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January 22, 2012

GRAPE SENSE: Change of pace to brighten day: Italian Soave perfect for summer days

Winter is the time for hearty food and bold wines. But every once in a while a change of pace brightens the day.

Two bottles of Italian Soave reminded me why the wine really hits the spot on hot summer days and how it serves as a refresher during the months of Syrah, Cabernet and Zinfandel.

But first, a little background. Travelers to Italy often visit Tuscany and the Piedmont wine regions. But Soave wine country, located in the north eastern part of the country near Verona, offers beautiful vistas, a historic castle and a wonderfully drinkable wine.

Soave is made from the Garganega grape, new to many wine drinkers. Soave wines can be 100 percent Garganega or blended with Trebbiano or Chardonnay. The wine has a delightful fresh and smooth feel on the palate with good structure and hints of citrus.

Soave has been around for years. It’s usually quite inexpensive and easy to find. Soave is also growing in popularity. The Italian Wine Commission reports Soave exports to the United States increased by more than 20 percent from 2009 to 2010.

“The microclimates and diverse terroir in the Soave production zone give our wines unique personalities with balanced structures, beautiful bouquets and fresh acidity,” Giovanni Ponchia, a Soave Consortium oenologist, said in a recent press release. “Our wines are versatile, great to drink fresh and they pair well with international cuisines.”

In addition to the overall category growth, the number of Soave producers selling their wines in the U.S. grew by 16 percent.

The other interesting press note was that Italian Soave producers have been convinced in recent years that young American wine drinkers just didn’t know much about its wines.

Furthermore, the so-called wine trade (or wine writers, distributors, retailers) just didn’t think much it. A concerted marketing effort seems to have changed all that.

Soave is planted on the southern slopes of the Lessini Mountains on the southern edge of the Italian Alps.

There are three different types of Soave:

• Soave DOC, which includes the sub-zones of Soave Classico and Soave Colli Scaligeri

• Soave Superiore DOCG (2001), which also includes wines with the “Riserva” designation

• Recioto di Soave DOCG (1998), a dessert wine not often found in the U.S.

“The world is starting to embrace this complex yet easy-to-drink, food-friendly white wine,” said Aldo Lorenzoni, director of the Soave Consortium. “Enjoyed and highly regarded for centuries in Italy, we are eager to educate wine drinkers in America about the quality, elegance and romance of Soave wines.”

Soave is my favorite vacation wine. I discovered it a few years ago on a hot Florida beach. It should be easy to find and as inexpensive as most supermarket wines. It is a big change from the traditional Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.

Soave wines are great for seafood and shell fish, grilled vegetables, some chicken and pork dishes.

Howard’s picks:

The Suave Consortium sent two bottles of Soave for consideration. Bolla’s Soave Classico would probably be the easiest to find at a wine shop, liquor store or market. It has hints of pear and honey, light- to medium-bodied with alcohol at about 13 percent.

Re Midas 2009 Soave was outstanding Soave wine, one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It’s 100 percent Garganega grown on the hillsides of the village of Soave. It was very bright with citrus, mineral, and a nice lingering finish. The alcohol was 12 percent and the suggested price is $9.99.

Howard Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for 18 Midwestern newspapers. Hewitt will be in Montpelier, France, Jan. 23-26 attending Millésime Bio, an international conference on organic wines. He’ll also be visiting wineries in Southern France’s Languedoc region. Visit his wine blog at: www.redforme.blogspot.com.

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