Italian whites are making a comeback, and not just because of hipster wines like Etna Bianco and Friulano. As a sommelier, I received just as many requests for Vernaccia and Gavi as I did Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Soave has been familiar to many white wine lovers since the 1980s, but with new energy and quality-mindedness surging in the region, they might be surprised by what they get when blindly ordering the Venetian white.
Soave wines can range from light to full, neutral to aromatic, and some winemakers even age their wines in new oak. One way to guarantee you end up with good juice in your glass is to pay attention to the producer. You can’t go wrong with a wine from the family-owned Pieropan estate, particularly the Pieropan “La Rocca” Soave Classico 2015.
Located about 30 minutes east of Verona, Soave is the most prominent white wine region in the red-dominated Veneto. Here, the region’s signature Garganega grape grows in a range of soil types, from volcanic basalt to marine, limestone, chalk, and clay. The best of these soils (and therefore, the best of the wines) live in the Soave Classico zone, the hilly regional heart from which the rest of the DOC expanded. Whereas many wines from this flatter, expanded area around the Classico zone can be pleasant but uninteresting, the best Soave Classicos have richness, texture, and plenty of complexity, like dry Chenin Blanc or Chablis.
The Pieropan “La Rocca” Soave Classico is a single-vineyard wine that is made entirely from Garganega, despite the fact that, legally, a Soave Classico may contain a small proportion of other white grapes like Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. Though much of the area is defined by the strip of ancient volcanic soil that runs through the Classico zone, the hillside La Rocca vineyard contains chalky clay soils. Aging the Garganega on its lees in large, old oak barrels for a full year produces a broad, golden-hued wine with subtle yet complex aromas. Tangerine, yellow apple, and raw almonds come through on the nose, while the palate bursts with ripe citrus and tangy minerality on the round, rich palate. Pro tip: Buy a second bottle and hold off on opening it for a few years. It’ll be even more compelling over time — if you can manage to wait.