Regular visitors may have noticed on the homepage a small map on the right sidebar which has a pin in it for the ten articles that feature on the homepage. Articles that aren’t strictly about a single wine don’t have a pin, but in general it should show the location of the the ten or so most recent producers. I do try to spread the love as much as possible, and while North America is often not represented, I’m reasonably happy with the spread at the moment, across the Old World, South America, Africa and Australasia. What’s not on the map though is a wine from Italy, but to correct that I give you the Soave Pieropan 2009.
This is the first Soave I’ve covered, so let’s get right to it. I have vague recollections of the name from my youth, which makes sense as it was the best selling Italian DOC wine in the USA in the 1970s. It has since been surpassed, but still remains popular. It’s a slightly complicated situation in that it’s the name of a commune in the Veneto region in the Province of Verona in northen Italy, but the term is generally used to describe wine from there. However, the wine situation is slightly more complicated. Soave was initially given DOC status in 1968, though the area under the the DOC was expanded well beyond the original borders over the following decades. In 2001 DOCG designation was given to an area which was not exactly the original DOC area, causing great controversy and for some producers to drop out of the DOC/G designation to produce IGT wines. There is a classico area which was originally designated in 1927, which is an additional descriptor that may be attached to wines produced from vines in the oldest of the original area.
Broadly speaking, the DOCG and classico area consists of plantings on hillsides, where the soil is less fertile than the soils of the flat alluvial plains of the expanded DOC region. The hilly areas in the west are largely based on limestone which provides retained warmth for ripening, while the eastern hills are more decomposed volcanic igneous rock which provide minerality to wines. The climate is warm Mediterranean though being in the hills the influence of the Adriatic is somewhat diminished. However, the mists of the Po Valley in the autumn can bring mould and disease pressure.
Winemaking in Soave is largely centred around the grape variety Garganega, and it is required to make up at least 70% of a blend. The contents of the other 30% vary depending on DOC or DOCG designation. For DOGC wines, Trebbiano de Soave, Pinot Bianco or Chardonnay may make up to 30%, but up to 5% cumulatively are permitted of Friulano, Cortese, Riesling Italico, Vespaiolo, and Serprina. For DOC wines, Trebbiano Toscano, the same rules largely apply with the exception that up to 15% of Trebbiano Toscano is permitted. As everywhere, the required alcohol levels are higher and permitted yields are lower for DOCG wines than for DOC.
Garganega is a familiar grape for people who have been reading along since the early days. We had a look at one with the Domain Day, but as with most of my early posts, I hadn’t really found my format and so I didn’t give the grape the coverage it deserves. It’s a thick skinned white grape, vigourous and late ripening. In addition to the wines of Soave, it’s also used to form most of the blend in nearby Gambellara. As with so many grapes, it performs well when it can fully ripen, has it’s yields carefully managed, and particularly when planted on hillsides with poor fertility. (I need a macro to paste that, I find it being so often the case.)
Outside of the Veneto, it’s not widely planted, or at least it wasn’t thought to be so until recently. DNA profiling suggests that it is the same grape that is known as Grecanico Dorato (aka Grecanio) in Sicily. Outside of Italy, the only record I can find of it being planted is with the aforementioned Domain Day.
Pieropan is a fourth generation family business, established in 1890 by Leonildo Pieropan in Soave. They produce a number of Soaves, from this relatively entry level wine up through some single vineyard bottlings and Passito della Rocca, a barrel fermented and aged blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Trebbiano. In addition, they expanded into red wines with the purchase of property in the nearby Amarone and Valpolicella area, and they produce at the moment one of each of those wines, as well as a sparkling rosé.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with pale lemon colour and thick legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium minus intensity and notes of pear, sandalwood, vanilla, and cream. On the palate it’s dry, with medium flavour intensity, medium acid, medium plus alcohol, and medium body. There are notes of lime, passion fruit, vanilla, and honeycomb, but with a sour/nail varnish finish. It had a medium plus length but not in a good way given the sour finish.
I’m torn between this being acceptable and good. It has an unimpressive nose, but on the palate it hits the marks with intensity, balance, and a reasonably interesting and complex flavour profile. However, that finish really didn’t agree with me. I’m going to go with good, particularly as it’s a relatively affordable entry level example, and it was by the glass so it’s possible I wasn’t tasting it at its best.