardolino both lie on a flat plain and so the distinctions of terroir play a relatively small part. What matters most is grape-tending, and the degree to which a given vignaiolo (vintner, or more precisely, wine-grower) resists the temptation of the appellation’s high production limits.

The grapes grown for Bardolino are the same as for Valpolicella: corvina, rondinella and molinara, with tiny additions of others every once in a while. Much Valpolicella emphasizes corvina, the blackest of the triumvirate and the one most capable of endowing the wines with intensity – though I’d debate whether intensity in Valpolicella is a worthy aim. For Bardolino, then, whose nature seems to rest most comfortably in lightness and freshness, excessive corvina is a risk, and the wines I enjoy most employ more of the under-esteemed molinara.

Not that any of us, any time soon, are going to start asking about molinara numbers in the Bardolino wines we seek. The more salient issue in blends is the overall character of the wine, and within its circumscribed realm Bardolino offers variety. This expresses on the palate as color of fruit: red, purple, black. Whichever, a good Bardolino will be lively on the tongue, with subtle notes of spice and salt and a citric piquancy. Whether you choose one emphasizing vibrant red-berry, tangy August plum or surprisingly luscious black cherry, the wine should dance. Gracefully, never showily – or if you prefer, modestly and attractively.

Fasoli Gino “La Corte del Pozzo” Bardolino 2013 ($18) is a spot-on expression of Bardolino in the lighter, redder vein. This is all the more surprising given that the estate, certified organic since 1984 and practicing biodynamic farming since 2006, produces this wine from majority corvina grapes. But the soft-touch viticulture and vineyards’ proximity to the cooling effects of Lake Garda render corvina in a paler mode. Red grape, Rainier cherry, wild strawberry are the fruit notes. A touch of spritz, medium weight, flowers, balance.

How about an outlier that remains true to type? For that try Le Xi Terre Bardolino 2014 ($14), which blends sangiovese with the region-specific mix, darkening the wine’s overall personality. The winery keeps yields low with intelligent vine-training and assiduous pruning, and emphasizes freshness and delicacy through slow, gentle pressing of the harvested grapes. Black-cherry fruit is up front, in a surprisingly rich, almost luxurious package that remains sleek and medium-bodied, with high tangerine acidity. There’s a touch of the sweatshirt-and-rubber quality that some people appreciate in pinotage, of all things. But the way the wine adds surprising flavor notes – clovey spice, lobster broth – to the usual Bardolino presentation, all in a 12.5 percent alcohol bundle, is unique and hard to resist.

Joe Appel is the wine buyer at Rosemont Market. He can be reached at:

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