Dry white wine from the veneto region of north east Italy. Like the neighbouring valpolicella zone, the Soave zone has expanded enormously with the creation of the Soave doc in 1968. At the time, both regions were enjoying an export boom, so production flowed off the small hilly zone onto the alluvial plain of the Adige river. The classico zone, first defined and delimited in 1927 and currently comprising about 1,100 ha/2,720 acres of mostly hillside vineyards, is the source of superior Soave. The eastern part of the zone, in the commune of Monteforte d'Alpone, where the vineyards are planted on decomposed volcanic rock, produces steelier wines than those from the western part in the commune of Soave, where the higher percentage of limestone in the soil and the warmer afternoon sun gives fuller, more forward wines.
Today, there are also about 4,000 ha of vineyard on the plain, and these are responsible for the bulk of ordinary Soave. The quality-oriented producers from the hills have long struggled with the fact that their wines, no matter how good, will always be associated with these lower priced wines. The introduction of DOCG in 2002 seemed a good time to deal with this issue, but compromise won the day. Instead, the whole issue of Soave was complicated further: DOCG was introduced for Soave Superiore, which can be made only from grapes grown on the hills previously mapped out for the Recioto di Soave DOCG. If in the Classico zone, this wine will be Soave Classico Superiore DOCG; if from outside the Classico zone, but from the hills, it will be Soave Colli Scaligeri Superiore DOCG. But not all wines from the hills will be DOCG; this being dependent on them having a minimum alcohol level of 12 per cent.
On a more positive note, the new law has seen Trebbiano Toscano excluded from the blend for DOCG. This interloper was introduced to the area in the 1960s, when high yields were more important, and it soon displaced the local Trebbiano di Soave (which is, in fact, Verdicchio). The new law allows for a minimum of 70 per cent Garganega and up to 30 per cent of Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay, or Pinot Bianco, although Trebbiano Toscano remains a mainstay in the bulk of Soave from the plain. As a result, there are about four bottles of very basic Soave produced for every bottle of Soave Classico.
When yields are controlled, Garganega can give wines of real class. A late-ripening variety, it has a thick skin that helps protect it against the autumn mists rising from the northern part of the Po valley. Producers such as Pieropan, Gini, Pra, and Ca' Rugate are now illustrating the real potential not only of Garganega but also of the Soave zone.
Garganega is also the mainstay of the sweet recioto di Soave, a passito made from raisined Garganega grapes with a long local tradition. DOCG status was granted in 1998 and about 1,800 hl were produced in 2003.