Twelve miles east of Verona sits one of Italy’s most historically celebrated white wine regions. In 1931, Soave joined Chianti as the country’s first two areas recognized as delimited wine-producing regions. Today, Soave accounts for 4% of all Italian wine, producing top-ranked bottles enjoyed worldwide.
Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein credits this success, in part, to the effect of terroir on Soave’s dominant grape, Garganega (94% planted).
“There are so many nomad varietals that you can plant here, there, everywhere, and they still taste the same,” Goldstein said, during a Sept. 9 “Colors of Soave Master Class” that I attended at L’Apicio in NYC. “Soave is more like Champagne, in that you cannot plant Garganega elsewhere and retain the same Soave taste.”
Goldstein and Soave Consorzio representative Giovanni Ponchia handed out soil samples that showed the region’s diversity of dirt. This ranges from volcanic (basaltic) to more limestone-based. Sweeping hillsides also define the 16,000-acre, 13-minucipality Soave DOC, and its two sub-regions.
The Soave Classico DOC is a prominent range of hills that produce complex wines, Goldstein said. Established much more recently in 2002, the Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC is comprised of hillsides outside of the Classico DOC.
By law, Soave DOC wine must be a minimum of 70% Garganega. (Many region-best bottles are 100%.) Permitted blending varietals are Trebbiano di Soave (2% planted) and Chardonnay (4%). Soave DOC labeling requires a 10.5% ABV and two months aging. The Classico and Colli Scaligeri sub-regions require 11% ABV and four months.
Additional Soave DOCG labels require higher ABV and further aging.
After the seminar, we blind-tasted 12 Cru Soaves. Literature handed out was right to describe typical regional traits as “bright, zesty and refreshing.” These whites were ripe with fruity aromas. And they demonstrated a variety of smooth, crisp, perky flavors, each refreshing in a “pick-me-up” sort of way.
So too did they pair well with food. L’Apicio served lunch, starting with shrimp bucatini, with garlic, parmesan and bread crumbs. The pronounced lemon taste, and the light shrimp and pasta, were in balance with the soft and subtly flavorful Soave wines.
Next was roasted chicken with fennel, lemon, olives, and potatoes. A slight spicy kick of was well met by the medium body and firm acidity of glass #12, the 2012 Dal Cero Soave Superiore DOCG Vigneto Runcata ($29 per bottle).
Other recommended pairings include cooked or uncooked fish, prawns, crab, mild or soft blue cheeses, pork, veal, rice, and toffee or marzipan desserts. Goldstein cautioned that the higher acidity of Soave wines make them a poor partner for cream-heavy dishes.
The event concluded with a glass of desert wine, the 2013 Coffele Recioto di Soave DOCG Classico Le Sponde ($45 per bottle). Sweet and highly flavorful, it capped a seminar and tasting that showcased the wide range in flavor, and commonality in quality, of Soave wines.