Singing Soave’s Tune

I’d forgotten how good Soave can be. Yesterday’s tasting at Alta Cucina reminded me how far this Veneto white had come since the bad old eighties, when swallow-and-grimace versions were regularly served up at art openings and spaghetti-and-meatball eateries.

Back then, Soave tended to be flabby, dull, and lifeless. It would wet your whistle, but never inspire. Today things are different. Tasting through the dozen producers here was a good reminder that Soave can be a darn good, even inspiring wine.

That’s especially the case when its complex minerality shines through, as it did soaringly with the single-vineyard Soaves from Monte Tondo (called “Monte Tondo”), Le Albare (“Vigna Vecia”), and Corte Moschina(“I Tarai”), among others.

As one winemaker pointed out, the museum in Bolca, just north of Soave, has fossils containing tropical fish and marine plants. That sea-bottom past does wonders for wine, as does the volcanic soil and balsam rock found in the region’s hills, which roll northward from the town of Soave, a charming village of 6,000 residents overlooked by one of the region’s impressive gated castles.

Minerality and fruit concentration, particularly from old-vine garganega grapes: that’s the key to a Soave that’ll tempt you back, again and again. Look for long-time leaders like PieropanCoffele, and Suavia. And watch your store shelves for the above newcomers to the U.S. market. You’ll be surprised too.