A Lesson in Italian White Wine - What is a 'Soave'?

Garganega! The grape behind Italy’s number one white wine Soave

For white wine lovers and those who just love to try interesting wines, this is your next dinner party wine!

Soave, pronounced swarr – vay, is arguably the most famous white wine in Italy. Granted in 1968, the DOC title covers wines made from garganega grapes grown in hillside vineyards east of Verona, in the Veneto wine region in a town called Soave in north eastern Italy. A dry, crisp, fruity white wine, Soave's naturally refreshing appeal led it to phenomenal popularity in the second half of the 20th Century.

Interestingly Soave and Chianti were the first zones in Italy in 1931, to be recognized by Royal Decree as having the potential for producing fine wines. This document delimited the borders of the production zones which, in the case of Soave, coincide with those fixed under the current production regulations for Soave Classico. Situated in the eastern part of the Province of Vicenza, in the foothills of the Lessini Mountains, the Soave zone is a not particularly large wine region however it produces significant quantities of wine despite the fact that the area is one of the most specialized and densely planted in Europe. In this area, there exists a traditional and undeniable link between viticulture and terroir. The area of specialized vineyards has remained practically unchanged for over 100 years and indeed there does not seem to be any valid reason why it should be changed.

Soave saw a peak of popularity in United States during the mid-20th-century Italian wine boom that followed the end of World War II. Soave even surpassed Chianti in the 1970s as the largest-selling Italian DOC wine in the US.

Only white wine is produced in the Soave region and a minimum of 70% must be the garganega grape. For Soave DOC up to 30% of the blend can come from trebbiano di Soave, also known as verdicchio and nestrano. The DOC rules place new emphasis on the quality varieties and exclude trebbiano toscano, which had been allowed to constitute up to 15% of the blend. All the grapes used for the DOC wine must be harvested to a yield no greater than 14 tonnes per hectare with the finished wine fermented to a minimum alcohol level of at least 10.5%.

To provide distinction between the quality levels, the Soave Superiore DOCG was drafted in October 2001 and put into effect as of the 2002 vintage. Soave Superiore is the DOCG title given to Soave wines from the appellation's highest-quality tier. Fewer than 1 percent of Soave's wines carry this appellation.  In the Soave Superiore DOCG, garganega must also account for a minimum of 70% of the wine, but pinot bianco, chardonnay and trebbiano di Soave are allowed to fill up to 30% of the remaining blend, with trebbiano toscano and other local white grape varieties such as friulano, cortese, riesling Italico, vespaiolo and serprina permitted up to 5% collectively. Grapes are harvested to a more restricted maximum yield of 10 tonnes per hectare while the finished DOCG wines must reach a minimum alcohol level of 11.5%.

Popsy & JJ found a family that is obsessed with this grape and making amazing wine! They have been making wine for 4 generations. The lessons passed down from family member to family member are still being used today. Villa Canestrari is a true artisan winery and the Villa Canestrari Soavé Superiore DOCG Riserva 2015 rated 97/100 is an outstanding wine where you can taste the history of the area!

The harvesting starts around mid-September and ends in October; two passes through the vineyards and careful grape selection ensures perfect ripening. The grapes are then left to dry for two months. The wine matures for at least one year in new, lightly toasted barrels, thus encouraging the malolactic fermentation. Bottling is followed by extended cellaring before release.

This wine when poured is a golden straw colour, its aroma abounds with exotic fruit and gorgeous spicy, nutty notes.  The palate has just a hint of vanilla with quite intense stone fruit, and traces of banana and pineapple.  Its superb balance is a credit to their masterly vinification. Popsy & JJ matched this with Barramundi fillet with crispy skin and these two together are like Tubs and Crocket from Miami Vice, a great team for a summer day!

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