July 13, 2015
Wine of the Week: Soave
If I say "Italian white wine," what do you think? Most likely Pinot Grigio. Or Soave. A real star in the 70s and 80s – especially in the United States – Soave is now described as a neutral, or sometimes even boring or bland wine.
Soave is an interesting wine, a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. Its minerality and kicking acidity come from the soils of Soave – a small area in Northern Italy constituted of hillside vineyards. The wine is made primarily from the Garganega grape – the DOC laws stipulating that a minimum of 70% of the wine must be from Garganega. Chardonnay, Trebbiano di Soave and Pinot Bianco can compose the remaining 30%.
A little bit of history…
Its popularity back in the day was due to aggressive marketing and mass production, causing the “default status” that later led to its bad rap. The reason for it all? Extremely high demand, which provoked the decision to plant grapevines outside of the original hilly and volcanic area. These outside areas were not as suited to the Garganega grape (basis for the Soave), and eventually gave the wine a low-quality, low-cost product reputation. Today, Soave remains a go-to white in Italy, but is still slowly regaining the heart of consumers elsewhere.
How to pick your Soave?
Most would agree that it is important to make the distinction between Soave Classico and ordinary Soave. The latter – also referred to as Soave Colli Scaligeri – is grown outside of the original heartland, while the Soave Classico’s grapes can be found in the hillside vineyards of the Soave region. So when picking your Soave, our main piece of advice would be to look for the “Classico” label on the bottle, to enjoy a wine with more personality and complexity than the grapes planted on the flatlands outside of the official zone.
How to enjoy your Soave?
“Soave is that fallback blue suit in the closet. It’s the wine you can count on to pair with anything.” This is how Soave is defined by Leonildo Pieropan, one of Soave’s most acclaimed producers. It is a light to medium-bodied wine, often associated with almond and lemony flavors. Depending on the age and vineyard site, Soave can also offer fruity and intense flavors of honey, or dry mineral tones. Its structure makes it a very food-friendly wine that pairs especially well with seafood, vegetable dishes, or even a nice roasted chicken. Try it with a shrimp risotto or, more simply, a quiche, and I guarantee this will be a lovely match! And of course, you can also enjoy Soave in a more traditional way, by pairing it with Italian antipasti – cheese, pickled meats and roasted vegetables.
Although Soave is known as a dry white wine, you can also explore its sweeter side, with a Recioto, which is a sweet style of Soave with a slow fermentation, perfect as a dessert wine. For more bubbles, try the Spumante, the sparkling Soave wine.
My tip is to shop by producer, with a special focus on Pieropan, Inam, Gini and Ca’Rugate. Here are a few suggestions to start exploring the universe of Soave wine: