If you dismiss Soave as a simple white wine with little personality, I challenge you to revise your opinion. Times change. Many estates which previously sold fruit are now bottling at home. Pride in the Veneto region is high and a new generation of winemakers is stepping up.
The quality of the Garganega grape is being harnessed (it can easily over crop) and there are plenty of styles from which to choose, from bright and floral to full and richly textured, as the winemakers experiment with different techniques – un-oaked perfumed wine, nutty lees ageing, elevage in barrique, late picked wines and skin contact- not that the latter is actually allowed, but we’re in Italy!
The delimitations of land and potential quality are a bit confusing. Soave Classico defines the historical centre of quality, centred around the medieval village of Soave, but there are fabulous wines from beyond this boundary, notably the volcanic hills which are duly recognised by their DOCG classification. Here the viticultural conditions are more difficult and potentially these poorer slopes with lower yielding vines can make finer wines. Soave Superiore was coined in the 1990s to soak up the trend for late picked wines which have a tad more alcohol and longer ageing requirements making wines which are richer in texture and spicy.
However, most interesting is the sense of terroir which shines through the wines. Garganega does have a personality of its own, but carefully managed it is translucent to the terroir and there is terroir to be appreciated here – from the higher volcanic slopes at 400m, around Ronca for example, which produce richer quite powerful wine, to the lighter and mineral wines of the limestone sites. Lower down near to the sea, the soils seem to mingle around the village in the Classico area.
It’s really the quality of the wine from slopes of black basalt that have been turning heads and the raising profile of Soave wine. However the volcanos which gave the Veneto its hills to the west of the region also brought marine deposits to the surface and vines that are planted on the chalky slopes in the East have a very different character. If you’re a limestone lover – read to the end for the wines of Vicentini.
It’s a treat to taste wines from single vineyards. The mapping of single vineyard sites began in Napoleonic times, it’s just taken a while for the estates to properly exploit their potential.
Back to the grape and the native variety Garganega is parent to many an Italian variety. At the fresher end of the spectrum it has a floral aromas with note of mandarin, lime zest and just cut green apple. Riper fruit takes on more spice and a richer, thicker texture. Thirty percent of Trebbiano de Soave is also allowed in the blend, and it can bring welcome freshness.
It’s a tough task to convince the public that Soave is capable of producing wines of distinction, so three years ago, twenty or so small producers grouped together for more presence. And recently, with the help of fellow MW Sarah Abbott, they brought their wines to London to a tasting hosted by Sarah, an eloquent ambassador for the region and expert in Italian wine.
So here’s a romp through some of the wines which appealed to me. Let’s start with some estates on the craggy black soils of Ronca.
The family have been viticulturalists here on Ronca for generations. It’s a rugged region, no doubt requiring a certain toughness to farm here and I like the firm intension in these wines.
Corte Moschina, Soave Superiore DOCG ‘I Tarai” 2016
This has slately minerality. It has savoury bite. Quite spicy too, but with no lack of tension. This is the family tasting (below).
Augusto Dal Cero was a pioneer in the wild volcanic sites of Ronca in the ’30s.
Dal Cero, Soave Superiore DOCG “Vigneto Runcata” 2017
This is dense, layered and powerful and quite spicy. Fresh though with lifted orange zest liveliness. I like the vigorous finish. This has punch.
Canoso, Soave DOC Superiore Classico Verso 2015
Orange flower aroma. Juicy and rounded, silky textured and lightly succulent.
Cantina del Castello
13 hectares with a tasting room in a C13th palace. Unoaked. Winemaker Arturo Stocchett started off as an interior designer.
Cantina del Castello, Soave DOC Classico Castello 2017
Breezy marine aroma. Elegant and charming; pure and floral.
Cantina del Castello, Soave DOC Classico Pressoni 2017
An elegant juicy wine underscored with nutty savoury, sappily.
Davide Mainente is a young chap with a 12 hectare estate stated by his grandfather in the ‘30s.
Corte Mainente, Soave Classico Tovo al Pigno 2018
Such a pretty, floral, wine. Light footed and lively with a slight spice on the finish.
Corte Mainente, Recioto di Soave Luna Nova 2017
How delicious is this honeyed wine. I love the balance of spicy raisined fruit and freshness.
Bolla Soave Classico DOC ‘Il Gambero”
A very lifted distinctive and intense aroma of fresh apple peel, elderflower and lime. The palate is also wonderfully perfumed and has a softly satin texture.
Inama Soave DOC Classico “Vigneti di Carbonare” 2016.
This has an attractive dry sappy minerality married with floral elegance.
I liked these wines from four sisters whose family – Tessaris – settled in the village of Suavia 200 years ago. The village is long gone and the family worked vines and olives until the sisters’s parents set up a winery in the 80s.
Suavia Monte Caronare 2017.
So fresh and floral. Straight and pure. Clean, precise and well edged and energetic. Mineral finish.
Suavia Classico 2018.
This is intense, savoury and dense. A good food wine.
Vines were cultivated on this site in the Ronca fields at the foot of the volcanic Lessini mountains by the illustrious Grimani family. The vineyard was bought by the Cavaggioni family in the early part of the C20th.
Tenuta Grimani, Soave DOC Farinaldo 2018.
An impressive wine. Intense, powerful, it has both richness and density. A firm core and a long and juicy finish.
Now I have saved one of the best ‘till last, as I really liked the wines of this estate. Agostino Vicentini’s vines are on limestone slopes.
Vicentini Soave DOC “Terre Lunghe” 2018.
This is light and bright and floral. A high toned wine with attractive vibrancy.
Vicentini, Soave Superiore DOCG “Il Casale” 2017.
This elegant, energetic wine is more intense than the Terre Lunghe with a pure line and focus.