Soave - A Veneto White Wine That Is Summer's Perfect Companion

Last month, I wrote about the white wines of Friuli because as summer approaches, many of us are on the lookout for tasty and interesting white wines. This month, I would like to continue talk about white wines from Italy, this time from their neighbors in the Veneto.

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The Veneto has several wines that are world famous including the sparkling wine Prosecco as well as the famous red wines of Valpolicella and Amarone. In fact, the Veneto produces more bottles of DOC wine than any other region in Italy. Unfortunately, not all of it is really worth drinking. But, there is also a plethora of well-priced and enjoyable white wines from this region worth buying and taking pleasure in. One white in particular will be discussed here: Soave (pronounced SWAH-vay). Soave is the third most popular Italian wine produced (after Chianti and Asti) and the most popular white wine of Italy. Soave is usually served dry but sparkling versions exist.

The Veneto is located in Northeastern Italy. It includes the cities of Venice and Verona and also the surrounding countryside. Just south of Friuli, bordered on the east by the Adriatic, the Veneto has a mountainous north and lower plains in the south. The Romans called this region Venetia that gave both the area and the city of Venice its names. During the middle ages, Venice became a major trading post that bridged the wealth of Europe and Asia.

No one knows for certain where the ubiquitous name Soave comes from. One theory attributes it to the famous Italian poet Dante in the 13th Century. Another theory says that Romeo drank it after a tryst with Juliet calling the wine “Soave”. In fact, the poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio is quoted as saying, “It is the wine of youth and love so that it’s not for me, since I am now loaded down with years and was ever a discreet lover. But, I drink it in homage to the past. If it can’t restore me to the age of twenty, it can at least reawaken memories of that time.”

Thirty percent of the DOC wine produced in the Veneto is Soave. Originally a narrow strip just east of Verona, the recognized geographical limits of Soave date back to 1926. With soils built on ancient volcanic ranges, the soil in the traditional area is mineral rich and well drained. The soils provide vines with little nutrients and the plants have to dig deep to find water. The grapes, especially Gargenega, also tend to ripen later, giving them plenty of time to slowly reach maturity. It is the vines struggle to produce fruit, putting all of its effort into a limited amount of grapes, that creates quality wine in traditional Soave as in the rest of the world.

Soave obtained official DOC status in 1968. That classification was both a blessing and a curse for this region. The demand for Soave in America and internationally was increasing. In restaurants and supermarkets, Soave is an easy name to remember when buying. One large producer, Bolla became quite successful in the American market producing inexpensive Soave. Other producers quickly followed suit. Many of these larger producers exerted pressure to increase the recognized geographic limits in the zone in order to meet demand. The vineyard areas spread into the more productive (but less quality for wine) fertile areas. More than 10,000 acres were added to the original Soave zone. In addition, many producers in search of quantity at any cost increased mechanization to increase the yields from the grapes.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.