Last time, I blogged about looking for interesting and different flavours from lesser-known regions and rare native grapes. Today, I’m going to the other extreme and focussing on one of the most famous white wines of Italy: Soave. Made mainly from the local Garganega grape in the north-east of the country, you will see bottles of Soave in every supermarket, often at rock-bottom prices – £5 and below is not unusual.
So why would I pay more than £20 (Wine Society, £21.50 to be precise) for a bottle of Soave? And why would I choose a Soave when I wanted a special bottle for a particular anniversary of ours? Well, as you might guess, the bottle in question – Pieropan’s Calvarino Soave Classico – is no ordinary Soave.
Yes, it does have the crisp, fresh acidity that is one of the trademark characteristics of Soave, but there the similarity ends. Calvarino – named after the vineyard from which all the grapes are harvested – is altogether a much richer, fuller flavoured wine, tasting of peaches and almonds, with a delightful floral nose full of hints of pear and honey.
So, what makes this wine so different from others with a similar name? Soave is one of a number of Italian wine regions (Chianti being the most famous) which have (mistakenly, in my view) allowed the area in which the wine can be made to expand over time. Most of the newer plantings are on flat, fertile land where the emphasis is on volume and meeting supermarkets’ basic price points. The result is the fairly bland, high acidity wines that Soave has become known for.
Better quality examples will have the words ‘Soave Classico’ on the label. The ‘Classico’ is important as this shows that the wine is made from grapes grown in the original area – the craggy hills close to the town of Verona where the vines are older, tending them is more challenging and the grape yields are much smaller.
There are several very good Soave Classicos – admittedly not all costing £20 a bottle – but, for me, this is the best of them and, to celebrate a special anniversary, I couldn’t think of a better choice.