Soave for Summer
The White Jewel of the Veneto
The Veneto is home to some of the most profound red wines of italy. Of course we all know these wines, Amarone in particular but to a lesser extent Valpolicella and the very popular if less to my taste valpolicella Ripasso, but the veneto is also home to two fabulous indigenous white wines, as well as a slew of other wines that are easily crafted on the sweeping plains that are less well suited to red varieties.
In particular we should think of Soave, from the volcanic hills in the eastern side of the province, as well as Lugana, produced in the west on the lands bordering Lake Garda as the twin white jewels of the Veneto. Today I would like to focus for a moment on Soave.
I have written before of Soave on these pages, Soave’s Back! a wine struggling to emerge from decades of identification with a handful of brands that valued quantity over quality. Today’s Soave is a fabulous wine, as the best examples have always been. Both fresh and rich, predominantly produced from the Garganega variety, Soave offers the consumer a mid weight wine with the fruit of a warm climate, rich with peachy and lemon pith flavors, but at the same time there is so much more available for those who want to explore these wines.
Grown in soils that range from modestly to assertively volcanic in origin, great Soave captures the mineral, and in fact flinty character these lands impart to their wines. Not that these are wines that are simply soil driven, they instead deftly blend approachability with complexity. One of the little considered reasons for buying Soave, particularly the finest examples but also the basic bottling from premier producers is the way that these wines age. You really wouldn’t guess it from tasting them young but great Soave ages fantastically well. Losing some of the fruit of youth, gaining focus and breadth in the mouth, and taking on subtle secondary characteristics while progressively revealing more of the minerality that underpins both the flavors and the structures of these wines.
As much as I might want to believe that this is a reason for buying Soave the truth is much simpler. Soave is terrific young, refreshing and perfect for summer. the only reason I know about Soave’s ageing ability is that last bottle or two from the case I buy each year. they get lost in the shuffle, and sit in the corner of the cellar as I opt for new releases each year. eventually I have gotten around to popping the corks, often ten years from the vintage and lo what I have found. It’s a strategy you might want to pursue as well. I mean, Soave remains inexpensive so there is little lost in buying a few extra bottles just to see what becomes of them.
Today most Soave producers bottle a range of wines under the Saove Moniker. Typically you will find a Soave Classico, a single vineyard bottling, and a tete de cuvee selection. I tend to prefer the base bottlings for guzzling by the grill, and the single vineyard wines for their unique expression of site, and for ageing in the cellar. It’s fascinating to sample several producers side by side, lining up the classicos and the single vineyards helps one to suss out the producer’s particular style. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, sharing wine and learning about the details that make Soave special with a couple of like minded friends.
To help you get going here are my five favorite Soave producers and the wines I recommend.
These wines are not imported into the US but I urge our European readers, and those visiting Italy this summer to search them out. They are absolutely stunning wines.