Soave: Italian Wine Basics
Italy is a country formed by 20 administrative regions, among which a plethora of DOC and DOCG areas can be distinguished, often overlapping one another across regional boundaries.
Despite this, there are three administrative regions that produce so many quality wines that became kinds of wine regions, too, and they are Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto (though, Sicily and Friuli-Venezia Giulia are rising as well).
In Veneto, there are two main poles of wine production: Conegliano and Valdobbiadene area, where they produce Prosecco sparkling wine, on one hand, and, on the other hand, the province of Verona, where they… well’ it’s a little more complex, that’s why some WSET students tend to make confusion about the wines produced in this area.
If we use the word “region” to state both an administrative area and a wine region, then we should invent the expression “wine province”, because in the administrative province of Verona a variety of typical wines are produced, among which four DOCGs: two red wines (Amarone Della Valpolicella and Bardolino Superiore), one white wine and a sweet wine “derived” from it, and namely they are Soave Superiore and Recioto di Soave.
Soave is a small town with a fascinating medieval castle 20 kilometers as the crow flies to the east of Verona, but this word, to Italian speakers, also means “pleasing”, “delicate”, “gratifying”. And so wines from Soave are.
Soave Superiore DOCG
Soave is a white local wine mainly made of Garganega grape variety, which is typical of Italy, being spread more or less all over the country, where it takes different names (for instance, Grecanico in Sicily), and has shown to have a close genetical relationship with many other Italian autochthonous varieties.
The mandatory minimum quantity of Garganega in the production of Soave wine is 70% and only other local typical varieties can be added: they include international, non-autochthonous varieties traditionally grown in the area, like Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, and local Trebbiano di Soave.
Soave is a DOC Wine
Soave Superiore is a DOGC wine which basically is a “more typical”, “better” version of Soave. Ampelographic basis remains the same, while the area of production is limited to certain municipalities, and namely: Soave, Cazzano di Tramigna, Colognola ai Colli, Illasi, Lavagno, Mezzane di Sotto, Montecchia di Crosara, Monteforte d’Alpone, Roncà, San Giovanni Ilarione, and San Martino Buon Albergo. Only local typical growing systems are allowed and the yield is reduced.
Soave Superiore DOCG can only be marketed after September the 1st of the year after its harvest.
Recioto di Soave DOCG
Recioto di Soave is a sweet straw wine made from the grape varieties used in Soave Superiore and produced in the same area.
Its name comes from the word “recia”, meaning “ear” in the local dialect. The “ears” of the bunch are its “wings”, in other words, the upper, sparser part of the cluster, in which grapes better mature in the sun.
Bunches are left dry on special lattices for about 20 weeks, after having been chosen carefully, with stalks removed. Then, they are pressed and left slowly fermenting, to let part of the sugars contained in must remain in the wine, instead of being turned into alcohol by yeasts.
As it happens with Soave Superiore DOCG, Recioto di Soave DOCG can also be marketed only after September the 1st of the year after its harvest.
Is Soave a Sommelier Wine?
In the past, this wine has been derided as lower quality and high-volume wine. While that reputation still mars its acceptance in the finer restaurants, the wine itself can be phenomenal. Some producers are offering amphora-aged bottles, and other winemaking purists are making biodynamic single-vineyard offerings. Despite its former bad reputation, Soave is making a comeback with Master Sommeliers and others. Come back and read more of our Italian Wine Basics series.