Discovery of Soave Part 1: Look Forth and Back - Il Soave Preview 2013

SURPRISE! This is probably the best word to start with a new mini series about the wines of Soave! Why surprise? Rather easy to explain! Last week I have been invited to the Il Soave Preview 2013 by the Soave Consorzio Tutela. During this stay my inflationary use of this very expression in conjunction with Soave wines is reason enough! Alike not so few wine fanatics, Soave did not have the best of all possible reputations for me as well. Everybody knows why, I guess. Now, after my little trip to Soave I've learned that there is more to many wines from Soave than just the staggering beauty of the surroundings were the actual grapes are cultivated! Throughout three entire days I've tasted plenty of very well produced and sometimes even outstanding wines! In the forthcoming weeks I'd like to share some of my recent experiences in four short parts - or sometimes not so short parts like today - of my personal “Discovery of Soave”! 

Today, like the heading implies, I'd like to start with my favourite wines from the Preview 2013 tasting and some really interesting aged Soave Superiore wines. But first a short introduction of the region and its autochtonous offspring, the Garganega grape, is essential. I know, I know ... not really the favourite part for the majority of you guys out there. Don't get discouraged! I will try to keep my introduction as short as possible ...

Il Soave and its Garganega

Il Soave is located in the North-Eastern part of Italy just a few kilometers away from Verona and Lake Garda. In total Soave has a cultivated area of about 7000 hectares. The bulk are Soave DOC wines. The more quality orientated ares are located in the hilly areas around the cities of Soave and Monteforte d'Alpone. These hills are the home of Soave Classico DOC, Soave Superiore DOCG and Recioto di Soave DOCG. The predominant types of soils in these appellations are limestone, for example around the city of Soave, and decomposed volcanic rock around Monteforte d'Alpone and the connecting higher hillside areas. The requirements for the 1100 hectares large Soave Classico DOC are a minimum alcohol level of 10,5 %, yields not exceeding 14 tonnes per hectare and at least 70% of Garganega in all Classico wines. Besides Garganega up to 30 % of other varietals like Trebbiano di Soave, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay are permitted in Soave Classico blends. Similar restrictions in a more limited way apply to Soave Superiore DOCG and Recioto di Soave DOCG wines. Enough of this thrillingly dry information! What else to know about Soave? Right, I almost forgot the most important! The autochtonous offspring of Soave: the Garganega grape!

Garganega is an autochtonous white grape varietal widely grown all over Veneto. Outside Veneto there are only substantial plantings in Umbria, Friaul and Sicily. In Soave Garganega is predominately cultivated in pergola style. This traditional type of cultivation provides enough shadow and “chilling” throughout the hot summer months. The late ripening Garganega vine has a tendency towards vigorous growth and high yields. Therefore strict disciplining in various senses during the growing season is absolutely vital.

Look Forth – Il Soave Preview 2013

The Il Soave Preview 2013 tasting was held at the beautiful Coffele Estate in Castelcerino. For the sake of conciseness I'd like to limit myself to my two favorites from each valley resp. sub-region in Soave. All presented wines were Soave Classico DOC entry level wines from the vintage 2013 with retail prices below or just around 10 Euros. 

In the first months of the 2013 vintage the vines were effected by relatively cold temperatures (in late May highs of 9° C) and above average rainfalls. The rest of the growing season was mostly stable and the overall output in quality and quantity was regular. Apparently the 2013 Soaves Classicos tend to have slightly leaner body-structure, a bit less ripeness, more acid and sharper crispness than comparable wines from average vintages.

For the infrequent reader of my blog I would like to explain my admittedly rather questionable rating system. All following wines scored a so la-la *** to decent **** rating. On a common 100 points scale this could be translated to a score ranging from 84 to 87 points. All clear? I hope so! Enough of the technical blather! Now it is time for some Soave ...

Valle di Illasi

Marco Mosconi Soave Corte Paradiso 2013, Soave DOC

The Corte Paradiso is a 100 % Garganega from mostly calcareous and a bit sandy soils which was fermented and aged in stainless. Its colour showed downright bright yellow-green'ish reflexes. This very visual fact has been shared by quite a lot of the tasted Soave Classicos. The nose appeared relatively spicy, rather austere and not that fruitful. On the palate there were plenty of grassy-herb'ish flavours and quite a lot green fruit. Disciplined aromas of green apples, green lemons and most definitely green bananas played a major part besides a substantial tart herbal touch. The acid seemed to provide quite a lot of vitality. Overall a pretty serious, light-bodied and refreshing Soave Classico. For me something in between decent **** and so la-la ***.

Coffele Soave Classico 2013, Soave DOC

The Coffele Soave Classico is another 100 % Garganega from stainless. The grapes for this entry level wine come from mostly basaltic soils in Castelcerino. Its colour was even brighter than most other tasted wines. The nose was far from swarm'y or amenable. I got shy fragrances of anise, fennel, green apples and some stern'y blossoms. The tasted seemed mostly reserved. There were shy flavours of mildly candid lemons, almonds and distinct flinty characteristics as well as a few indications of salt. Again a serious, rather complex (for a "simple" Classico wine) and a bit more voluminous Soave Classico with decent **** qualities.

Valle Tramigna

Balestri Valda Soave Classico 2013, Soave DOC

The Balestri Valda Soave Classico is also a 100 % Garganega. This one is solely from Guyot cultivations in Monte Carniga, Sengialta and Campagnola. The soils types range from chalk, clay and all the way to basalt. Fermentation and maturation happened in stainless steel. Its colour was really pale and overall very light. The nose showed fragrances of hay-flowers, candied lemons, traces of elderberry and ripe green apples. A rather perfumed wine with ripe attributes. The taste was dominated by mild honey, aromas of dried fruits and showed minor resemblances of Panettone. Its freshness and finish was quite fine. The Balestri Valda was far more fruitful, less mineral driven and easy to access. For me something in between decent **** and so la-la ***.

Monte Tondo Soave Classico 2013, Soave DOC

The grapes for the Monte Tondo Soave Classico are originated in calcareous areas of Monte Tondo area. Once again a 100% stainless Garganega. Its nose showes distinct fragrances of apple seeds, green apples, some moist cellulose, plenty of grass, a few almonds and some mild spiciness. On the palate there were rather bold aromas of gooseberries, green apples, some pickles and a few resinous flavours. For an entry level wine it was able to show quite a lot of substance and power. Right now it appears a bit out of balance and almost a bit too chubby. I am quite certain though: there is potential for more evo ahead. Right now more of a so la-la *** wine.

Valle d'Alpone

Casarotto Vigne di Fittà 2013, Soave DOC

The Casarotto Vigne di Fittà is a 100% Garganega wine from vulcanic soils in Fittà area. The fermentation of the skinless grapes took place in stainless steel vats. The colour of the wine wasn't far away from white. The nose seemed restrained, delicate, rather herbal, a bit flowery, slightly smokey and relatively herbaceous. To me a far different and more earnest nose. The taste was as restrained as the nose might have predicted it. It was pretty dense for a Soave Classico, slightly nutty, gently piquant and overall pretty mellow. There weren't too many expressive fruit flavours. Perhaps a few bananas and trances of elderberry. The acid seemed quite vivid and refreshing. This Soave Classico showed more seriousness and deeper qualities. I enjoyed it. For sure: decent ****.

I Stefanini Il Selese 2013, Soave DOC

The Il Selese Soave Classico is a blend of 90% Garganega and 10% Chardonnay. The vines were cultivated in guyot system on basalt soil. Fermentation and aging took place in 100% stainless. The bouquet was elegantly structured, filigree, showed very attractive scents of flowers, almonds, hawthorn, white peaches and some vivid freshness. The taste showed strength without being beefy or too bold. The aromas were dominated by elderberries, ripe green apples, mild white peach and an very well integrated elegant tartness. Overall very well balanced Soave Classico of decent **** quality.


Corte Moschina Evaos 2013, Soave DOC

The Evaos is a 100% Garganega which was grown on volcanic soils in Collinare di Roncà. The 25 day fermentation periode and 5 months aging took place in stainless steel tanks. Its nose showed fragrances of ripe gooseberries, green bananas and a whiff of cheeky spiciness. On the palate there was decent and refined strength, delicate saltiness, vivid freshness and expressive flavours of gooseberries, grass and very well balanced herbs. A certain resemblance to Sauvignon Blanc and its special crispness was pretty evident to me. A downright decent **** and perhaps not all too classic seeming Soave classico. By the way: the screw cap is a very good idea!

Marcato I Prandi 2013, Soave DOC

The I Prandi Soave is a blend of 90 % Garganega and 10 % Trebbiano di Soave. The vines were cultivated in Guyot style on volcanic and tuff soils. Maceration (for approx. 3 hours), fermentation and maturation took place in stainless steel. For a change, this Soave Classico showed a little bit denser colour. Its nose was dominated by fragrances of candied green lemons, white blossoms, mild smoke and hay. The character of the nose was far more resinous compared to the other tasted Soave Classicos. The taste show similar characteristics. It was well equipped with candied, very ripe and resinous flavours. Besides that a few appealing herbal aromas have done a good job as well. This ripe, lush and fruitful fellow was one of my favorites of the tasting. For me a decent **** Soave Classico. To a certain extent another not so classical Classico. Perhaps more of a lil' Soave Superiore ...

Other recommendable Soave Classicos 2013 were the elegant, floral and refreshing Corte Tamelini Soave, the sturdily vivid, slightly smoky and a bit honeysuckle'ish Gini Soave Classico, the bold, expressive, mineral-driven and pretty much dissimilar Inama Soave Classico, the blossomy and nose indulging El Vegro Soave Classico, the more body-conscious and Chardonnay softened (approx. 30 %) Guerrieri Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave Classico and of course the beautifully fruitful, surpisingly soft and overall nicely balanced Pieropan Soave Classico. All of them showed more or less decent **** qualities and distinct characteristics.

Look Back – Aged Soave

Believe it or not! Soave, in particular Soave Superiore, can age quiet well! I suppose I would've believed a couple of days ago myself. I am delighted to write: Well, opinions change. And that is good! In general I'd still suggest to drink entry level Soave Classico within one or two years after release. But there are wines with a certain long range perspective. During my stay in Soave I had the opportunity to taste quite a lot of well aged Soave Superiore. Here are some nice examples:

The oldest Soave I've tasted was the Gini Soave Classico Superiore 1984. Luckily it wasn't that heavily effected by oxidation (certainly quit a lot of varnish), it had a lean and fragile body, showed traces of bananas, some undefined spices and its acid seemed a bit retired - however still present. I am very much sure this wine had seen better days, well after all 30 years is quite a lot, but it wasn't dead at all. The Gini Soave Classico Superiore 1996 presented itself totally different. I am sure was produced in a different way. The strong and aged oak flavours were downright evident. Besides that it showed a lot of beef and weight, very ripe fruits and plenty of oxidation. I guess, this one was too extreme for me. I enjoyed the 2007 version of the Gini Soave Classico Superiore much more. This one wasn't that influenced by oak. It still showed very nice aromas of yellow apples, saltiness, some sweeter spices like (cinnamon and cloves) as well as traces of tart flavours like fresh cut twigs etc. and a relatively crisp structure. I very much enjoyed this one.

The Cantina del Castello Monte Pressoni Soave Classico Superiore 1999 showed plenty of fitting varnish, ripe fruit flavours of bananas and a bit pulpy apples, a lot of resinous characteristics and a suitable influence by oak. Its body was tight and slightly sturdy. The Cantina de Monteforte Soave Classico Superiore 2005 showed very well integrated oak flavours, too. Compared to the Monte Pressoni it showed more vitality, more fresh seeming fruit flavours, more density, typical resinous characteristics, more roundness and a overall softer texture. The biggest surprise of the evening was Portinari Ronchetto Soave Classico from the indeed questionable vintage of 2003. Apparently some producers had been able to cope with the hot and dry vagaries of nature. The Ronchetto was really salty (in combination with some seaweed), spicy, pretty consistently complex, full with unostentatiously ripe and convincing fruit flavours and a very suitable tartness. Even the colour was kind of lush and vibrant. It kinda reminded me a little bit of Islay Whiskey without "excessive" alcohol. A complex and positively challenging expirience indeed! Me likey!

In Part 2 of my personal "Discovery of Soave" I'd like to tell you a little bit more about my visits to Cantina Filippi in Montecerino, Le Battistelle in Brognoligo and Azienda Agricola Sandro de Bruno in Roncà.

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