A Soave Love Story
Let’s just cut to the chase–I’m in love with three different Soaves. What’s worse, is that they are all from the same part of town. I suppose I have been out playing the vineyards, but I never intended for this to happen. In order for you to understand my predicament, I should go back to the beginning. I’ll start by sharing some background about Soave and a little about the characteristics that I found so attractive.
Soave, which denotes gentle, soft or mild in Italian, is a good place to start. While it may seem soft or mild, this smooth character gently travels down your palate to your heart. However, it has had practice; Soave has been around for a while and dates back to Roman times. Soave’s home is a Medieval village of the same name, which is located in the Northeastern region of Veneto, Italy and approximately 20 kilometers east of Verona. At the heart of the village is the immense Castello di Soave, Castello Scaligero, which provides an optimum vantage point for the area and the surrounding vineyards. Soave is born from the indigenous Garganega grape. Therefore, as a product of its environment, Soave is not only a town and region, but it is also a fantastic white wine…one which I have been enjoying very much. Let’s digress from my love story to talk appellations and viticulture for a minute.
Soave Appellations and Viticulture
As noted, Soave owes its good looks primarily to Garganega, although it is also mixed with small percentages of Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. Only white wine is produced in the Soave region. The Classico sub-zone, Soave Classico, is the oldest, as it was first delineated around 1930. “Classico” is reserved for wines produced in the hillside villages of Soave, Monteforte d’Alpone and other hills in the heart of the Soave region. The flatlands and everything else is classified as general Soave.
|Photo Credit: Wine Folly
Soave D.O.C. or Denominazione di Origine Controllata zone was designated in 1968. Soave DOC must include a minimum of 70% Garganega with a maximum of 30% Trebbiano di Soave and/or Chardonnay. Some producers may even use 100% Garganega. The minimum alcohol level is at least 10.5%. Of note, is that the DOC is not restricted to hillsides or flatlands. There is a small production sub-zone, Colli Scaligeri, which is for hillside vineyards outside of the classico sub-zone.
Soave Superiore D.O.C.G, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita zone was designated in 2001 and is for wines produced only in the hillsides, including those of the classico area. The blending formula is the same as the DOC, but there must be a higher minimum planting density, the grapes are harvested to a more restricted maximum yield and the wines must reach a minimum alcohol level of 11.5%. Soave Superiore DOCG wines can also receive a Riserva designation when the wine meets stricter fermentation and aging requirements, such as a higher minimum alcohol level of 12.5% and is aged a minimum of 24 months (with at least three of those months being in the bottle) before it is released on the market.
Consorzio di Tutela del Soave
While most Soave is dry, still wine, a sweet, sparkling spumante style is permitted as is the passito Recioto style, produced under the Recioto di Soave DOCG designation which was granted in 1998. If the Recioto comes from the classico subzone, it can carry that designation as well. The wine growing area corresponds to the Soave Superiore area and is limited to the hillsides. While many Reciotos are 100% Garganega, the requirements specify a minimum of 70% Garganega and a maximum of 30% Trebbiano di Soave. While 5% of other authorized white wines can be incorporated in the 30%, Chardonnay is not allowed.
Back to my love story…
Topography plays a vital role in shaping Soave into the wine I love. Soave and me…we have a lot in common. Like me, Soave likes mild, moderate weather. The climate of the Soave region is influenced by the Adige and Po River Valleys in the south and Monti Lessini in the north. The climate is what gives Soave its complexity and acidity that keeps you guessing and wanting more. Moreover, Soave has roots in very diverse soil, adding to its style and versatility. The western part of Soave features soils rich in limestone, which retains heat, accelerates grape ripening and tends to produce more fruit-forward wines. The eastern part, on the other hand, features bands of dark, decomposed volcanic basalt and tufa rock amongst the clay, chalk and alluvial soil, that yields more floral wine with stone fruit and minerals. This volcanic soil is a deterrent for pests, lessens grape and grapevine disease, is very fertile, and has a certain macro-porosity that is very beneficial to the wines produced from this terroir.
|Soave’s Volcanic Soil
Photo Credit: Consorzio di Tutela del Soave
|Hillside in Soave
Photo Credit: Consorzio di Tutela del Soave
Whew! Now that you’ve been brought up to speed, we can fast forward to my love affair. It is true that I have tasted a few Soaves in my life. Nevertheless, I came across three that proved to be a game-changer. It was hard to choose just one, so a relationship ensured…with three Soaves, all from the eastern side of town. Here are the three that stole my palate.
The Wining Hour’s Soave Romance
Soave Classico Gini
At Gini, the viticulture is certified organic, so after a manual harvest from their volcanic rock and limestone soil, the grapes undergoes soft pressing and slow fermentation with no sulphites and no malolactic fermentation. Maturation in stainless steel follows. Made from 100% Garganega grapes, Gini Soave Classico is straw yellow with green reflections. The nose is intoxicating and intense with white flower, white peach and tropical fruit, while the palate is elegant with notes of almond and minerals. The consistency is fresh, rich and perfectly balanced.
Pieropan Soave Classico
From this hillside in the the classico zone, the two indigenous grapes, 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave are used to make Pieropan Soave. Grapes are harvested manually and then fermented in glass-lined cement tanks. There is no question that the high altitude and volcanic soil lead to this wines’ personality. The delicate white flower, peach, appricot and apple reveal its fun, approachable side, while the citrus notes and salty rock minerality define and distinguish. These are the same characteristics that make it a candidate for aging. I do like them mature….
12% ABV, balanced with great acidity.
Suavia Soave Classico
According to the producers, Suavia is the very essence of Soave. “It is a profoundly Italian wine…Fresh, fruity, easy to drink but with an unmistakable character at the same time.” Absolutely. Suavia is made from 100% Garganega grown on volcanic soils rich with basaltic stones. Due to the steep vineyards, grapes are harvested manually and then fermented in stainless steel vats. Straw yellow with specks of gold, notes of apple and tropical fruit on the nose and a white flower pear and creamy almond palate. Crisp acidity and mineral notes with 12.4% ABV. The Soave has awesome balance and proves that it will get along with any of your friends.
I would be happy to have each of these Soaves on my arm, as they would pair with almost anything and fit in anywhere. Each one has something unique to offer, but is very versatile in terms of acidity and concentration. I find versatility and adaptability attractive.
So there you have it. I make no excuses for my actions. I am young and not ready to settle down with just one Soave. I am happy, and I have enough love to go around for each of my loves: Pieropan, Suavia and Gini. Now that you know the whole story, you cannot blame me for loving more than one Soave. They may be picked from the same soil and pressed from the same town, but they are distinctly and deliciously different.
To discover more about Soave wine, food and travel, join me and my fellow writers of the #ItalianFWT group on Saturday, June 2 @ 11am/EST on Twitter. Here’s what we’ll be sharing:
Jennifer at Vino Travels will share “Sweep Away to Soave with Gini”
Li at The Wining Hour will share “Soavemente, Bacciame! Getting Intimate with Soave”
Jeff at FoodWineClick will share “The Name Says It All: Soave Classico”
Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Cam will share “Salmone al Forno + Pieropan Soave Classico
Nicole at Sommstable will share “Inama Soave Classico with Brown Butter and Herb Crayfish Rolls
Lynn at Savor the Harvest will share “Strolling to Soave and Cantina del Castello
For a brief overview of Soave, check out Soave: The Scene, The Sights and The Sips