The programme drawn up by the dynamic Soave Consortium to accompany the presentation of the 2016 vintage was a full one. Four days, of which two were devoted to the predominantly international press (Italian presence in constant decline) and two were for the public. Under discussion were pergola grown grapes with the relative guided tasting of twelve wines produced from autochthonous vines (not only Soave), volcanic wines and minerality, and high quality Soave wines of various vintages were tasted (always under the guidance of the those in the know). Seminars and tastings to which tours at companies within the territory were also added. Expert blind tasting (or discovery tasting, as some colleagues like to call it) with wines served by well-prepared sommeliers included, besides the 2016 harvest, about thirty wines from 2015, eight from 2014, a couple from 2013 and twelve Recioto di Soave. Soave does, in fact, offer a complex panorama and previewing one single vintage – always very precocious – is hardly able to provide the full picture. The decision to accompany it with other vintages was therefore a good one.
Located on the slopes of the Lessinia Mountains in the eastern part of the province of Verona, the Soave area, although relatively small, still records highly significant numbers since it is one of the most specialized and dense in Europe. Vine-growing in this area is traditionally and inextricably linked to the territory. The specialized vine-planted surface area has practically remained unaltered over the last one hundred years in terms of extent and, in fact, there do not seem to be any valid reasons for its enlargement. It is no coincidence that Soave, with its “vine-clad hills”, was the first Italian doc to obtain recognition as a “rural landscape of historical interest” and thus become part of the “National Register of rural landscapes of historical interest”.
As regards the afore-mentioned numbers, the area boasts 7,000 hectares of vineyards with over 3,000 active companies of quite varied dimensions; just over fifty million bottles are produced on average every year for a production chain value of 250 million Euros. About 75% of Soave wine is produced by cooperatives while the rest is in the hands of small and medium-sized producers. 20% of Soave is consumed in Italy while the remaining 80% is sold abroad (60% on the European markets – especially Germany, England and North Europe – and 40% on non-European markets, the most outstanding being America which buys 20% of non EU exports).
And now let’s take a look at the 2016 vintage of which we blind-tasted seventy-one samples (many companies did not take part in the professional wine-tasting although they were probably on the tasting tables during the days scheduled for public tasting, which we did not attend). The year recorded an ideal start for the vegetative phase of the garganega vines, which provide Soave’s main grapes, followed by a perfect May, an extremely wet June and a hot, rain-free, but not too dry, July. Rain fell quite regularly from the beginning of August so that the grapes were ripened beautifully by the harvesting time, delivering a vineyard with vegetative balance and healthy yet not excessively abundant grapes. The temperature differences during the final ripening period were optimal. In general, we found ourselves faced with wines of extremely similar qualities with some peaks of excellence. We will see: as still too few people know, Soave wine has a long life and expresses its best characteristics as the years unfold.
Our Top ten
Coffele Soave doc Classico Castelcerino 90
Exuberant in its fragrances, it inundates the nose with intense fruity sensations. A delicious mouth in terms of elegance, progression and effusion, real strength without heaviness, fresh and filtering, elegant and lengthy. An optimum test also for the Cà Visco with its good tension and righteousness, ideal as a regenerating drink.
A family-run certified organic company that extends over about twenty-five hectares. Founded in 1971 by Professor Giuseppe Coffele and his wife Giovanna Visco, it is now managed by siblings Alberto and Chiara. The vineyards are located at Castelcerino at an altitude of between three hundred and four hundred and twenty metres on calcareous and basaltic soils.
Pieropan Soave doc Classico 89
The bewitching expression of the fragrances, the light pace, whispered plot and innate ease derive further inspiration from a balanced harvest. The wine shows the structure and sap of a long-lasting white.
The Pieropan family is linked to Soave by an age-old tradition, but it was with Leonildo Pieropan, the founder’s grandson, that the name became famous the world over as synonymous of quality Soave. Nowadays, his sons, Andrea and Dario, are carrying on the tradition. The vineyards (sixty hectares) are distributed over the best positions of the denomination and include the outstanding crus Calvarino (volcanic soil) and La Rocca (calcareous).
Inama Soave doc Classico Vin Soave 2016 88
Evident impulse right from the nose with a vast expressive range, shimmering and never uncoordinated, well formulated development of the aromas. With a balanced gustative range and totally measured subtle purity, it expands in depth to the very end.
Giuseppe Inama founded the company in 1960 but his son, Stefano, and grandson, Matteo, are the current managers. About thirty of the sixty-hectare property are cultivated, predominantly with the pergola system, and mainly on Mount Foscarino (the view from their terrace is wonderful), on basaltic soils of volcanic origin.
Gini Soave doc Classico 2016 87
Clear fragrances, floral tones with an evident mineral-volcanic note. Full, rich yet balanced sip, profiled on a silhouette of rare elegance and purity. It closes with a typical hint of almonds which lingers on the palate for a long time. Give it time and it will surprise us even more.
The Gini family is continuing the tradition of Olinto, the patriarch, who, back in the 1950s, understood the importance of an environmentally-friendly viticulture. Nowadays, Sandro (oenologist), with his brother, Claudio, and son, Matteo, run an organic certified company on a total of fifty-five hectares (half of which are in the very best Soave Classico areas on volcanic soils). The pergola-style vineyards are between sixty and one hundred and twenty years old (some ungrafted).
Le Battistelle Soave doc Classico Montesei 2016 87
Limpid in its aromatic spectrum, the sensitive interpretation of this cru produced on calcareous soils is what makes it stand out. Gustative tension with a salty hint, it has an extremely vertical backbone and is bursting with tasty energy. The excellent integration of strength and nerve make it a winning wine.
Since 2002, Gelmino Bosco and his wife, Cristina, have been managing this small family-run company on just nine hectares. Steep slopes and heroic vine-growing characterize the work in the vineyards: Roccolo del Durlo, a cru at an altitude of 220 metres surrounded by woods, has monumental vines of over a century in age (some ungrafted).
Nardello Soave doc Classico Meridies 2016 87
Caressing, delicate, supple, with inviting fragrances of fruit and flowers. Not a scratch nor a dent, only a longing tenderness, accurate recall and subtle circumvention.
Daniele Nardello, an oenologist with experience in Italy and Bordeaux, has been bottling wines since 2000 (even though the company has a century-long history) assisted commercially and administratively by his dynamic sister, Francesca. The vineyards are located on Mount Tondo in Soave (calcareous soils) and on Mount Zoppega (basaltic and clayey) in Monteforte d’Alpone, for a total of fifteen hectares. The majority of the vines is between forty and fifty years of age.
Suavia Soave doc 2016 87
Complete and radiant structure. Powerful and dynamic, it persists right to the end thanks to its luxuriant citrine framework, closing with that typical almond note.
The current management is an all female, three-sister act with Valentina (oenologist), Meri and Alessandra, even if the company was founded by their parents in 1982. The fifteen hectares are all located at Fittà, in the Soave Classico area, at an altitude of three hundred metres on volcanic soils, with vines that have seen seventy-five summers.
Corte Moschina Soave Doc Roncathe 2016 87
A slightly tight but well designed nose (medicinal herbs, sage and white flowers). The taste is where it plays its best card: a thrilling attack, direct and enthralling in the development, and decidedly tasty right up to the epilogue.
A young and dynamic company founded in 1998 by Silvano Danese and his wife, Patrizia, that also provides work for their sons Alessandro (oenologist) and Giacomo. The main nucleus of the vineyards can be found around the Roncà winery, on soils of volcanic origin. The cru Tarai, with its sixty-year-old vines, is higher up.
I Stefanini Soave doc Classico Monte de Toni 2016 86
Ample, variegated and complex olfactory profile. Fascinating and structured, it pushes forward incisive with its tastiness and balanced tension.
Although the company was only founded in 2003, the Tessari family has been cultivating about fifteen hectares for generations, located in three different zones: Campo Selese (the foothill area near the winery), Monte de Toni and Monte di Fice (the latter two on volcanic soils with vines of between thirty and fifty years of age).
Balestri Valda Soave doc Classico 2016 86
Subtle, fragrant structure with floral and rocky hints. Tense and nervous development in the sip, with a fresh and lengthy impulse and a worthy closure.
Founded by Guido Rizzotti in 2000, this young company has already asserted itself. Assisted by his son, Luca (oenologist) and daughter, Laura, Guido owns thirteen hectares of vineyards located halfway between Soave and Castelcerino and surrounded by woods. The soils are calcareous, clayey and basaltic.