Friday, February 22, 2008

Another Italian White: Soave

I finally got to try another Italian white wine: Soave. I bought a bottle of this last year, but traded it before I drank it for a Hungarian wine at a wine tasting. I've read several things about Soave that made me think this was going to be a hit or miss wine (it's developed a reputaion for being a mass produced table wine.) Reading through "Vino Italiano" gave me the impetus to get another bottle.

Soave is made in the Veneto region of North-Eastern Italy. (Click the map for a link to a much more detailed description of the Veneto. Map used by permission from Loris Scaglarini of WineCountry.IT. Thanks!) The famous city of Venice is located in the region, too, but the Soave zone is on the opposite side located close to Verona. This is a narrow band of hills that once were volcanos. The soil is mineral rich, but basically poor well drained soil that causes grape vine roots to have to tunnel deep to find nutrients.

Despite the great potiential for producing grapes full of flavor and balance, this region has the reputation for growing bland, mass produced wines. This is a result of growers maximizing harvests for production. The makers of the Soave I tried used to contribute their grapes to the bunches that went into the regions wines. The brothers who own Tamellini vineyards decided to produce a better wine from their own grapes. They hired a renown Italian wine maker and by 1998 started producing their own Soave. From reviews I read after I tried the wine, theirs is one of the better Soaves.

Soave's main grape is the Garganega grape (picture courtesy Hillary Stecbauer via Wikipedia.) When given the proper treatment Garganega can produce light wines with hints of wild flowers, lemon curd and nuts. Often the ratio in Soave is 70% Gargenega and 30% Trebbiano (aka, Ugni Blanc.) The Tamellini's wanted to make a Soave that showed off the Gargenega grape, so theirs is 100% Gargenega.

I have had no other Soaves to compare with, but the brothers did a great job. I couldn't detect any specific aromas, just the smell of a Chardonnay or even a beer! The flavors were more like a Chardonnay mixed with a Viognier, but I couldn't detect individual fruit flavors. There is a definite hop flavor, which is probably why I thought this wine smelled like a beer. This discription doesn't do the wine justice, because the flavor is nice: distinct from a Chardonnay, not like a beer at all. Maybe it's the minerality that makes it stand out from a Chardonnay. There was no oak (the tech sheet from the winery states that the wine is "100% stainless steel fermented and aged.) I'm not sure what food this wine would go with, but it's interesting that the tech sheet says it is the best wine to have with asparagus. Come to think of it, this wine would go great with a lot of Chiniese food dishes, especially asparagus beef.

Like I said earlier, this is my first Soave. I'm glad I got to try one that was 100% Gargenega and such a pleasant wine. It reminds me a lot of the Gavi wines I had several weeks ago. Next time we have Chinese food take out at my house, I'm going to try this wine. Let me know if you've had any Soave and what foods you like to drink it with. (Gargenega makes grape #47 in quest to join the Century Club!)

Tasting Notes:

Color: Golden yellow

Aroma: Chardonnay, beer

Taste: Chardonnay / Viognier cross, hops, a suggestion of nuts. Medium mouthfeel.

Finish: Slight tannins with almond like flavors and bitterness, but in a good way.

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