The go-to white for fans of the fresh and food-friendly.
By Monica Larner
From its hilltop location, the Castello di Soave and its crenellated towers boast commanding views of the vast flatlands east of Verona in northern Italy. Like other examples of medieval military architecture, the castle’s central tower occupies its highest point and is surrounded by multiple layers of walled protection that drape down in elevation and outward in circumference. At the summit is a fortified wall that encases the precious keep, designed to protect a mere handful of occupants; midway on the hill, there is a tight protective barrier; and at the foot of the castle is the outermost defensive wall, which skirts the perimeter of the sleepy town of Soave.
The Castello, a postcard-perfect symbol of the town, is also a compelling metaphor for the eponymous white wine that put this tiny corner of Italy on the world enological map.
Arguably, more than any other Italian wine, Soave is characterized by a pyramid-shaped production philosophy that puts a rigorously limited number of family producers at the apex and large, commercially driven cooperatives at the base. Depending on your point of view, Soave’s class-versus-mass dynamic is either its strongest selling point or its biggest weakness.
“What we really have are two faces of Soave,” says Leonildo Pieropan, who runs the acclaimed Pieropan winery with his wife and two sons.
“Soave totals 16,400 acres of vines, but only 1,200 acres are in the hands of small family wineries. The rest belongs to big interests and cooperatives. We represent 7% of Soave production, they represent 93%.”
This fascinating juxtaposition is fueling momentum for this easy-drinking, food-friendly white. Soave is poised to regain its position as one of Italy’s most popular white wines.
An Easy Wine to Love
Soave is characterized by a small area of hillside production (under the Soave Classico denomination) that is surrounded by a large swath of flatlands for the production of Soave (without the word “Classico” on the bottle). Back in the 1970s and 1980s as Soave’s popularity grew in the United States, farmers pushed deep into those flatlands, planting grapevines along the way, in order to keep up with the staggering demand. Ultimately, so much Soave was made available that prices dropped and the wine became sadly identified as a low-cost, low-quality product.
Soave x 3
Although Soave is Largely known in the United States as a dry white wine, the region's winemakers also craf spumante (sparkling wines) and recioto (sweet wines made in the passito method).