Soave, happy family memories

My earliest recollection with Soave wine was when I was 14 years old. After 26 years, the memory is still very nitid in my head. The encounter was with a bottle of Bertani and the occasion was the wedding of my aunt Giuseppina in Caracas, Venezuela in 1992.

My grandfather catered out the wine and food for my aunt’s wedding and he chose  Bertani Soave Classico as the white wine for the celebration. Afterwards, my family went into Soave frenzy!!. We used to have Soave for Christmas eve supper with the traditional risotto pescatore that my nonno Gaetano used to make. My nonna liked it with her infamous pollo al rosmarino and my mother enjoyed the occasional bottle while painting canvases.

I never did enjoy the Soave of days. Barely drinkable, that Soave was mass produced and exported without any care. After moving to Canada, I swear to myself that I will never drink Soave again. But it made me happy to see how my family enjoyed it and brought them all together.

That was then but the reality is very different now. Further trips in my 20’s and 30’s to the charming, medieval, walled town of Soave, near Verona in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, opened my eyes to the  belief that excellent Soave wines were being made crafted.  In fact, the best Soave producers are now making some of the best white wines in Italy, and the wines are selling at very attractive prices, because many consumers are not aware of their high quality. Today, Bertani and Bolla are still big yet serious wine producers.

The main grape variety in all Soave wines is  Garganega, an indigenous white variety growing in the Veneto region, close to  Verona and Vicenza. Garganega is a vigorous variety, and easily can  overproduce typically  in the fertile plains area around Soave.  This was  one of the main reasons that Soave acquired a poor reputation through the 1980s: excessive high yields led to the production of watery and bland wines.

The wine is made in both a regular DOC classification and the higher classified DOCG version, consecrated to the “Superiore” style (with mention on label) that is made from ripe grapes, containing over 13% alcohol and showcasing an increased structure and body, Although, the most celebrated though is the regular DOC, which really emphasizes the more food friendly, grassy, almond driven fresh personality of the wine. Made with at least 70% Garganega (the protagonist  white grape of veneto) and 30% maximum of Trebbiano di Soave.

Five percent of ‘other varietals’ authorized in the area is also permitted although rarely implemented. The best examples will usually be made from 100% Garganega.  Good Soave display intense mineral,  dry fruit and lemongrass nuances given by Garganega noble character and its terroir of volcanic origin (some of the rarest  in Northern Italy).

The SAQ has an excellent choice of Soave wine retailing between $20 and $30. Some of my favorite producers include: Gini, Pieropan and Cantina Filippi. The private market has interesting choices as well focusing on the natural/biological more artisanal side. Here are four wine recommendations to get you started in the exploration of Soave!!

Bertani Soave Classico 2017. SAQ # 00025007, $14.80

This was the Soave that  was served at King George VI’s coronation!. 100 % Garganega. Beautiful nose displaying aromas of mint, sage with a touch of peach and apricot. Vibrant and zesty with a long persistent finale. The must bottle for an introduction to the appellation.

Menti Giovanni Garganuda 2017. SAQ # 13739808, $25.9

An organic and biodynamic Soave made by one of best artisanal producers of the appellation. Fresh and herbaceous nose with a touch of quince and honeysuckle. Fresh and very elegant. It is ravishing and well balanced.

Gini Soave Classico 2016. SAQ # 13841511, $24.55

A reference producer of the appellation, this is top old vine Garganega ( 60+ years) from volcanic soil. Lovely nose reminiscent of cantaloupe and mint. Plenty of fruit on the palate with an ample structure and long citrusy aftertaste.

Fasolino Gino Borgoletto 2017 Soave. $20.70 ( Private import. 12 pack case, Bacchus 76-

I recently discovered this wonderful producer making Soave since 1925. This is a wine on the very elegant and floral side: Jazmin, white peonies, white licorice and rosemary. Refined with soft citric tones and a long harmonious finale.