Soave, the premier white wine of Italy's Veneto region has gone through a lot of transitions over the past 40 years. It was once, thanks to the Bolla company, the cheap Italian white alternative wine to the ubiquitous Chianti in the straw bottles served in just about any US-based Italian restaurant. The Bolla company actually helped establish a brand image through its "Soave Bolla" advertising - a link to one of those 1970s commercials can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk_nhAFWEIg. Today, however, Soave is an altogether different wine and one that not only can be a crowd pleaser, but also shows tremendous quality.
Soave comes in many forms: "Classico," Superiore" "Recioto" and just pure "Soave." The first three of these designations represent the best Soave and were given DOCG status, Italy's top quality designation in 2002. The rules for making DOCG Soave underwent a change at this time with the result being a wine with more depth, structure and layers of flavor. Classico and Superiore come from the hillsides around the town of Soave, whereas basic Soave comes from the flatter higher volume and more fertile plains. Recioto is a sweeter style made from dried grapes.
The key component in Soave is the Garganega grape. This variety creates medium weight wines with crisp acidity and flavors of lemon, red and yellow apple, mineral and sometimes even a hint of almond. When Soave is made from 100% Garganega it is, in my mind, at its best. The wine is both a great sipping or cocktail drink, as well as a terrific accompaniment to everything from chicken and creamy pastas to just about any seafood dish.
Producers do have the option of adding up to 30% of either Chardonnay or Trebbiano di Soave (according to the Oxford Companion to Wine - this is the same grape as Verdicchio) in their wine. For me, these blending partners are O.K., but the wines lose some of their unique character. Some of the better producers to look for include Pieropan (who led the revolution to bring quality back to Soave production), Gini and Inama. All three of these producers currently have their 2010 vintage on the market and all show the great lemony- apple and mineral notes that makes Soave so appealing.
The overall improvement in Soave makes it a wine that deserves attention. If you have never tried it, what are you waiting for? If you have had it before try it again - you are likely to be positively surprised!