Tannic Panic! Issue #29: A Complete Idiot's Guide to Soave
Little canals, frosty Alps, Romeo and Juliet, OH YEAH, and Soave. JUST ONE MORE REASON TO VISIT THE MYTHICAL LAND OF VENETO.
We hope you’re all recovering WONDERFULLY from your respective winoplasties and came eager to imbibe a little early morning Soave content. And we’re just jumping out of our Jimmies to inform you that, AS IDIOT’S, we are uniquely qualified to deliver.
SO WHAT IS THIS “SOAVE” OF WHICH WE SPEAK?
Soave is an Italian white wine made primarily from Garganega grapes grown around the medieval village of Soave in Northern Italy. It is known for its melon-and-orange-zest flavors and its ability to improve with age (UNLIKE ME!). Soave is a dry, light to medium-bodied wine, often with a smooth, oily richness. It is typically made in one of two styles: a simple lean style aged in stainless steel tanks, and a rich, subtly nutty style aged in old wooden barrels.
Some of the most common flavors of Soave wine include peach, honeydew, citrus zest, sweet marjoram, and a subtle note of saltiness (LIKE ME!). Garganega wines also sometimes show notes of white pepper, which is often attributed to the presence of rotundone in the grape skins.
On the bottle, you may find the wine labeled as Soave, or Soave Classico…
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM?
The primary differences between Soave and Soave Classico lie in their geographical location, soil composition, and wine quality.
DID YOU KNOW… In general, the term "Classico" on an Italian wine label refers to the old, historic, original center of a region (i.e. the original classified land), and are often where the best wines of a region are produced. NEATO!
As such, Soave Classico is produced in the historic center of the Soave region, characterized by volcanic soil, while Soave is produced in the outlying flat plains with more loamy and clay soils. The volcanic soil of the Soave Classico region allows the Garganega grape to express her true “terroir” (whatever the f*ck that even means these days), resulting in a more textured, concentrated wine with a healthy dose of fresh acidity. The volcanic soils have low water retention and low fertility, resulting in relatively small, intensely concentrated grapes that are high in acid.
The Veneto region of northeastern Italy (where the humble Soave DOC region is located) is also home to the more renowned Valpolicella region, best known for producing rich, full-bodied red wines from Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, MADE FROM SHRIVELED LITTLE RAISINS (more on that in a future post). Veneto is a heavy-hitter in the Italian wine scene, with both Valpolicella and Soave producing ‘must-try’ wines for all of you well-informed Tannic Panic worshippers and your thirsty little families.
WHY IS SOAVE A GREAT SOURCE OF VALUE?
Cause it’s good and it’s cheap (LIKE ME!)
This is largely due to 2 factors:
It’s not an incredibly well-known style of wine or grape, so in spite of its long history and generally good quality, demand is relatively low, making these wines very affordable.
Garganega is a high yielding grape variety and Soave is made in a style that isn’t inherently very costly (no new oak barrels, or inability to mechanize harvest). In areas at higher altitude on steeper slopes, where yields are lower, the quality and the cost do run higher, but nevertheless remain very well priced.
And thus Soave proves to be an EXTREMELY good source of value for your depleted little wallets and your parched little palates.
DID YOU KNOW… The unpretentious white wines of Soave are intimately linked to the magical little city of Verona, the setting of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In fact, Soave was chosen as the official wine for the “Verona in Love” event, held under the iconic “balcony” in Verona, made famous by the great William Shakespeare himself.
… AND NOW FOR THE REVIEWS (IN ORDER OF PRICE):
Profile: Grapefruit, lemon, lime, honeydew melon, pear and elderflower.
This bottle shows citrus fruits, melons and pears, with some floral notes. The finish is nice, and overall it is well balanced. Where it falls a little short of some of the better examples is simply in concentration of flavors and complexity.
What’s interesting about this example is that we have a Soave Classico, which would typically be on the higher end of the cost spectrum and of a higher quality than bottles labeled as the broader Soave region, yet this is both the cheapest bottle we tasted this week, and among the lowest scoring (though still very enjoyable to drink!)
It is hard to know why for certain without gaining insight into the winemaking process, but a few reasons for this could be: 1) the grapes used for it come from a lower quality site within Soave Classico DOCG that does not produce as concentrated flavors (lower value fruit), 2) the harvest and winemaking processes are more heavily mechanized (less human labor = faster and cheaper production, usually at the cost of selecting the best fruit or handling the fruit in a way that maximizes freshness), 3) the grapes used for this product line are the rejects from a crop otherwise used for a higher end wine.
Nonetheless, this wine is quite nice and is a certainly a solid entry into Soave if you really want a bargain.
$12 ($10.79 with mix 6)
Profile: Orange peel, honeycomb, elderflower, almond, golden pear
A real NEAT expression of Garganega, leading with orange peel and honeycomb, with hints of almond, elderflower and golden pear. Medium bodied and dry, with medium+ acid and a smooth finish. Really nice wine for the price.
$14 at Total Wine ($12.50 with mix 6)
Profile: Lime, lime peel, green apple, pear, blossom and crushed rock.
This one is a blend of Garganega with 20% Chardonnay, and it is the lightest bodied style of the bunch today. Comes with matching citrus fruit, green apple and pear notes, kept all the fresher by its minerality.
$15 at Total Wine ($13.50 with mix 6)
2022 Pieropan Soave Classico / 93 Points / $18 [VALUE PICK!!]
Profile: Citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime), marzipan, white pepper, papaya, golden apple, white flowers, sandalwood, wet stone
This review featured in last week’s Thanksgiving recommendations, and believe it or not, WE STILL RECOMMEND IT! Incredible flavor intensity and complexity for a white under $20, with fresh acidity and a delicious lingering finish.
We’re talking citrus zest of every kind, with some marzipan, papaya, and floral and spice notes. You can sip this one all night, with or without food.
Make sure to fill you cart to the brim with these next time you hit up Total Wine.
$18 at Total Wine ($16 with mix 6)
Profile: Pineapple, peach, lemon peel, mandarin orange, lime, wet stone and blossom.
Finally, we have our ripest style: the Ca Rugate Soave Classico. This one has some nice layers to it, with flavors of pineapple and peach intertwined with citrus notes of lemon peel, mandarine orange and lime. The supporting cast of wet stone and blossom really tie the room together. It’s medium bodied with a really nice finish that hangs out for a while. Cool beans!
$20 at Total Wine ($18 with mix 6)
Well, if those ain’t 5 UNREALISTICALLY drinkable wines for a bargain, I don’t know what are. Each carries a unique profile that illustrates the style of the region, and you can get each and every one of these bad boys at Total Wine (LUCKY YOU!).
Soave, Soave, Soave, Soave, Soave.
Until next time, HAPPY DRINKING PEOPLE.
Isaac & Zach
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