Soave is probably one of the most famous white wine DOC's in Italy. This wine is produced mainly using the Garganega grapes grown on the hills east of Verona, in the Veneto wine region of North eastern Italy. The wine became hugely popular in the second half of the 20th century, for its crisp dry fruity flavor and is often viewed as the white wine equivalent of Chianti.
Under the DOC Soave must be a minimum of 10.5% alcohol. The wine must be at least 70% Garganega, with the remaining 30% coming from the Trebbiano di Soave, also known as Verdicchio and Nestrano. Trebbiano Toscano may also be used, but must make up no more than 15% of the wine.
There is also a Soave Superiore DOCG, under which Garganega must constitute a minimum 70% of the wine, with the remaining 30% being made of the Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Trebbiano di Soave. Friulano, Riesling Italico, Cortese, Serprina and Vespaiolo are allowed to make up 5% of the blend.
Although the main Soave wines are still, a foaming Soave Spumante is also avaliable. The area also produces a sweet wine under the Recioto di Soave DOCG. The grapes, and grape percentages, used to produce these sweet versions are still the same as the other Soave's, but the grapes are left longer on the vines to accumulate more sugars. The Recioto di Soave wines are a minimum 14% alcohol.
The huge popularity of these wines led to a drop in the quality of Soave wines, with many producers opting for higher yields, to the detriment of quality. This drop in quality slowly tarnished the reputation of winemakers. Recent concentration on quality instead of quantity has seen the production of some fine examples of this wine, which is hopefully on its way back to its former glory days.
Soave wines became hugely popular in the United States following world war II. It became the largest selling Italian DOC wine in the United states in the 1970, with sales of Soave wines even surpassing Chianti. The first area to produce these wines is known as the Classico zone, and was delineated by authorities in 1927, encompassing 2720 acres (1100 hectares) of hillside vineyards within the Soave zone. Soave received its DOC in 1968. Over the next few decades the boundries were revised and expanded. 2001 bought the creation of the Soave Superiore DOCG. This DOCG, to the dismay of many winemakers, covered some of the Classico zone, and for no good reason, excluded other parts. These new DOCG rules dealt with vine training and other viticultural practices. Many winemakers resented the excessive interference, with some even voluntarily withdrawing from the DOC and DOCG, preffering to produce their wines under IGT designation.
The Soave production zone is in the eastern part of the hills in the province of Verona. The official zone for Soave wine production covers part, or all, of the communes of Monteforte d'Alpone, San Martino Buon Albergo, Mezzane di Sotto, Ronca, Montecchia di Crosara, San Giovanni Ilarione, San Bonifacio, Cazzano di Tramigna, Colognola ai Colli, Caldiero, Illasi, Lavagno and Soave itself. This production area was significantly expanded when the Soave DOC laws were drawn up, and it now covers about three times its original area. Wines from the original, 'classic' Soave vineyard area are distinguished by the title Soave Classico. Wines labeled as Soave Colli Scaligeri are from hillside vineyards whose terroir is considered superior but which lie outside the official Soave Classico zone.
The Soave production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that, over time, turned into sediment. The soil in the hilly “Classico” area is dark, stony and rich in minerals, while those on the flat lands tend to be more fertile, alluvial based soils.
Classic Soave wines tend to be light and fruity dry wines low in acidity. They are usually straw yellow in color, with hints of almond and gentle flowery aromas. They tend to have a very slight bitterness on the finish. They pair well with pasta, fish, shellfish, and vegetable risotto.