The Soave region in Italy makes unique wines that are exported to more than 70 countries . For publication in week starting 12 March 2018.
The Soave region in northern Italy exports more still white wine than any of the country’s regions. Each year more than 50 million bottles are produced, and four in five are sold abroad. Soave sells in at least 70 countries.
As of late last year the Soave DOC consisted of 7,000 hectares. The region has the highest viticulture density in Italy, with about 3,000 small “estates” each of about 2 hectares.
The Soave Consortium represents the wine industry and its people in the region. Its main aims are to promote and protect the Soave Denomination in line with DOC and DOCG rules, and in the interests of members.
The Consortium actively promotes Soave wines in Italy and around the world. Activities include press and trade tours, on and off-trade events, wine trade shows such as VinItaly and masterclasses, plus innovative projects like Italian Volcanic Wines. Each September Soave Versus is one of the largest consumer wine and food events held in Italy.
The Consortium also partners with universities and research institutes to distribute knowledge about the region. It continues to work on long-term studies about viticulture, winemaking, soil types, biodiversity and climate change. Members are offered training and educational services that cover every stage of the production cycle.
Since 2009 the technical department has been managed by Siquria, an independent organization for quality control and certification recognised by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. Siquria guarantees the authenticity of Soave denomination wines for consumers around the world.
The Consortium coordinates production under the Controlled Designation of Origin (DOC) and the more restrictive Controlled and Guaranteed Designation of Origin (DOCG) regulations. These are revised frequently to improve or clarify production sub-zones and specifications. This quality assurance labelling complies with European laws on protected geographical designations of origin. Soave received DOC status in 1968.
Garganega is the region’s main grape. It has been grown in the hills of Soave for at least a millennium, making it one of Italy’s oldest varieties. Vineyards extend from Lake Garda to the Colli Euganei, but the grape has found an ideal home in the Alpone, Tramigna, Illasi and Mezzane valleys. The terroir of these volcanic valleys with limestone outcrops offer an ideal combination of soil, climate and vines necessary for the production of quality white wines.
The Soave DOC (and its sparkling version) includes two sub-zones defined as “Classico” and “Colli Scaligeri”. These wines must contain at least 70 per cent Garganega and can have up to 30 per cent of Trebbiano di Soave or Chardonnay. The 30 per cent can include a maximum of 5 per cent of other neutral, not aromatic white grapes cultivated in the Verona province.
The use of the specification “Classico” with the designation “Soave” is reserved for wine made from grapes harvested and vinified in the municipalities of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone – the oldest, original “classic” zone.
Soave Superiore carries the DOCG (controlled and guaranteed) status, and is reserved for “Soave Superiore”, “Soave Superiore” classico and “Soave Superiore” riserva. The wines must contain at least 70 per cent Garganega and can have up to 30 per cent of Trebbiano di Soave. This 30 per cent can include a maximum of 5 per cent of other white varieties cultivated in the Verona province. The zones are the same as for Soave DOC.
Recioto di Soave was the first wine to obtain DOCG status in the Veneto region and made Soave famous. This extraordinary wine is made from Garganega air-dried over several months before pressing.
Soave is one of the world’s most food-friendly wines because of its medium acidity and aromas. A well-cellared Soave Classico can seem like a Chablis or Riesling after many years. Young Soave from limestone or alluvial soils can be perfect as an aperitif or with light fare. These wines are fresh and floral with flavours of orchard fruit, citrus and a touch of tropical fruit.
Some Soave spends time on the lees, giving the wine enough complexity and structure to pair well with seafood and vegetable pastas or main courses like grilled seafood or chicken.
Soave Classico DOC and Soave Superiore DOCG wines are more complex, structured and elegant than a Soave DOC. In broad terms, limestone soils tend to give a Soave that is subtle and elegant with a white floral bouquet, followed by orchard fruits, sweet herbs and a slight almond bitterness on the finish. Wines from basalt soils are bolder, revealing additional complex aromas and flavours of herbs, citrus and minerals. These are able to cope with dishes with a lot of flavour.
The Garganega vine provides generous yields, forming large, cylindrical bunches that assume a translucent golden to amber colour at harvest. The loosely-packed bunches are robust and well-suited for the air drying used to make the sweet Recioto di Soave. When yields are controlled the grape can produce complex wines capable of ageing an average of a decade, often much longer.
Trebbiano di Soave is genetically identical to Verdicchio, best known in the Marche, though it is likely the variety originated in the Veneto region. Producers have conserved old vineyards or replanted, and a few are making wines from only Trebbiano di Soave.
Bunches of Trebbiano di Soave are small and tight, and ripen earlier than Garganega, which is harvested well into October. High levels of malic acid and the neutrality of the grape make it a perfect blending grape in Soave wines, adding freshness and delicate floral notes.
In an urbanised region like the Veneto, Soave has remained staunchly rural and centred around viticulture, proving its ability to sustain the livelihood of its community through viticulture. These unique characteristics have made Soave the object of study and recognition in Italy and internationally.
In 2016 the Italian Agricultural Ministry declared the “Vine-clad hills of Soave” a rural landscape of historic interest. What was once viewed as “intensive agriculture” is now seen as a sustainable system that puts man at the centre of the preservation of biodiversity and the historic landscapes.
In 2017 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) invited Soave to become the first Italian candidate for the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) programme. The GIAHS safeguards the social, cultural, economic and environmental goods and services these rural areas provide.
I stopped in Soave last year and had a very enjoyable tasting at the Pieropan house. Definitely to be recommended!