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Slightly west of Venice lies the Italian wine region of Soave. This wine-producing region is highly important and sometimes overlooked but absolutely worthy of a visit as a producer of the unique, refreshing and oh-so-easy to drink luscious titular white wine, Soave. Let’s get to know this wonderful white and the region from which it hails.

Between the gondola-filled canals of Venice and the romance that is Romeo and Juliet’s Verona you’ll find the Soave Wine region. The rich green rolling hills so evident in the part of Italy boast acres of vineyards where one of the oldest grape varieties flourishes.

This grape is the Garganega grape and this grape must make up 70% of the Soave Wine, according to the rules of the DOC. The Garganega grape is what defines Soave and creates the excellent acidity of the dry white wine. The Garganega grape also produces some very fine sweet wines as well.

The History of Soave

The Soave Wine region is named for the town of Soave, an ancient wine producer that dates back to 150 AD, and Roman rule. Historians found evidence that Emperor Augustus was a big fan of the retico wine (a sweet dessert wine) produced in the Soave region. The wines of Soave became known by that name thanks to the famed Florentine poet, writer and philosopher Dante Alighieri who was exiled to Verona and enjoyed his share of the unique and delicious white wine.

The Veneto people are known for their hard working agro and viticulture and Soave exemplifies that. These winegrowers and winemakers strive to cultivate the best of the prolific Garganega.  Some smaller farms actually grow the grapes and bottle the wine themselves to preserve the proud terroir of their particular vineyard.

What Makes Soave Special

The Soave DOC came about in 1968. Along with Chianti, Soave was recognized by Royal Decree as one of the first two zones in Italy that have the potential to produce fine wines. The Soave denomination spreads out from the town and is made up of smaller zones of designation such as Soave Classico DOC and Recioto di Soave DOCG.

As we mentioned above the Soave DOC designates Soave must be made of at least 70% Garganega grapes. 25% of the remaining 30% must be Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay. You may note that Chardonnay is not a native Italian varietal and it is the vintner's choice to use either Chardonnay or a native varietal as Chardonnay can often be a little bit forward. The remaining 5% is also up to the vintner and the profile they wish to achieve. Typically you’ll find the bright addition of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc or even a Riesling.

The Wines of Soave

The smaller zones of designation produce different wines. Each denomination has fairly unique characteristics and differs in flavor profiles.

The Soave DOC is the largest as it covers the whole of the region. That means there are 14 different zones or municipalities allowed by law to produce Soave DOC wines. Because the area is so large there are many differences that you may find among these wines. Soave Superiore DOCG, for example, must be produced using grapes from the top cru. These are found on steep terraced slopes with the mineral rich soil that produces the superior grapes.

Soave Classico DOC

The Soave Classico DOC is very popular and what most fans of Soave wines think of these excellent wines. The area of designation is known for its historical importance as an ancient winemaking zone. The Romans had their vineyards in this zone located around the towns of Soave and Monteforte D’Alpone. This is where Emperor Augustus’ favorite wine was produced.

The diverse growing conditions, or terroir, encompass the volcanic-rich eastern hills which contribute to the complexity of the wines. The volcanic soil is believed to impart the cinnamon and almond notes some who sip these wines seem to note. The western hills of the Soave Classico DOC boast a shallow limestone soil which produces a more floral or citrus fruit forward wine. Wines hailing from this zone tend to be much softer than the wines produced in the eastern hills. While the wines differ in character they are easy drinkers to be sure.

Soave Colli Scaligeri DOC

This somewhat lesser-known region is in the southwest zone of Soave. It’s located over hills and plains and the wines which are produced here are less complex than those produced in the Soave Classico DOC. These Colli Scalier wines are truly enjoyable.

Recioto di Soave DOCG

In a region steeped in wine history this wine is the most historical of the Soave DOC. This sweet wine dates back to the 5th century and, because of its rich history,  lends itself as an icon to the Soave and the entire Veneto region.

The method for making the Recioto di Soave is fairly ancient as well. The Garganega (a minimum oil 70%) grapes are harvested then laid out on straw mats to dry. This takes months to achieve the desired lack of moisture. The vintner presses only the best quality dried grapes, releasing the juice for fermentation.

While the other Soave wines may be aged in stainless steel or wood, Recioto must be aged in wood and then in the bottle for 1-6 months, minimum. The golden sweet wine has a unique flavor profile depending on age. Younger Recioto di Soave exhibits a seductive palate with notes of warm vanilla and almonds. Aged for decades the profile changes to one of molasses, honey, toasted almonds and citrus.

The Veneto Region Offers SO Much!

In addition to the luscious and highly drinkable wines of Soave the Veneto region offers much to see and do. The breathtaking Dolomite mountains, Lake Garda and the Adriatic make up the borders of the Veneto region and within those confines you’ll find dynamic wines (including Prosecco!) Exceptional balsamic of Modena and Parmigiano Reggiano. There's so much to take in when you visit the Veneto region in Italy.