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Soave: Exploring the diversity of terroir

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Long one of Italy’s best-regarded still whites, Soave continues to evolve, adapting to climate change, reviving old varieties and traditions and mapping its multifaceted terroir.

Driving west along the motorway from Venice toward Milan, travellers’ eyes are drawn a few kilometres before Verona to two sights that appear in the distance: the tall, thin church spire of Monteforte d’Alpone and the imposing, medieval fortress overlooking the town of Soave.

For anyone arriving from the plain of the Veneto, these historic landmarks form the gateway to the vineyards of the region’s most famous still white wine.

Medieval fortress in the town of Soave in Veneto, Italy

Imposing medieval fortress overlooking the town of Soave in Veneto, Italy

A landscape to treasure

The visual impact of the landscape is unforgettable. With valleys and hills reaching over 500 metres above sea level, this is an area of great biodiversity. The terraced vineyards are buttressed by dry stone walls, hand built by the farmers who have been the custodians of this unique agricultural ecosystem for countless generations.

In recognition of its traditional system’s integrated social, economic and ecological sustainability, the Soave viticultural area has been designated by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, the only one of its kind in Italy.

Pergola Veronese in Soave

Climate change has spurred a revival of the centuries-old pergola Veronese training system in the Soave region

Growing appreciation of specific soils and sites

Yet Soave does not stand still. Garganega accounts for the majority of its 6,500ha under vine, but producers are also rediscovering the potential of Trebbiano di Soave as a complementary variety. Dramatic climate change, meanwhile, has spurred a revival of the centuries-old pergola Veronese training system, which provides ripening grapes with protection from the extremes of summer heat.

Soave is widely associated with the tangy intensity that derives from its volcanic soils, but its terroirs are diverse, and studies conducted by the producers’ Consorzio have linked specific flavours with its different soils. Notes of citrus and almonds are typical of wines from the volcanic hills, while those from calcareous areas offer more florality and tropical fruit.

Many of the most famed plots sit within the Classico area, the traditional heart of the denomination, but the introduction in 2019, after 15 years of research, of the ‘Unità Geografica Aggiunta’ (UGA) system, which gives producers the opportunity to indicate specific vineyard sites on their labels, now shines a spotlight on other distinctive terroirs.

Vineyards in Italy's Soave region

A multitude of styles

Soave, famously, is a wine for every occasion. Soave DOC offers fresh, crisp drinking from the spring onwards, but also has the ability to develop intriguing complexity with bottle age. Soave Superiore DOCG – sometimes aged in oak – has the extra structure that calls for haute cuisine food pairing, and the ancient practice of drying grapes for sweet wines is kept alive in the exquisite Recioto di Soave.

All three styles continue the excellence of a winemaking tradition with records dating from the 6th century AD and the authenticity of a viticultural area tended by communities that, in the words of the UN’s FAO, ‘live in an intricate relationship with their territory.’

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