Soave (pronounced So-Ah-Vay) comes from northeastern Italy near the home of a much more widely known varietal you may have heard of — Pinot Grigio.
Despite being less popular in the United States, Soave – which literally means smooth – is actually one of the top-selling wines in Italy, right alongside better-known Italian wines, like Amarone and Chianti. Soave is produced near the Venice area and is made using mainly the Garganega grape, blended with a few other types of grapes.
There are three styles of Soave – dry, spumanti (sparkling) and recioto (sweet). Many wine critics believe that the best Soave wine is the Classico Superiore, which feature grapes grown on hillside vineyards. It accounts for about 20 percent of total Soave production. In order to be designated Soave, the wine must contain at least 70 percent of Garganega grapes, while the rest can be Trebbiano, Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco.
In Italy, Soave is an extremely popular export, with around 50 million liters a year being produced. In addition to the requirement of 70 percent Garganega grape, in order to be called a Soave, the wine must be aged for at least eight months and have a minimum alcohol level of 11.5 percent.
One of the reasons you may not be familiar with Soave is because the name has become somewhat lost in America. You will sometimes hear it called “Venetian White” or “Bianco Veronese” in wine shops. You also can find it listed as Soave, Soave Classico DOC or Soave Superiore DOCG. Most Soave wines cost between $15 and $25.
When it comes to the looks and flavor of Soave, the most common Soaves are a straw-yellow color, but sometimes almost green. Soave is known to be delicate and light, and often has a hint of almonds. When I drink a good Soave, I often think of perfume or flowers.
Most Soaves are low in acidity and have a slightly bitter finish, making them very unique to the wine world. Legend has it – though it’s impossible to confirm – that Dante, the famous Italian poet of the 13th century, gave Soave its name because of its mildness.
I have always recommended Soave as a before-dinner drink that you can serve with hors d’oeuvres or light soups. It also can go with light dishes, like simple vegetables, rice, pasta and foods of that nature. It pairs particularly well with a nice chicken salad, for example. Soave is best served around 48 degrees, so be sure to stick it in the fridge well before you want to serve it.
Several large Italian conglomerates are pushing to export more Soave to the United States as it has become more and more popular on the American palate over the last several years. So, expect to see more of this nice, floral and historical grape in the future.
Vic Poulos, owner Zin Valle Vineyards