You’ll rarely see a bottle of wine on the shelf with this grape name on it. Perhaps it is because it is a bit of a mouthful to say. It doesn’t really have the delicate ring of Pinot Grigio or other Italian white grapes. As a result this grape has been in the shadows a long time but really deserves a bit more spotlight.
The most likely wine you’ll find that is made from this grape, is Soave from the North of Italy. But it is also often blended with Pinot Grigio to give the former a bit more substance and backbone.
I actually really love this grape for the fact is has that bit more flavour than Pinot Grigio. It has a delicate blossom aroma, then zesty citrus mixed with fresh herbs and a fine saline bite on tasting. Some say bitter almonds as a flavour profile, but to be honest I’m not sure what that should taste like.
And it ages beautifully. The natural acidity of the grape gives it structure to last. And with age it becomes far more interesting with honeydew melon, supple creamy texture and candied lemon notes. Although it has to be a good producer or pricey bottle to have this capability.
And if you have preconceptions that Soave is just a cheap pizza restaurant wine then please do put that to one side. It is a sad fact that many Italian producers decided to make Soave from grapes grown with high yields. The result being boring watery wines. So look for Soave Classico on the label to get a wine from the best hillside slopes and pay that little bit more for the bottle. Then you will get to really taste this wonderful grape.
The best versions of Soave have either “Classico” or “Superiore” on the label. The first means the best and original plots of land where the grapes were grown. The second means it has a bit more age on its lees and comes from the best grapes. Also look out for “Colli Scaligeri” on the label, one of the best hill sides where it is grown. In Sicily the grape is known as Grecanico but since it is a warmer climate, the styles are more waxy and rich.
Most Soave is made in stainless steel tanks and bottled early with no age. But some of the most premium wines have a more traditional ageing in large oak casks which adds more softness and nutty richness to the style.
Garganega is naturally vigorous wanting to produce fat grapes without much flavour. The best soils or a skilled viticulturalist will control that to make it yield lower and create flavour intensity.
Pinot Grigio, Cortese, Fruilano, Arneis
Italy: Soave, Veneto, Sicily, Fruili, Umbria
Baked chicken breasts, scallops, asparagus, pasta with pesto