Posts Tagged Soave

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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Following on from Aldi last week, Lidl held a smaller tasting to highlight their forthcoming Italian wine sale. As per my comments on the Aldi wines, there were plenty of incredibly cheap, drinkable but unexciting wines, and a few worth trying out as well. The Italian Wine Sale, part of the ‘Italiamo Food Theme’ starts on 13th June and continues while stocks last. There are nineteen wines in total. In July, Lidl will also be introducing a range of craft beers from Ireland, the UK, and Belgium; I will post notes next week on these.


Soave Classico 2015 Corte Allodola

Clean fresh crisp apple fruits with a rounded finish. A very nice well-priced summer wine.


Gavi di Gavi 2014

Light fresh pear and stone fruits with a crisp dry finish. As with the Soave above, an inexpensive refreshing summer white.


Morellino di Scansano 2014

Ripe jammy, easy dark fruits. Juicy and very gluggable. Perfect with all sorts of barbecued red and white meats.

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Chianti Classico Riserva 2011

I have written about this wine before. I would hesitate to describe it as a classic Sangiovese, and I don’t know how Lidl find a Chianti Classico at such a cheap price, but the ripe rounded sweet cherry fruits are very seductive and this is an inexpensive crowd-pleasing wine.

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Barolo DOCG 2012

The most expensive wine at the tasting. This has some of the classic tannic grip and acidity of the Nebbiolo grape, along with some light savoury fruits. A little more fruit and it would be a good wine. As it is, this is an astonishingly cheap price for a Barolo, and worth trying out with grilled red meats if you are a Nebbiolo fan. But rounded and fruity it ain’t.

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Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

<strong>Rizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014</strong>

ImageRizzardi Costeggiola Soave 2014

Textured red apple fruits with a touch of honey. With hake, cod or salmon.

I wrote about Custoza last week; this week it’s better-known neighbour, Soave. Inexpensive Soave is often very watery to the point of tasteless. Pay a little more, and you get a lightly fruity crisp dry white. At the top end (€20+) there are brilliant wines, worth considering for a posh dinner with light shellfish dishes. The above wine is made in a richer style, which works really well.

Available from O’Briens

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St. Patrick’s Day wines

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? I am a little bored reading about Irish-related wines (some with highly dubious Irish connections) to drink on our national holiday. Instead two Italian wines that would go down nicely with any feast or celebration you may be planning.


Soave Gregoris 2014 Antonio Fattori

A refreshing crisp dry Soave with lovely plump pear fruits on the mid-palate. Great on its own, with lighter fish and seafood dishes, or, I reckon, with salads.

Available from On the Grapevine, Dalkey; Cabot & Co., Westport.

Soave covers all sorts of wines, from watery and flavourless to some of Italy’s greatest dry whites. This wine is probably somewhere in the middle; a good well-made wine with pleasant fruits. Antonio Fattori, who attended the wine weekend in Knockranny House Hotel a few weeks back, is a thoughtful winemaker. He also makes a pretty decent Pinot Grigio, and a few top-notch single vineyard Soaves. Sadly these are not available in Ireland for the moment.


Bucerchiale 2011, Chianti Rufina Riserva Selvapiana

A wonderfully expressive nose, a full, intense palate of firm dark cherry fruits and a long dry finish. The quality of the fruit here is excellent. Keep for a decade or decant and drink now with red meats.

Available from 64 Wine, Glasthule; Blackrock Cellars; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Michael’s, Mount Merrion; Mitchell & Son, CHQ and Glasthule; Corkscrew, Dublin 2;

Going a bit upmarket here, but it is our national day. I had the pleasure of visiting Selvapiana last week as part of a recent trip to Tuscany. The tasting was in a lovely slightly decrepit old house, with very old paintings, furniture and carpets. The estate has been in the family of Fransesco Giuntini since 1827 -he is related to the Antinoris and most of the other Tuscan nobility. Having no children, he adopted the son and daughter of the estate manager many years ago. They now run Selvapiana in an exemplary manner. The basic Chianti Rufina is usually fresh and delicious, and the Riserva Bucerchiale, from a single vineyard, one of the best-value top wines of Tuscany.

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