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Vinformation – Feeling Soave?

Saturday night is usually pasta night chez Songbird and when it’s the seafood variety it gives me a chance to reacquaint myself with some of the delicious Italian whites from my portfolio. There’s plenty on my list to keep things interesting for me but there’s one wine that makes an appearance on these occasions more than any other and that’s Pieropan Soave Classico.

So let’s talk about Soave. I’ll never forget buying my first bottle of wine from this region. It would have been circa 1992 and it was a 1 litre bottle from my local Sainsbury (other supermarkets are available to sell ropey wine) and probably cost about £3. So with price and name ( “Suave innit?”) it was a done deal. The less said about my sophisticated days of youth the better, but that was pretty much the way we saw Soave back in the 1990s – cheap, gluggable, Italian plonk served up in bumper sized bottles to get stuck into at a barbecue. My next introduction to Soave came around eight years later on my first day working at Jeroboams.  It was in the form of a bottle from a producer named Inama and I had never tasted anything like it. Fresh, nutty, vibrant and full of character, my previous conceptions of Soave were gone forever.

The town that gives this wine its name is in the Veneto region about 15 miles west of Verona. The main grape variety used here is Garganega – however some Soaves have a small portion of Trebbiano di Soave in the blend – and soils are mainly clay and volcanic. The best vineyards are found in the Soave Classico subzone and it’s here that grows the fruit that makes the delicious wines of Pieropan.

Now, ‘Iconic’ is a label that is liberally used these days (and the wine trade is as guilty as anyone) but I think on this occasion I can safely use this word to describe Pieropan’s Soaves. The wines are instantly recognisable due to their unique (for the region) fluted bottle, a shape more associated with German and Alsace wines, and are highly regarded around the world.

As delicious as the entry level white is, it is the single vineyard offerings that really make Pieropan stand out, particularly one called ‘La Rocca’. This vineyard gets its name from the medieval castle that sits adjacent to the vineyard and the soil is heavy in limestone which makes it quite unique for the region. The wine produced here is serious stuff and has great ageing potential. A few years ago I was lucky enough to get invited to a lunch at the River Café hosted by Andrea Pieropan and I had the opportunity to taste vintages of La Rocca that went as far back as the 1980s! I had no idea that Soave had the ability to age so well and these older bottlings were lovely. However it was the wines with 5-10 years bottle age that I enjoyed the most, probably as they still had some youthful freshness that harmonised beautifully with complex fruit flavours like mandarin and mango. La Rocca isn’t cheap at just shy of £30 a bottle but I think it is still good value when you consider how complex the wine is. It’s certainly worth tucking away a bottle or two of the latest vintage for a few years if you can. Alternatively treat yourself to a couple of bottles of the steely, minerally, entry level Soave Classico that’s ready and waiting to wash down your next crab linguine or spaghetti vongole.

2019 Organic Soave Classico, Pieropan, Veneto @ £15.50 – The flagship wine of the great Pieropan estate that’s now 100% organic. Marzipan, almond blossom, citrus and clean steeliness. Ages nicely too for up to five years after vintage but I prefer it with its youthful freshness.

2018 Soave ‘La Rocca’, Pieropan, Veneto @ £29.75 – A stunning wine that is probably the finest produced in the region. The golden yellow colour sets the pulse racing as does the expressive aromas of exotic fruit and nuts. This is wonderfully textured and the balance is perfection. The flavours are nicely nuanced on the palate and linger beautifully with a lovely minerality. Classy stuff indeed.

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