To most Americans, Italy’s best-known white wine probably is pinot grigio, the light, crisp, mineral-scented wine we find reasonably priced on restaurant wine lists.
To Italians, a better-known local white wine is soave, also light and crisp, maybe a little fruitier than pinot grigio.
Americans should get more familiar with it.
Soave wines must be at least 70 percent of the Italian grape garganega. Also permitted are trebbiano di soave and chardonnay. The resulting wine can have scents of wild flowers and bright flavors of ripe citrus, pears and peaches, with a refreshing bitter almond finish. It’s a light wine, often with only 11.5 percent alcohol, compared to the 13 to 14 percent of many big California chardonnays.
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Part of soave’s popularity is its versatility. It goes well with shellfish, finfish, sushi, light chicken dishes, pork, pasta with light white sauces, not-too-rich risottos. Even goat cheese. It’s a good picnic wine for cold fried chicken, potato salad and slaw. It’s best served chilled; you can toss it in your cooler alongside your beer.
And it’s not expensive, ranging from $10 to $30 or so a bottle in supermarkets.
The 25-square-mile Soave area is part of Veneto, a wine-rich region that also produces the ultra-popular sparkling white wine prosecco and two top red wines, bardolino and valpolicella. If you drive from Florence to Venice, you pass right through its pretty, green, rolling hills and ubiquitous ancient castles.
In the middle of the Soave area lies the pretty little village also called Soave, population about 6,000. It’s a great place to visit — especially the Castello di Soave, a medieval military structure still standing from the old wars between Italian city-states. It’s well-preserved, and easy to visit. Just Google it.
Several local wineries offer tastings and tours. It’s a good idea to email ahead for hours and prices. You can come home with something new to serve your wine-loving friends.
▪ 2013 Fattori Soave DOC “Danieli” (100 percent garganega): straw yellow hue, floral aromas, flavors of ripe apricots an lemons, herbal finish; light and crisp; $15.
▪ 2011 Inama Azienda Agricola “Vigneto du Lot” Soave Classico DOC (100 percent garganega): bright yellow hue, floral aromas, full-bodied and smooth, sweet white peach flavors; $30.
▪ 2013 Soave DOC “I Basalti,” by Cantina di Gambellara, (100 percent garganega): pale straw hue, crisp and light, aromas of green apples and litchi, flavors of lemons, bitter almond finish; $12.
▪ 2012 Inama Azienda Agricola “Vin Soave” Soave Classico DOC (100 percent garganega): pale yellow hue, aromas of camellias and other flowers, light and crisp, flavors of green apples and lemons, mineral finish; $15.
▪ 2012 Bolla “Tufaie” Soave Superiore Classico DOCG (90 percent garganega, 10 percent trebbiano di soave): floral aromas, flavors of lemons, limes and cinnamon, tart finish; $12.
▪ 2013 Cantina di Soave “Re Midas” Soave DOC (100 percent garganega): light yellow hue, floral aromas, flavors of citrus and minerals; $10.