Posts Tagged Pieropan

Soave and sophisticated: the Italian white wine that’s bouncing back

First published in The Irish Times, Saturday, October 5th, 2019


The imposing Castello di Scaligeri towers over the medieval walled town of Soave, whose narrow streets run down the mountainside on to the plain below. It is a beautiful and vibrant place, well worth a visit if you are in the area. The vineyards surrounding the town and stretching into the distance are used to make Soave, one of Italy’s best-known white wines.

There are two very different kinds of Soave, however. The grapes used to produce Soave Classico grow on the slopes beside the castle and high on the opposing hillsides. On the plains below you will find the vines used to produce simple Soave. There is a world of difference between the two. The top wines of Soave Classico stand comparison with the finest white wines of Italy and elsewhere. With a few exceptions, most basic Soave is at best a pleasant, simple, lightly fruity white wine.

Soave lies east of Verona, an hour or so from the shores of Lake Garda. In the late 20th century the area expanded to include many inferior vineyards. The primary grape here is Garganega, although others are permitted, including Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. If allowed, Garganega can produce very large yields, which in turn lead to some very dilute, flavourless wines. During this period many producers also planted the high-volume but inferior Trebbiano Toscano.

For several decades one or two large companies and the enormous local co-operative exported large quantities of these insipid wines to the United States and northern Europe with great success. It didn’t do much for the image of Soave. Consumers moved on to more exciting, better-made wines from the New World. Happily, things are changing. There always was a small coterie of producers who remained focused on making high-quality wine; they have been joined by a group of younger, more ambitious growers.

Even though inexpensive Soave can be a little watery and lacking in flavour, frequently I find them inoffensive compared with other cheap wines. Tesco, Lidl and Aldi all have decent examples for between €5.99 and €10.

Good Soave Classico can be divided into two rough camps: crisp and zesty, or a richer and broader style. Either way, they should have an energy, a vibrant character that makes them very attractive. They are low in alcohol, and usually unoaked, and so make an ideal alternative to Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Cantine Pra (, €20.50), Inama and Gini are also worth seeking out. Soave is a great sipping wine, as well as being the perfect partner for all sorts of shellfish, seafood, salads and lighter creamy pasta dishes.

Soave Classico “Costeggiola” 2017, Guerrieri-Rizzardi
13%, €15.45
A very attractive, slightly richer style of Soave, with broad honey and apple fruits, brought to life by a fine vein of crisp mineral acidity. Try it with seared salmon or with scallops.
From O’Briens,

Soave Il Selese 2017, I Stefani
13%, €18.50
A vibrant crisp, dry Soave, with clean citrus and apricot fruits. Perfect on its own or with grilled white fish or lighter pasta dishes.
From Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, and Galway,;; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8,

Soave Classico 2017, Suavia, Organic
12%, €22
Light and refreshing, with enticing floral aromas, and fresh, lightly textured pears, finishing bone dry. The perfect aperitif, or with all kinds of antipasti.
From Sweeneys, Dublin 3,; D-Six Wines, Dublin 6;; Kellys, Dublin 3,; Drinkstore, Dublin 7,; McHughs, Dublin 5,

Pieropan Soave Classico 2018
12%, €22.99
The Pieropan single-vineyard Calvarino is amazing, but this “basic” Soave Classico is a glorious, elegant wine with a lightly floral nose, intense lemon zest, pears, and almonds, finishing long and dry. Solo, with melon and prosciutto, or any plain shellfish dishes.
From Ely 64, Glasthule, Co Dublin,; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4,; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3,; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, Co Kildare,; Fallon & Byrne, Dublin 2,; Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin,; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, Co Dublin,; Kellys, Dublin 3,; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow,; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3,; Corkscrew, Dublin 2,; McHughs, Dublin 5,; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin;;

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This year, I intend going magnum where possible on Christmas Day. See below for the plan, and please excuse the poor image.


Bollinger Special Cuvée (Magnum)

For many years, I received a magnum of Bollinger every Christmas from the late Pat Byrne, a friend and colleague in the wine trade. He is greatly missed. The magnum was my fee giving a wine talk to the members of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, a very nice bunch of people. I would put the magnum away for a year, sometimes two, before opening it up on Christmas morning. This is my final bottle, so I will drink a special toast to Pat, who loved his Christmas dinner. The Champagne should be pretty good too.

Calvarino 2013, Soave, Pieropan (Magnum)

I have been eying this up in my local wines shop, La Touche Wines for the last year or more. I am a huge fan of Pieropan, one of the great white producers of Italy, and have a number of bottles of Calvarino stashed away; it matures beautifully. This one won’t get the chance to age gracefully. It might be a bit light for the seafood – prawn salad I think, but I doubt it. In any case, it will be light and elegant with a mere 12.5% alcohol, keeping everyone sober for the moment.

Viognier de Rosine 2014, Stephane Ogier, Vdp des Collines Rhodanniennes

In case that isn’t quite enough, I will chill a bottle of this wine from Stephane Ogier, also responsible for the wine below. This is made from vines located just outside Condrieu, home to the greatest Viognier in the world, which explains its lowly Vin de Pays status. I have written about the wine before, and it appears in Wilson on Wine 2017. It will provide an interesting contrast to the Soave, although it has the same 12.5% alcohol, less than in most Condrieu.

Côte Rôtie 2010, M&S Ogier (Magnum)

Stephane Ogier is one of the bright stars of the Northern Rhône and 2010 a very good vintage. Possibly a little young, but I will decant it into my magnum decanter, which up until now, has only been used for mere bottles. This was a thank you gift a couple of years ago. I am really looking forward to this.

Clos des Papes 2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Magnum)

I am not sure we will need it, but I will have this standing up as a fall-back. A wine with an incredible reputation, from the amazing fine wine room at Jus de Vine in Portmarnock. I last tried this a few years ago down in Kelly’s Resort Hotel, at a tasting tutored by Vincent Avril, the owner of Clos des Papes, and brother-in-law of Bill Kelly. Back then it was very very good, but closed. We shall see.

Quinta do Noval 1970 Vintage Port

I intended opening up a bottle of Fonseca 1970 bought in the 1980’s, when I worked with Mitchell & Son, then located in Kildare Street. I think I have drunk two so far, but there is no rush with vintage port. However, I wasn’t able to get to my cellar, which is located in a (trustworthy) friend’s house, so I will open up this Noval 1970 instead. Some online reviews are very lukewarm, but we shall see. I have plenty of alternatives, including a few nice bottles of sherry.

Ch. Coutet 1989, Barsac (1/2 bottle)

I have a diminishing pile of ½ bottles of assorted Sauternes from my time in Searsons, so I intend opening up my last ½ bottle of this, to drink over a few days.


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