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Spotlight on Soave

24 wines tasted

Soave, from the Veneto in North East Italy, has a reputation for producing rather neutral, boring white wines. It’s partly deserved. Pop into your local supermarket and buy their cheapest Soave. It will be a commodity wine, with some fresh acidity but rather neutral flavours. Indeed, production here is dominated by cooperatives whose emphasis has always been on quantity rather than quality. I hope this doesn’t sound snobbish: after all, the world needs cheap wine and a good deal of pleasure can be had from simple, crisp neutral whites, well chilled down, in certain circumstances.

But to dismiss all Soave as dull and uninteresting would be doing a great disservice to those producers who are doing good work here. What this tasting showed is that the Garganega grape, often with some help from a bit of Chardonnay or some new French oak, can make profound white wines packed full of flavour and interest. An interesting shift has been from Pergola training towards more conventional trellising, which generally produces better quality. Hillsides also help: the majority of these wines are from hillside vineyards in Soave Classico.

The leading lights in this region are widely acknowledged to be Inama, Pieropan and Anselmi. Of these, Anselmi no longer uses the Soave DOC: instead he labels his wines as IGT Veneto. It has to be said that this was a rather select bunch of wines tasted here, but none the less I was surprised by the interest and quality demonstrated.

As with many more serious Italian wines, they are underappreciated in the UK. As a result, their availability is poor, and you’ll generally have to hunt around independents and Italian specialists to get hold of these wines.  

Producer profiles: Anselmi, Inama, Pieropan

Inama Soave Classico ‘Vigneto du Lot’ 2001
From an experimental vineyard planted in 1993: instead of pergola training, the Garganega grapes are grown in a permanent cordon and are spur pruned. 50% new Allier oak is used. Striking rich herby, toasty nutty nose. Rich exotic ripe palate with straw and herb edge to the savoury nutty palate. Excellent

Inama Soave Classico 2001
Made from hand-harvested pergola-trained Garganega grapes, fermented and aged in stainless steel. Quite a distinctive herbal edge to the nose: bright and fruity. Rounded rich palate with lots of flavour and a savoury minerally edge. An interesting, characterful wine. Very good/excellent

Azienda Agricola Prà Soave Classico Superiore ‘Colle Sant Antonio’ 2000
Very different style to the others: almost sweet. Lifted acidity on the really interesting old-style nose, which is herby with a touch of caramel. Rich, rounded palate with a nice texture. An interesting style showing good concentration and lots of complexity. Very good/excellent

Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore ‘La Rocca’ 1999
Nicely complex nose  showing elegant herb-tinged fruit with a waxy edge. Full flavoured, complex savoury palate with a slight toastiness and good minerality. Very good/excellent

Inama Soave Classico ‘Vigneti di Foscarino’ 2000
Made from a selection of old vines grown at the top of Monte Foscarino. Pergola trained Garganega grapes. Remarkable forward herby nose with waxy, nutty complexity. Really rich, spectacular palate with a spicy, herby edge. Quite brilliant: a lovely complex savoury white wine. Very good/excellent

Anselmi ‘San Vicenzo’ 2001 Veneto
Anselmi doesn’t use the Soave appellation for this wine, but that’s where it comes from. It’s a blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and Trebbiano. Quite a complex nose with bright lemony fruit, floral elements and a slight nuttiness combining well. Lively palate is still quite fresh and youthful. Very good/excellent

Cesari Soave Classico ‘Nibai’ 2001
Garganega and Trebbiano. Savoury, herby, waxy nose. The palate shows a nice density of clean, savoury fruit. Really lovely and quite chunky, with a nutty character. Very good/excellent

Leonildo Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore ‘Calvarino’ 2000
Tight savoury nose shows herby complexity and some mineral notes. Crisp, savoury palate is quite tight-knit and complex, with good acidity. Understated, with good concentration. Very good/excellent

Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico 2001
Full, nutty savoury nose with a fresh acid lift. Distinctive nutty, fruity palate with good acid. Full flavoured and satisfying with a hint of minerality. Very good+

Ca’ Rugate Soave Classico ‘Monte Alto’ 1999
Matured in new French barriques. Deep gold colour. Striking savoury butterscotch, herby and toasty nose, Very intense savoury palate with high acidity and more butterscotch character. An extreme style, showing lots of herby fruit and oak. Intense and quite old fashioned, and a little too oaky. Very good+

Masi Soave Classico Superiore ‘Col Baraca’ 2001
Some barriques used here. Attractive herb-tinged fruit. Good concentration of flavour. Fresh, with good acid. Interesting. Very good+

Carlo Bogoni Soave Classico Superiore ‘La Ponsara’ 2000
Attractive savoury herbal nose with a toasty edge. The palate is crisp, savoury and nutty with good acidity. Tastes a bit old fashioned, but in the right sort of way. Very good+

Terre dei Monti Soave Classico Superiore ‘Vigna Valentina’ 2000
Garganega fermented in French oak. Intense lemony, slightly spicy nose with subtle toasty oak. Chunky, savoury palate falls off a little on the finish but is still attractive. Very good+

Bolla Soave Classico ‘Tufai’ 2001
Interesting nutty nose with a slight floral twist. Full but delicate palate shows a good concentration clean, fresh nutty fruit with a nice savouriness. Good balance. Very good+

Santi Soave Classico ‘Sanfrederici’ 1999
A blend of Garganega and Chardonnay that spends 6 months in Allier oak. Toasty oak on the nose meshing well with the herby fruit. Very savoury, modern palate with nutty, toasty edge to the crisp fruit. A rich, well made style. Not typical, but still very well made. Very good+  

Suavia Soave Classico Superiore 2001
Very pronounced herby nose with lifted acidity. Palate is attractive with good balance between the lemony fruit and herby notes. Good acidity. Very good+

Sartori Recioto di Soave 2000
Interesting stuff, this. Gold colour. Attractive lemony/herby nose. Rich palate has an unusual herby edge with lots of sweetness and a rich texture. Very good+

Ca’ Rugate Recioto di Soave ‘La Perlara’ 1999
Unusual nose with lifted acidity and sweet caramel and herb notes. The palate is very rich and sweet with a rich, viscous texture. Syrupy, with relatively low acidity. Very good+

Bertani Sereole Soave Classico Superiore 1999
Warm, rounded, forward nose shows lovely nutty, waxy fruit with a toasty oak edge. The palate is attractive but very oak dominated with sweet vanilla character. Very good+

Pasqua Soave Classico Superiore ‘Sagramoso’ 2001
Crisp, fresh and a bit neutral. Simple clean fruity style. Very good

Sartori Soave Classico Superiore ‘Vigneti di Sella’ 2001
Three months in medium toast French oak. Some restraint here: good lemony fruit with a slight toasty edge and good acid. Very good

Azienda Agricole Prà Soave Classico Superiore 2001
Bright, crisp lemony fruit dominates with a slight toasty edge and some waxy notes. Attractive if a little simple. Very good

Bertani Soave Classico Superiore 2000
Herby, cabbagey nose. Good concentration on the fruity, rich palate. Nicely savoury. Very good

Carlo Bogoni Soave Classico Superiore 2001
Bright fruity herby nose with a mushroomy edge. Mouldy tasting palate. Two bottles were consistent. Not obviously corked though.

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