Rare and Familiar White Wines from the Veneto Region To enhance Summer Festivities
Wine for june – under $20
Pra, “Otto” Soave Classico 2013 (about $17)
Just a few miles to the east of Verona in Italy’s Veneto region is the little town of Soave, a picture-postcard-pretty town whose town walls, gates and medieval castle still stand guard over the city. If you can ignore the cars and Vespas, entering the town through the southern portal is like stepping back in time.
This small town is the informal capital of the Soave wine market, the Veneto’s most famous still white wine. The Soave DOC area encompasses the mineral-rich steep foothills and plains surrounding Soave and nearby Monteforte d’Alpone. While vineyards have proliferated in recent years in the flat plains further afield from Soave, it is the original hillside sites that comprise the historic Soave Classico zone where the grapes for the best Soaves are grown.
Soave’s basic grape is Garganega, the work-horse white grape of the western Veneto region. Other selected white grape varieties, such as Trebbiano di Soave, can be added to Soave wines as long as Garganega accounts for a minimum of 70 percent of the blend. However, it is not uncommon today to find Soave wines made entirely of Garganega. Still other quality-oriented producers have upped their game by marketing single-vineyard Soaves made entirely of Garganega.
Most Soaves are meant to be drunk young but some are quite cellar-worthy and will even benefit from additional ageing, in some cases up to 5 or even10 years.
The 30-acre Pra estate is located in Monteforte d’Alpone in the heart of the Soave Classico zone. The current head of the estate, Graziano Pra, is generally regarded as one of Soave’s premier producers, one of a handful that have spurred a renaissance in the Soave region.
The Pra winery produces several different Soave bottlings and the “Otto” is the estate’s most accessible Soave Classico bottling. It is made entirely of Garganega grapes harvested in late September to early October from 30 to 60 year old vines. The grapes are softly pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of about 620 to help retain aromas and conserve freshness. The wine matures on the lees in stainless steel for six months to enhance flavors and complexity before bottling and release for sale.
The wine is straw yellow in color with hints of green on the edge with floral and white fruit aromas. It is medium-bodied, dry, refreshing and quite flavorful with pear and apricot flavors all delivered on a good vein of food-friendly acidity. It has good texture and mouth-feel accompanied by a long finish interwoven with a pleasant hint of almonds. This is a varietally correct expression of a delicious and munificent grape - Soave as pure, clean, fresh, traditional and approachable as it gets.
This wine may be served as an aperitif and pairs well with prosciutto, goat cheese, a dish of rice and peas and simply-prepared fish and pasta dishes. This is my go-to white wine to hold in reserve for those impromptu, informal summertime festivities.
Zymè, “From Black to White” IGP Veneto Bianco 2013 (about $26)
Founded in 2003, the Zyme winery is a recent addition to the Veneto wine scene. Owned and operated by Celestino Gaspari, the 72-acre Zyme winery is located in the town of San Pietro in Cariano in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone. Mr. Gaspari is a very talented winemaker who appreciates tradition but is also willing to experiment and approaches his craft with a playful sense of adventure. The winery’s operations and cellar are housed in a sweeping, contemporary structure of steel and glass designed by architect Moreno Zurlo with an underground ageing cellar enclosed in an ancient sandstone quarry.
The winery produces a variety of both new and traditional wines of the Veneto. Zyme produces, for example, a Valpolicella, Valpolicella Classico Superiore and Amarone as well as a white sparkling wine and a sweet white passito. The estate also produces a Cabernet Sauvignon-based blend as well as an IGP dry red wine made entirely of Oseleta, an indigenous Veronese variety, and several unique white and red wine blends made entirely of uncommon or unusual varietals.
The estate’s “From Black to White” wine is one of these unusual wine blends and it comes with an interesting story. During a tour of his Rondinella vineyards Celestino noticed something he had never seen before. Although Rondinella is a red wine variety he noticed on a 60 year old Rondinella vine that there were black and white grapes growing together. He found this mutation interesting and was able to extract some genetic material of this new white grape strain - which he dubbed Rondinella White - replant and propagate it until several years later he had a sufficient quantity to start producing a Rondinella White wine. Hence, the proprietary name given to this unique white wine is “From Black to White.”
Despite its frivolous name it is a serious and complex wine. Made rprimarily of Rondinella White it also includes some Gold Traminer, Kerner and Incrocio Manzoni. The grapes are hand-selected in late September, destemmed and pressed, fermented in temperature-controlled vats for about 20 days and then undergo maturation on the lees for about 6 months before bottling.
The wine is pale yellow in color with distinct green highlights. It has an intense bouquet with delicious floral, white fruit and kitchen spice aromas. The first sip of the wine is seductive - rich, complex and full-bodied with tangy citrus, some spicy pear and herb flavors that follow through to a very lengthy finish with polished acidity. The “From Black to White” is about as sophisticated, complex and interesting as white wine gets.
It is excellent as an aperitif but also pairs well with shellfish, risottos, soups, simple fish and veal dishes.
The wine may be hard to find but worth the effort. Check with your favorite Italian specialty wine shop.
June 9, 2015
To view other wine of the month selections, see Monthly Wine Reviews
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