The Italian white wine, Soave, hasn’t got the best of reputations: thin, acidic, cheap and nasty would be common descriptions – and, for some examples I have tasted, I would say that description is entirely justified. So, why would I choose to open a bottle to accompany a starter of pan-fried scallops in ginger and garlic on a special occasion recently? The answer: the majority of Soave you see on supermarket shelves is in no way typical of the flavours and quality of true Soave.
To find the good – I might even say great – bottles of Soave, firstly, you need to look for the word ‘Classico’ on the label. Let me explain.
Like many of Italy’s famous name wines, Soave has suffered from its fame. Many years ago, producers outside the area originally designated as Soave started to use the name illegally. Sadly, the authorities did nothing to stop them and the practice spread until, eventually, Soave had expanded to 3 or 4 times its original area onto flat land completely unsuited to producing quality wine.
Eventually, the producers in the original area decided they had had enough and protested. Yet, with a true Italian compromise, the authorities simply confirmed the use of the name Soave in the wider area. The one concession – and a very important one – was that those producers in the hills that formed the original area were allowed to add the word ‘Classico’ on their labels. Which makes that word key to finding the best Soaves. The same word is important for finding quality in a number of other Italian famous names – Chianti, perhaps, the best known of all.
But, back to Soave, and, for me, some of the best of the Classicos come from the producer, Pieropan. Their top bottling is La Rocca (around £20 but worth it) with wonderful – almost white Burgundy – richness. But, even their entry level wine, simply labelled Soave Classico (Avery’s £13.99), is a real treat and it was this that we opened – and loved – on our special occasion.
Yes, you pay rather more for a good Soave but isn’t life too short to drink ordinary wine?