Forget the Summer of Love, as far as the Soave Consorzio is concerned they want UK importers and restaurants to be celebrating a Summer of Soave. In a bid to do for the Garganega wines what 31 Days of Riesling has done to the awareness of Riesling, the organisation has launched this year’s three-month campaign that sees extensive promotion in the on-trade. To see what all the fuss is about Peter Dean headed to the press launch in central London, tasted through the new 2018 vintage plus a selection of back vintages from the 20 Soave producers who are taking part, and came up with a shortlist that shows the range of styles that continues to make this a region to get excited about.
Now entering its 51styear the Soave denomination has had scores of recent improvements all aimed at elevating and creating awareness of premium Soave
Recently acknowledged as the first Italian rural historic landscape, Soave has held onto both hectares and market share in recent years through annual marketing initiatives such as the Summer of Soave campaign for 2019. Like its Veneto neighbours who are producing Prosecco Superiore, the Soave Consorzio are investing in this campaign and introducing new regulations in order to create awareness for the true character and quality of its authentic wines, and in so doing to promote itself as producers of premium wines.
Recent moves have included: the protection and promotion of the historic vineyards in Soave Classico; the introduction of an official Cru system; new bottling regulations to ensure traceability and compliance; and to develop a model of vineyard management to improve biodiversity and limit erosion.
The most recent change has been to regulate the percentage of the Garganega grape in blended Soave – insisting that it now be 80%
The quality Soave can achieve has been clearly evident at annual tastings in the past few years but the benefit that the regular Summer of Soave promotion does is to give these changes a focus.
At the Hari hotel in London the 2019 campaign was launched under open skies with an aperitivo feel, hell! one taster was even wearing sunglasses.
There were 36 wines from 20 producers who are participating in the promotion, with 15 of those already being imported into the UK, the other five looking for distribution. The wines ranged from ‘Telos’ or ‘natural’ wines from small, artisanal producers right through to large cooperatives. The quality was consistent but what this tasting really drew out was the variety of styles, down to a number of different vintages, but also the differences in terroir (particularly volcanic or limestone soil), winemaking styles, and variations in the blend.
Here are my pick of the wines tasted:
Soave DOC Classico Pressoni 2017, Cantina del Castello
Largely unknown in the UK compared to Japan where they already have a sizeable following, this small 13 hectare estate produces elegant wines that only see steel and are given extended ageing to add weight, complexity and texture. This starts with a lifted nose of lemon blossom and fresh herbs; the palate is lean, lemon and lime skin, extra texture, and a delightful finish. Elegant, clean, precise with real linearity. (Flint Wines)
Soave Classico Tovo al Pigno 2018, Corte Mainente
Another small estate with Davide Mainente, the winemaker, being tipped for great things. This wine is 100% Garganega grown on red and black volcanic soils in Pigno, on of the best terroirs in the central Classico zone. On the nose the fruit feels riper, more tropical; there is some complexity here and a sweetness in the bouquet. The palate is crisp, precise with a lively mineral edge, the fruit feels younger in the mouth than on the nose, the wine builds to a terrific citrus and almond finish. (Stone, Vine, & Sun)
Soave DOC “Corte Giacobbe” 2018, Dal Cero
From a producer who is recognised as being one of the pioneers and best exponents of high quality Soave, this was one of the youngest-tasting wines but which also, curiously, had a broadness on the palate too. The answer lies in the soil as with most of the region, in this case, impossibly steep slopes of volcanic rock-based soil. Citrus on the nose and then on the palate really precise, linear acidity, flavours of just-squeezed fresh Sicilian lemon, there is a weight also before it finishes on an almost not unpleasant sour note. Came alive with nibbles. (Swig)
Soave DOC Classico “Vigneti di Carbonare” 2016, Inama
Immediately very different from the preceding wines – bigger, broader, more complex and with a lot more depth. The reasons are the terroir: a complex mix of different basalts on a steep East-facing slope, the old low-yielding pergola vines, minimalist approach to the winemaking and 100% Garganega. The extra weight in the mouth and flavour profile makes it feel as though the wine has seen some wood but it hasn’t – it’s down to the single vineyard, a short maceration on skins, 12 months in steel and 6 months in the bottle. I tried it with truffled scrampled egg but matched with Asian cuisine and white fish would also be excellent.
Soave Superiore DOCG Classico “Ciondola” 2017, Cantina di Soave, Rocca Sveva
Cantina di Soave was one of the first social cooperatives in the region, formed in the 1930s, and starting this Rocca Sveva project in the castle in the centre of Soave that is tied in with wine tourism. Recognised as one of the best cooperatives in Italy, it was the first in the region to introduce a premium Soave and, because of its size has enough clout within the Consorzio to help elevate the region. Both of their wines tried had a distinctive lychee, fresh almond aroma that was very different from others tasted at the table. The palate was classic Soave – lots of fresh lemon, salinity, great pith-like texture and a long finish.
Monte Carbonare 2017, Suavia
Four daughters making distinctive 100% Garganega and Trebbiano on great single sites; while their 2018 Soave Classico was a delight with ripe oranges and lemons, this older vintage from Monte Carbonara has got that extra dimension – greater, stony texture, fine-grained tannin, complexity, depth of flavour, and a salinity that has you reaching for the bottle, repeatedly. Slightly floral on the nose, with notes of ripe orchard fruit, peaches and, of course, punchy citrus. (Bibendum)
Soave DOC Vecchie Vigne 2016, Tenuta Sant’Antonio
Sustainably farmed with some biodynamic practices, this single vineyard 100% Garganega alongside the Soave DOC Monte Ceriani, had such a bold, intense style, highly expressive of the terroir’s volcanic and limestone soils, aided by no added sulphites. Having been vinified for six months in French oak, this has got much greater complexity with aromas of ripe orchard and stone fruit, biscuit, bitter almonds mixing with a range of lemon flavours – rich Sicilian lemon, lemon oil – my tasting notes said ’50 Shades of Lemon’. Salty and savoury, very different and very enjoyable. (Carson & Carnevale)
Soave Superiore DOCG “Il Casale” 2017, Vicentini
This excellent expression is all about the limestone that gives the wine a distinct chalky texture. On the lightly floral nose, there are aromas of citrus and saline; the mouth is full-bodied and dry, a bit more breadth than the 2016 vintage which got a Tre Bicchieri from Gambero Rosso, but well balanced with it and a pleasing grapefruit pith finish.