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Soave - a new (to me) Italian wine

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

"Tessari’s golden straw colored Grisela is the backbone of the vineyard; a delicious entry level wine that is meant to be enjoyed between friends." Tessari website

This is a sort of postscript to the Ladies' lunch I wrote about yesterday, It's the wine that both Nic and I drank, by the glass. She had one, I had two. 'Enjoyed between friends' it certainly was.

Now the Grossi Florentino wine list is a thickish book - well a folder of pages. And I know virtually nothing about Italian wine, so we just asked for a suggestion, bearing in mind that the wines by the glass were very probably of lesser quality than other bottled wines. But I had faith in the overall quality of their wines, and of their choice, and I was not disappointed. I guess I have had better wines in my life, but it was just what was required. Clean, light, dry and perhaps a bit of citrus. But I'm no good at these things. Dionne had a glass of red, but I'm not even sure what that was, so I shall ignore.

As you can see from my photograph this was a Soave Classico DOC from the Tessari vineyard. Soave which translates to 'suave' in English, is not the name of the grape though. It's the name of the place, and therefore has no relationship to 'suave' as a descriptive term. The Tessari vineyard, is I think in Monteforte d'Alpino which is the next place along the road which I think is going up into the hills/mountains. The Soave classification area is near Verona/Vicenza to the east of Lake Garda, in the Veneto province, and is actually a relatively small classification area. The best vineyards are higher up in the hills - and this is where the Tessari vineyard is, although I have to say it wasn't mentioned in somebody's 'best of' list. But then wine is so subjective is it not?

How lovely it is though. The vineyard was founded by Antonio Tessari back in 1933. It was very small - just 1 hectare. His son Aldo, encouraged by his wife Bianca bought several more vineyards until they reached the 13 hectares on the hillside, that the family now owns. These days its run by Aldo and Bianco's children - Antonio, Geraldo and Cornelia. So it's a family business.

And what is the grape? Well it's a grape that I had not heard of and which is still pretty unknown in Australia, called Garganega - the photograph above is from the Tessari website.

"The Garganega grape, that is the primary component of Soave, is a late-ripening variety with a thick skin that can withstand the mist better than some of the thinner skin varieties like Trebbiano Toscano" Wikipedia

I get the impression that although this is an ancient grape - first mentioned as a vineyard grape in 1495 - it has been associated in the past with inferior wines made for bulk consumption. And it is still one of the most planted grapes in Italy - although concentrated in the Soave area and nearby in other Northern Italian spots. The Sicilians, who call it Grecanico, make wine with it but I cannot find out much about it. Presumably because of the very different climate it is a very different wine.

In relatively recent years however the makers of Soave have lifted their game and achieved DOC status with all the rules that go with that. And even more recently there has been a DOCG for various superior versions of Soave. The Tessari family, however, have ignored this.

"Confusingly for consumers though, some of the best independent producers, such as Gini, Pieropan and Tessari are not using the Soave Superiore DOCG designation, as they feel that well-made Soave Classico DOC wines have slightly less alcohol and extract than the DOCG demands, but are nonetheless more refined and long-lived than the supposedly superior designation." Wikipedia

Wine Folly, on their website have this very useful chart that shows you all the different faces of Soave. The DOC rules allow various other wines to be blended with the Soave - most notably a trebbiano I think - but the Tessari family - who have five different wines - are true to Garganega. All of their five wines - two sparkling, one sweet - the Recoto di Soave - and one superior quality, are 100% Garganega. And yes various sites said that it was a wine that improved in the bottle - possibly best after around 5 years.

The wine we had is called Grisela and according to the website is the nickname given to the family for the colour of their hair - somewhere between blonde and grey - ash blonde I would call that. They also refer to it as the 'backbone of the vineyard' - so probably their best seller. You can buy it here at various wine merchants (not Dan's) for around $15-$16.00. So there would have been a considerable markup on my $12.00 or so glass. Like I said, it's an entry level wine, but then I'm an entry level drinker. And the booze is where the restaurants make their money.

As I said, Australian winemakers are not really into Garganega as yet. I found a list of makers - only two or three of which I recognised - Dal Zotto, Morrisons of Glenrowan and Primo Estate. Three on the list were from the King Valley - well it is little Italy. Liquorland has no Australian Garganega and Dan Murphy's has just one from Range Life Wines of the King Valley who describe it thus:

"Think something in between Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay with flavours of creamy lemon curd, fresh green herbs and zesty citrus." Range Life wines

So there you go. The next time you manage to visit Verona, or Venice, Vicenza, Padua, Lake Garda, Treviso or any of the other stunning towns of the Veneto or Lombardy, try a 'local' version of Soave. I'm guessing the Australian versions will be different - maybe even, dare I say, better?



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