Soave is making a comeback! With imports growing of quality wines, Soave caters to Americans‘ thirst for distinctive, affordable wines, that are easy to drink, with or without food. Watch out, Pinot Grigio, Soave is staging a coup, revolutionizing what you expect from an Italian white wine!
In the 1970‘s, Soave was wildly popular in the United States, filling supermarket shelves and even outselling Chianti, with the mass marketed Bolla leading the charge. The crisp Italian white wine was cheap and easy to quaff, the precursor to today’s darling, Pinot Grigio. But Soave faded from the US landscape, due to the neutral versions distributed nationwide, but it maintained its popularity back home, with its quality bottlings.
Soave means “soft and smooth”, and certainly that’s what these wines are. The best Soave wines are made from 100% Garganega, although some blends using Chardonnay or Trebbiano di Soave are good, too. Its taste profile encompasses a range of aromas and flavors, depending on whether it’s from the hillsides or the flatlands; citrus (lemon, lime, tangerine), apple, white peach, yellow plum, floral (jasmine, freesia), herbal (lemon thyme, parsley, sorrel), mineral, and nut (almond, cashew, pine nut). This wine chameleon can transform itself into dry, sparkling, or off-dry, it can be lean and elegant or big and fruity. The best wines are dry, complex, and versatile with food.
The Soave region, located in the Veneto of North East Italy, revolves around the walled hilltop town of the same name. Three primary zones produce wines with different characteristics; Soave DOC is the basic version, with clean, crisp, and simple wines; Soave Classico DOC is the historical heart of the area, with more complex wines; Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC are hillside wines made from vineyards that are enriched with volcanic soils, also found in the Classico hills. The numbers are impressive: 3,000 growers, 90 wineries, 4 cooperatives, and 60 individual Crus, intensely concentrated in a relatively small area, contribute to a white wine that makes up 4% of Italy’s total wine production.
Historically, Soave goes way back, with a mention of Recioto (sweet) wines in 500 BC. In this century, Soave was first recognized in 1931, along with Chianti, as the top quality wines of Italy, the beginning of the DOC rankings.
Recently, Sensational Soave, a master class taught by master sommelier Evan Goldstein and enologist Giovanni Ponchia from the Soave Consorzio, was held at Terroni Restaurant in Downtown LA. Wine professionals were treated to a blind tasting of 10 different soave during a lecture, and an additional six wines that accompanied a three course lunch. The unique character of Soave was demonstrated, a Garganega dominated wine that expressed itself according to the soils from which it sprang. The common thread of acidity bound them together, while some were more intense than others. Bottle prices ranged from $9-29, with the majority retailing for under $20, quite a deal for a refreshing white wine of distinction.
A few of my highlights, that spans the range of Soave:
The NV Riondo Soave DOC Spumante “Castelforte Excelsa Brut”, a 100% Garganega sparkling wine, is fresh and intense, with floral notes, apricot and peach fruit, hint of almond on the finish, dry and very pleasant, what a deal for $9!
The 2014 Latium Morini DOC, 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano di Soave, is aromatically intense, with stone fruit, apple, lemon, mineral, and grass notes, it has body, acidity, ripe fruit, and a medium long finish, excellent for $15.
The 2007 Gini Soave Classico DOC, 100% Garganega, is more complex, with ripe apple, lemon, yeast, and flinty (from the volcanic soils), with texture and body, this wine sells for $17. Although the 2007 is no longer available, the 2008 is certified biodynamic and organic, from 50-100 year old vines.
The 2006 Monte Tondo Casette Foscarin DOC, 90% Garganega and 10% Trebbiano di Soave, is complex, with ripe apple, citrus, mineral, and yeast, interwoven in a medium full body, rich and smooth, ending in a long finish. It is the best vintage in 20 years, priced at $29.
The 2012 Franchetto Santin Duico Recioto di Soave DOCG, a dessert wine, is 100% Garganega, with ripe fruit flavors of apricot, peach, and apple, is very interesting, laced with mineral notes. This deep gold wine was made by drying the grapes for 4 months before they are crushed, then fermented in stainless steel, and rested for 2 years before bottling.
A perfect food pairing wine, Soave’s zesty nature accents a wide variety of foods, especially anything that swims. Ceviche, salads, fish and seafood (especially sushi), pork, veal, and poultry, Spanish seafood paella, risotto and pasta with cream sauce or pesto, mild cheeses (especially burrata) shine with Soave.
Considered one of Italy’s leading white wines of place, Soave is getting the recognition it deserves. In 2013, Gambero Rosso, the renowned Italian food and wine magazine, reviewed 99 Soaves, crowning 6 with the “Tre Bicchieri” rating, it’s highest honor, a far cry from just 6 wines reviewed in 1991, a seeming nod to Soave’s importance and quality.
If you thought you knew Soave, think again. Discover the “new” Soave, a zesty wine that is perfect for summer, yet deserves to be drunk anytime. With its flavorful appeal and smooth character, Soave is back, versatile and affordable.