I was very fortunate to attend The Colors of Soave Master Class and Luncheon with enologist Giovanni Ponchia and MS Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine. The event was sponsored by the Consorzio di Tutela del Soave and held at The Boarding House Chicago owned by MS Alpana Singh in Chicago. It was so much fun and information packed.
The Soave DOC is found in Northeast Italy in the Veneto wine region. The town of Soave is only 12 miles east of Verona. The Classico zone where most of the crus are found runs roughly west to east on the hillsides from Soave to Montforte d’Alpone.
The presentation by Evan and Giovanni was excellent, entertaining and very thorough. When I went to check the Soave entry in Jancis Robinson’s The Oxford Companion to Wine, Giovanni was one of the authors of that entry. My four biggest takeaways of the day besides how delicious Soave can be, was 1) how ancient the noble garganega grape is, 2) that the Soave classico zone is as classic as Chianti 3) volcanic soils, volcanic soils, volcanic soils(and the diversity of the soils) and finally 4) the number of Soave crus (60 total, 46 in Classico, 11 in Colli Scaligeri, with 3 over-lapping) their complexity and aging potential.
The garganega grape (70% for Soave DOC), (listen here for how to pronounce it, thanks to Do Bianchi) is a very ancient grape that is indigenous to the area. Its been cultivated since even before the Greeks, with documentation in the 14th century noting the grape name. Soave Classico and Chianti Classico were the first two Italian wine producing areas recognized in 1931, as delimited geographical wine regions, due to their importance to the Italian wine market and their impressive popularity. Most Americans equate Soave to the Soave Bolla of the 70’s (go to the link for the golden age of “happy” commercials).
Lucky me, and all who attended, received this incredible book detailing the significance of volcanic soils in Soave and around the world created by Giovanni and Aldo Lorenzoni. They actually sent around a soil sample showing the calcareous soils of the flood plains, hills, and the red, black volcanic soils.
Studying Burgundy, I am learning about the significance of the different Jurassic limestone layers, like stacks of dishes, on all aspects of the grapes. If I took away one thing from this class is how the significance of the soils, calcareous and basaltic layers on garganega, differentiates the wines. This book is an incredible resource covering all aspects of the impact of volcanic soils on grapes around the world. One could ,also, say that garganega is a chameleon the same way chardonnay is. The flavors of the grape can change based on place and winemaking techniques. The blind tasting could have been called limestone versus basalt because the Soave region does have pockets of limestone. The calcareous soils produce wines that are floral, citric, linear and crisp with a stony chalkiness. I particularly noted the citrus and the floral. The basaltic soils produce wines that are riper, more stone fruits, weightier and richer with texture and minerality and longer aging potential. Then there are wines where grapes grow on a little of both.
Finally, we received (this class was very abundant in information!!) these fantastic maps with annotations on the 46 individual crus within Soave Classico . Giovanni talked about the crus during the presentation. Once I got home and opened the map, it was pretty fantabulous!! The detail on these maps was amazing: descriptions of the producers, crus, soils, and more. The map by itself is a physical example of the depth of the wines of Soave Classico.
We tasted 10 wines blind and then they were revealed. (A list of all these wines is at the bottom of this post) Evan provided tech sheets later on all of them. After the blind tasting we had a delicious lunch prepared by Chef Tanya Baker of The Boarding House. The food/wine pairings were perfect.
One of the notable things about The Boarding House is their wine bottle fixtures.
The heirloom tomato, peach and melon salad, chèvre, controne pepper and pickled kirby pears was paired with two wines: 2015 Cantina di Monteforte Soave DOC Classico Foscarino (100% garganega, volcanic soil, Foscarino Cru) stoned fruit, full body, hint of almonds on finish) and 2015 I Stefanini Soave Superiore DOCG Classico “Monte di Fice”(100% garganega, tufaceous substrate-volcanic ash, Costalunga Cru white flowers, peach, spicy crisp, salty note) . The seared halibut, parsnip puree, braised fennel and apple was paired with: 2014 Corte Moschina Soave DOC “I Tarai” (100% garganega, basaltic, Ronca Cru, ripe fruits, intense, full bodied and persistent, ABV 13%) 2013 Dal Cero Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe Soave Superiore DOCG “Runcata” (100% garganega, volcanic, Ronca Cru, Tenuta di Corte Giacobbe vineyard located on a plateau between 2 extinct volcanoes so the soil is rich in basalt and in grey and black tuff of marine origin, the vine age between 10 -70 yrs, acacia blossom, ripe fruit, dried nuts, warm, smooth and full-bodied).
Dessert was a fig and caramel cheesecake apricot streusel paired with absolutely delicious reciotos: 2014 Coffele Recioto di Soave DOCG Classico “Le Sponde” (100% garganega, Castelcerino Cru, dried fig, papaya, caramel, candied citrus), 2010 El Vegro Recioto di Soave DOCG Classico “Vigna delle Fate” (100% garganella, Monteforte Alpone, Monte Foscarino, flowers, apricot, acacia, caramel).
In the blind tasting, the biggest thing I noted was a huge differentiation based on the soil, the limestone based wines were definitely more citrus, flowers and the volcanic more stone fruit and almonds.(the notes are a combination of mine, notes from the class and the tech sheets)
- 2015 Latium Soave DOC “Campo Le Calle” 100% garganega, calcareous soil aroma apple, white flowers, citrus, palate peach, hint of exotic fruit, mineral tones
- 2015 Vicentini Soave Superiore DOCG “Il Casale” 100% garganega, mix basalt and limestone, stronger aroma of white flowers, palate, fuller bodied, almonds on the finish
- 2014 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Soave DOC “Monte Ceriani” 100% garganega silty clay loam with tufaceous (volcanic ash), aroma citrus, finish note bitter almond
- 2014 Rocca Sveva Soave Superiore DOCG Classico “Castelcerino” calcareous rock, very floral, palate crisp, longer finish bitter almonds
- 2015 Gianni Tessari Soave DOC Classico “Monte Tenda” 80% garganega, 20% trebbiano di soave, limestone, white flowers, ripe stone fruits, more textured wine, nice acidity, lighter note of almonds on finish
- 2015 Cantina del Castello Soave DOC Classico “Pressoni” 80% garganega, 20% trebbiano di soave, clayey basalt, flowery, hints of peach, elderflower
- 2015 Bolla Soave Superiore DOCG Classic “Tufaie”85% garganega, 15% trebbiano di soave, marly, tufaceous soil, elderflower aroma, stone fruit palate, 13%abv
- 2014 Gini Soave DOC Classico “La Frosca” 100% garganega, volcanic, left on lees for 8 months in steel then in small 228 liter barrels
- 2012 Montetondo Soave DOC Classico “Casette Foscarin” 90% garganega 10% trebbiano di soave volcanic soil, aged in barriques, fruity hints of honey and vanilla, smooth mouthfeel
- 2010 Sandro De Bruno Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Piero” 100% garganega, volcanic soil, fermented in oak, ripe tropical fruit, full bodied, more textural, well balanced
- We did not blind taste #11 but we did taste a NV Cantina del Castello Soave DOC Spumante Brut 90% garganega, 10% trebbiano di soave, vineyards have both basalt and limestone, charmat
When I went through my classnotes (Davide Carron’s class) from the Italian Wine Specialist course on the Veneto wine region, (we covered the Veneto in 1 1/2 hours all 14 DOCGS) my notes for Soave were “vino del paesaggio” (wine of the landscape) and “cannot generalize, have to know the producers” which now makes even more sense after this master class and realizing the diversity of the soils and hills.
It is a wide wine world and after this class the wine world got bigger. I did leave with a completely new understanding and perception of delicious Soave!!