Wine — Soave
Posted by Tom Kisthart on
Join us September 30th, 2015 for the first installment of our 'Underdog Wine Series' from 6:00 to 8:00. It is a free sampling of 6 wines.
If you've read any of my posts with some degree of frequency, you've probably heard me rant about Soave before. I'll start with the quick version of why this wine (and area) called Soave matters.
There was a brand of wine that came in a big black bottle whose name became synonymous with the term Soave. I don't like to name names (actually I do) let's just say the winery rhymed with 'cola'. Aptly so. The wine inside said bottle didn't taste much like anything. Mostly because they cranked so many grapes out of the vines that the resultant wine is rather dilute.
Enter real Soave
Anytime there is such a widespread consumer misconception about a particular region it typically drives prices down and quality up (of the dedicated producers). Not a bad situation as long as you're the consumer that's in the know. The producers have to work extra hard to show how good their wines are and that they have little in common with the brand (or style) that everyone associates with the region.
There's my introduction, onto the wine
Soave is an area within northeastern Italy that is a good deal inland from Venice near the city of Verona. The region specializes in white wines made from the Garganega [gahr-GAH-neh-gah] grape. Garganega is not much grown anywhere else. Ask me to describe what it's similar to and Pinot Grigio is the first thing that comes to mind although that's admittedly lazy. The other grape commonly used to make Soave is Trebbiano di Soave in the form of a supporting role and can often impart a slightly floral component to the wine. Chardonnay is also now permitted, although there a more than a few skeptics.
At some point many years ago there were volcanoes in this area. What we have today is mostly a mix of volcanic and limestone soils. It is the soil, many believe, some dispute, that imparts a mineral taste to the wines. Minerality is tough to recognize in a wine when you're starting out tasting. I suspect some mistakenly use it as a descriptor when there is an absence of flavor. Next time you have a mineral water, leave it on your tongue for a little bit and try to spot that sensation the next time you have a wine that is typically mineral. Here is a speculation on minerality that is my own as far as I know. You can have a wine that is very mineral on the palate without a whole lot of other flavors. Wine geeks like myself will probably love it. Normal humans probably won't. When you have that same mineral backbone along with more complex flavors, that minerality is the special sauce that makes people say "wow" even if they don't realize that's what's playing a large part in causing that wine to seem special to them. Just a humble theory.
Onto the wines. Really now
Pieropan is considered one of the greatest producers of Soave. So much so that the mega company Gallo, looking to expand their fine wine presence, just secured the US distribution rights. Pieropan's entry level Soave is always a tremendous bargain. I was just reading a description of the nose that said almond blossoms and marzipan which sounds so fitting but I don't think I've ever smelled either. Beyond their entry level Soave they make what are called 'cru' or single vineyard Soaves. While the bottles last we'll get to taste them tonight.
2013 Pieropan 'Calvarino' Soave Classico - This comes from a special hillside vineyard with volcanic soil. It has similarities to a good Alsatian Pinot Gris. Experiencing this wine is like drinking from a purest stream, rocks and all! There's a coveted wine award in Italy which only a small amount are given each year called Tre Bicchieri (3 glasses). This wine often get's it and that is the case with this vintage. Getting 3 glasses doesn't just mean that a wine is great, it also means that this wine is a true representation of a particular type of wine, typically tied to a place.
Pieropan 'La Rocca' Soave Classico - We don't have any in the store to sell tonight but can special order it. This vineyard is situated in chalky soil versus the volcanic Calvarino. It is a broader wine that approaches Chardonnay in body (unoaked) and even has some tropical / exotic fruit notes. Retail price is about $40.
Please only one taste per guest on the above 2 single vineyard wines.
2014 Suavia Soave Classico - This wine is made with 100% Garganega in volcanic soils. We poured this in a tasting recently and much to my delight it most everyone loved it. I like the description from the winery Nose: "it shows fresh notes of apple, Kaiser pear and jasmine together with tropical fruit. Palate: smooth and creamy, it offers almond and mineral brightened by crisp acidity." This winery has some fascinating other wines like a 100% Trebbiano di Soave which is awesome but I find unsellable at $35 a bottle. I'm waiting until it goes on 'closeout' and then I pounce...
Inama Soave Classico - This, to me, is the lightest of the wines we'll be tasting tonight. It is fresh, with slight aromas of white flowers and a lightly mineral palate. It very much tastes like Soave should to me. I enjoyed a bottle with my girlfriend on our balcony one recent warm Sunday afternoon and it gave us that nice warm, fuzzy feeling beyond the buzz of alcohol.
Anselmi San Vincenzo - This is the producer that I mentioned in last week's email that decided to stop labeling his wines as Soave. He got fed up with trying to influence the governing body (or Consorzio) over the appellation to make the regulations stricter. Now instead of pestering EU bureaucrats he just makes Soave and rides around on one of his many motorcycles with his attractive wife. I know what I'd rather be doing. He blends 10% Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in with the Garganega which makes for a unique slightly richer example. The Sauvignon Blanc adds an additional layer of complexity perhaps with a touch of greenness.
As always thank you so much for reading. I hope you have the chance to stop by tonight to taste a representation of what I feel to be some of the most underappreciated wines in the world.
I look forward to setting up our next installment of the 'Underdog Wine Series'...