Soave got a bad rap in 1970s America. Marketed by a flurry of commercials featuring Franco Bolla, the light, crisp white wine became our quaff of choice with the newly emerging Northern Italian cuisine.
Over time, the very popularity of Bolla Soave began to work against it. The quality was average and the price was reasonable, but it came to symbolize Soave for the American consumer. Bolla eventually crowded out everything else in the category and made it almost impossible to sell a more expensive, hand-crafted Soave in this country.
Made from the Garganega grape variety, Soave hails from the eastern part of the Verona province in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. The best wines come from the Classico zone between Monteforte d’Alpone and the town of Soave itself. They are serious white wines with a strong mineral backbone, a profusion of citrus fruit and a complexity which makes them perfect accompaniments to food.
If you doubt this, try Monte Carbonare ($35) from the Suavia Azienda Agricola. The wine is earthy and rich, with suggestion of quince and bitter orange and a deep, mineral infused texture; it pairs well with veal, pork and even game dishes. Another classic is Pieropan, which produces a range of wines from the basic Classico ($15) through the Calvarino ($25) and La Rocca ($30). A more controversial figure is Stefano Inama, who has pioneered the production of single-vineyard wines from his Monte Foscarino site. His Soave Classico ($15) is fermented in the traditional stainless steel, while the more unusual Vigneti di Foscarino ($25) and Vigneto du Lot ($30) are aged in used and new barrels respectively.
Lest you think that all good Soave is expensive, there are several options that allow consumers to sample a high-quality product at a reasonable price. Re Midas ($10), from Cantina di Soave, displays good acidity, bright citrus flavors and attractive notes of peach and melon. Re Teodorico ($8), made by Cantina di Monteforte, rewards the drinker with a firm mineral structure and resonant flavors of lemon and citrus rind. Both offer excellent concentration for the price, and provide a good introduction to one of Italy’s great white wines.