Remember the Soave Bolla commercials from the 1970s and ’80s? They seemed like outtakes from bad Italian movies. But worse, while Bolla reached millions of people and became the most imported wine in the U.S., the name Soave was tarnished — not least because the wine was barely palatable.
Happily, Soave has been able to reclaim its image, possibly because Bolla stopped its advertising campaign in the late ’80s and more producers started taking the wine seriously.
Located in the Veneto region close to Verona, Soave received DOCG status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), the highest designation for Italian wine, in 2002. Soave Classico must be a minimum of 70 percent garganega, a medium-bodied, high-acid grape that has pine nut, almond and lemon qualities. Trebbiano di Soave can account for the other 30 percent of the wine.
Soave Superiore also must have at least 70 percent garganega, but the remainder can only be composed of chardonnay, pinot bianco, trebbiano toscano and lesser amounts of several other northern Italian grapes.
Since Soave’s reimaging began, the laws surrounding its production have become stricter, and
single-vineyard and barr el-fermented wines have entered the scene (for better or worse). Italian wine has in general become more focused on quality rather than quantity. Soave is now taken seriously by wine drinkers in Europe and the U.S.
And as its reputation has risen, so has its cost. Finding good Soave on a budget is much more of a challenge now than it was 10 years ago. But all hope is not lost, and believe it or not, one of the best deals is from our old friends at Bolla!
Bolla Soave Classico, 2010: I was rather surprised when I saw this wine at Whole Foods, but for under $10 (on special) I figured it was time to take a walk on the wild side and throw it into a blind tasting.
It turned out to be one of the favorite wines among my panel of three professionals, with all of us
willing to pay upward of $20 for a bottle. Clean and fresh with peach and tangerine fruit, Soave Bolla is back and better than ever! Available at Whole Foods. Suggested retail: $12
Pieropan Soave Classico, 2010: Pieropan is a family-owned producer that has been making Soave since the late 19th century. Their La Rocca bottling, which is 100 percent garganega, is one of my favorite wines from the appellation. But the Soave Classico bottling — a blend of 85 percent garganega and 15 percent trebbiano di Soave — is, for $15 more or less, satisfying. Light- to medium-bodied with almond and mineral notes, it is balanced and tasty. Available at Beltramo’s, Biondivino, Bottle Barn, JJ Buckley, The Jug Shop and select Whole Foods. Suggested retail: $16
La Cappucina Soave Classico, 2010: La Cappucina has been in the Tessari family for more than a
century. As members of the Istituto
Mediterraneo di Certificazione, they do not use any chemical herbicides or pesticides in the vineyards. Made entirely from garganega, this may very well be the best Soave deal. Minerally with lemon, kumquats and pine nuts, it is a quintessential wine from the area. Available at A.G. Ferrari, Arlington Wines and Spirits, Canyon Market, Jackson’s Wines and Spirits, Plumpjack and The Wine Club Santa Clara.
Suggested retail: $15
Pamela S. Busch was the founding partner of Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bars, and is a wine educator and writer.