By Rick Riozza
As the wine world is fast becoming aware, the popular Italian white wine, Soave [ Swah-Vay] will no doubt be making an appearance on your patio table soon. Those of you who have visited Venice certainly fell in love with soft but crisp Soave that always found its way on lunch tables.
It is one of the top selling wines in Italy and so well known that sometimes it gets thrown in the “pinot grigio syndrome” where it simply gets little respect because of its commercial success. But as opposed to usual Pinot Grigio—with its light flavor profile, Soave can be terrific alternative.
Unlike pinot grigio, which is the name of a grape that can come from anywhere in Italy, Soave is an actual place, in the northeastern province of Veneto. And the grape that produces the best Soave is Garganega—along with small portions of local trebbiano (aka Verdicchio), Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc.
As with a lot of wines from Italy back in the 70s, emphasis on high volume and use of the dull trebbiano Toscana dampened the quality of the wine. But integrity now reigns high with the Italian winemakers as they’ve drastically reduced yields and renewed their focus on Garganega resulting in wines of greater character and intensity.
Legend has it that Dante, the famous Italian poet of the 13th century, gave Soave its name (meaning “smooth”), because of its mildness. Soave is a straw yellow color, almost green sometimes. It’s known to be delicate and light, perhaps with a hint of almonds. Think perfume and gentle flowers; it carries a gentle acidity to keep things fresh and it has a slightly bitter finish to keep things interesting.
Soave, served chilled at around 48°F., is a great aperitif with hors d’oeuvres or soups and can be paired with light summer dishes.
Soave falls into two distinct styles: crisp and straightforward, lightly aged in steel tanks to emphasize a fresh fruity liveliness, while others are denser and richer, fermented in oak barrels, which adds texture, depth, and complexity. But they all maintain an energy that refreshes and inspires further sips. That’s the key element—way beyond Pinot Grigio, these more energetic Soave wines seem clearer and more precise with focused flavors that include almond-like nuttiness, dry mineral tones as well as citrus, stone fruit, honey and dried sage.
A great entry level Soave at less than $10 a bottle is Cantina di Soave Re Midas . It’s one of the tastiest great buys of the summer with pretty summer aromas of yellow flowers. The bright palate delivers zesty citrus, pear and some great melon flavors alongside crisp acidity.
Speaking of melons, salty white cheese is a savory component that complements melon quite nicely. A very easy and exciting summer Soave pairing would be a Savory Melon Tartare . Google it for the recipe; it brings together fresh sliced melons sprinkled with lime zest and minced pickled ginger around fresh greens doused with rice vinegar and crumbled Ricotta Salata. You’ll have set the bar in your neighborhood with this combo.
Another really tasty Soave that will pair wonderfully with the melon tartare as well, is the Montresor “Capitel Alto” Soave DOC Classico , at around $15. This is the “richer, denser” version we just wrote on. Fifty percent of the wine spent time in oak.
This wine has some fun history; the Montresor family boasts illustrious ancestors, like the Count Claude de Montresor, the prime counselor of Duke D’Orleans in France in 1600. At the beginning of 19th century a branch of the family moved to Italy in the Veneto region near the lake of Garda—this Soave area was renowned for its soil. Here they found the proper environment where to continue and improve the 200 year family winemaking tradition.
This is a complex Soave. It’s still quite refreshing with mineral, white flowers and red apple aromas. And a palate of peach, pear, and citrus, with lively acidity, finishing with hints of honey and the pervasive almond aftertaste. Seriously, this is a fun wine to enjoy at brunch, lunch, or dinner. Bon Appétit and Cheers!
This wine is available at Total Wine & More , in Palm Desert for around $17. (760) 346-2029
Rick is the wine steward at Haggen Market in Rancho Mirage and wittily titles himself the “somm-about-town” in this Vino Voice column, where his beat is to eat, drink, and cover the gustatory scene of the CV. A freelance writer and contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine, a wine reviewer for palmspringslife.com, he is also the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery. Rick conducts & entertains locally at wine tastings, food & wine pairing events and fun wine seminars. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org