In the 1970s and 1980s, Soave was Italy’s marquee white wine. Crafted from Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil on the high hillsides near Veneto, the wines they produced were crisp, complex and far cheaper than most Italian exports.
When demand began to outpace supply in the late 1970s, producers scrambled and planted vines on the subpar flat plains, rapidly expanding the grape farmland from 3,700 acres to more than 16,000. Many farmers also stopped planting Trebbiano di Soave, replacing it with Trebbiano Toscano, a bland, boring grape that’s far easier to grow.
Soon diluted, uninspiring wine—along with some very corny commercials—flooded America. Sadly, this bottom-shelf image still lingers in many minds, despite the renaissance currently raging in Soave.
Today, the region’s top producers have gone back to the old ways: they only use the two original grapes, and are focused on quality, not quantity—the same tenets that helped seduce drinkers some 40 years ago.
The best bottles hail from Soave Classico, the original hillside vinyards. Here, the volcanic soil, high altitude and old vines all conspire to create rich, deep wines with floral aromas, creamy white-fruit flavors and mineral notes.
The best part: These top-shelf wines are a downright steal, at least for now.
5 Must-Sip Soave Classicos
(pictured left to right)
95 Pieropan 2011 La Rocca, $30
This stunning single-vineyard bottling delivers pressed yellow flowers, golden apples, citrus, melon and mango alongside mineral and toasted almond notes. Already delicious and well balanced, it will age beautifully. Drink through 2021.
94 Gini 2012 La Froscà; $25
Made from 55-year-old vines, it opens with enticing floral and mineral aromas together with a whiff of pear. The elegant, linear palate delivers golden apples, citrus, and white peach alongside almond and mineral. This wine is crisp and already delicious, but will age well. Drink 2015 through 2027.
92 Suavia 2012 Monte Carbonare; $33
Intense aromas suggest fragrant yellow flowers, exotic fruit, apple, white peach and melon. The juicy, fruity palate is accented with mineral, aromatic herbs and almond alongside crisp acidity. The wine features a lingering finish. Drink now through 2017.
89 Monte Tondo 2012; $15
This conveys aromas of tropical fruit, apple and lemon zest, all of which carry over to the bright palate, along with almond and ginger notes. Steely minerals signal the finish. Drink now through 2015.
88 Coffele 2013 Cà Visco; $18
Intense aromas of peach, honeydew melon and almond carry over to the round palate, along with juicy green apple. The wine’s ample weight and personality is balanced by bright acidity, which provides a crisp finish. Drink now through 2015.