Exploring Soave wine region day 1

I am on a mission: I am spending a few days in this exceptional wine area to debunk all the great wines to be presented in my Masterclass on Soave Wines for The Drinks Business London on the 24th of June. So this week I am focusing most of my efforts traveling, tasting and learning all about the Soave wine area, one of the greatest and most underrated Italian Whites.

To get the real taste of a place you have to wake up at….

Exploring the beautiful town of SOAVE

6am! Oh yes… that’s my waking up time to go for a walk exploration of the  tiny town Soave. Faced with the decision to choose between two roads, one uphill and the other downhill, which one would you choose? I often choose the uphill one because I love the great wide views but also going back downhill is much easier when you’re tired! So, I left my room and went uphill towards the Monte Tenda in a beautiful forest all the way up to the top of the hill. It took me half hour o cardiovascular exercise! From up there the view of the castle and the city of Soave is worth the effort and you can’t really miss it.

Daily exercise is important for everybody, especially when I have to taste lots of wines and food pairings and what’s matching perfectly after a good physical exercise? Well a good breakfast. If you are wishing to do some wine tasting in the morning make sure you have a plenty and rich breakfast. Never ever go wine tasting on an empty stomach.!

Objectives of my exploratory mission

I had 5 typical characteristics of this territory in my mind and thus 5 topics to verify in person.

  • Focusing on the new UGA (subzones) I will be tasting a lot of Soave in clusters to get an understanding of the different areas.
  • Soave is famous for having to type of soils: a black volcanic one and a white calcareous soil. I want to see double blind tasting how different the wines show
  • Soave is usually produced with a fresh, young and zippy style and a creamier, rounder version. I want to see how the two style behave with food
  • Garganega grape variety is the backbone of the appellation with 70% minimum. It’s one of Italy oldest and most important variety amd I am going to taste a lot of 100% Garganega. But traditionally there’s also Trebbiano di Soave in many of the blends. My question is: how is this impacting the wines?
  • Soave has got a phenomenal aging potential in fact I tasted unoaked wines all the way back to the 70’s. I want to learn more on this Soave attitude.

The wine tour starts at 08:45 with Alice from the Welcome PR agency and Lucia from the Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave e Recioto di Soave: two extremely focused wine professionals with a lot of knowledge and curiosity which makes them the perfect travel companions.

First stop at La Cappuccina Winery

First stop La Cappuccina Winery with Elena and Sisto Tessari. We started the tour of the cellar from the little church founded in 1725. The name of the winery, La Cappuccina, comes from the order of friars – Frati Cappuccini – running the little church dedicated to San Giovanni which is celebrated every 24th of June with a parade and a great festa.

With Sisto we explore the cellar and the impressive basaltic soil on which everything here is built: “this is where our vines are cultivated and it’s this special soils where Garganega gets its energy and nutrients” he says showing us the very impressive black stones.

La Cappuccina has been organic since 1985 when they started the company.

Before the tasting session we drive with Elena up the vineyards along the Costa Lunga and Brugnolino fractions. There’s a very cold and wild mistral wind blowing snow from the pre Alps mountains which makes our vineyards walk very dramatic. The vines are starting budbreak and spring is showing off some very romantic wild purple Lillies always present where there’s sandy soil with a lot of drainage.

Along the sweet hills Elena stops and reverse all of a sudden: “look there’s a white one, a symbol of Florence, your town” she says! That white iris on the black volcanic soil is for me the image of Soave: an extremely elegant white wine and yet so approachable. I feel so grateful for this wild windy vineyard walk and I’ll talk more about the effects of the black soil on these white wines.

Back to the winery we start our tasting of these mineral and creamy wines. I’ll soon share the tasting notes of La Cappuccina 😊

Second stop: Graziano Prà Winery

From La Cappuccina we move to Graziano Pra Winery, just a 6 km distance.

As we get to the cellar the wind stopped and a cold rain started. We hope on his comfy Defender to climb the steep hills of his UGA vineyards. The roads are muddy and slippery, everything is super green. One can’t stop being in awe, this landscape is so beautiful with the terraced walls, the cherry trees blossoming, the forest and the water fountains surrounding the vines.

I ask Graziano if the water is drinkable, he responds with a nursery rime: “Acqua corrente, ci passa il serpente: La beve Iddio la bevo anch’io” that means: running water where the snakes drinks, God drinks it, I then can drink it as well!

With Graziano we focus on the influence of Trebbiano di Soave on Garganega and he sums it up: “it’s about identity. We have always used it, it adds up freshness to the wines!”.

Time for lunch break!

Time for a lunch break at “Locanda Lo Scudo” in the heart of town. A really cozy spot where we have the freshest crudo of shrimps, langoustines, scampi, tuna, oysters and sea urchin. Here is the chance to prove Soave’s ability and versatile with food.

Sea urchin and oysters have a very intense salty sea flavour and few wines can cope. The crispy 2023 style succumb, too gentle for such strong seafood, but the late harvest Sant Antonio 2019 Graziano Prà does the trick combining its very high acidity with some residual sugar puts our mouth back in balance!

Albaterra social farm

The afternoon is spent with Alberto on top of a terraced hill vineyards in Monte Cerino. We take a long walk to see the vineyards but we end up spending most of our time at AlbaTerra social farm. Alberto has been helping the local and very active priest setting up for a group of people who need help and a place to stay where to try and start a new life.

At Cascina AlbaTerra, they combine old farming traditions with modern organic cultivation techniques to radically safeguard the environment and ecosystem. That’s why they are developing a breeding program for goats, sheep, chickens, and other animals that provide them with products such as milk, cheese, meat, wool, and eggs. Moreover, all these animals graze daily in the lands of the Tenuta Coffele, contributing to “cleaning” and naturally fertilizing them, thus fully participating in the wonderful natural cycle and significantly increasing the ecosystem’s biodiversity.

We talk al lot about the curative impact of animals on people and the better relationship we should or could have with them.

Among the present animals the ones that attract my attention the most are the alpine goats! they are so beautiful. I was surprised that some of them run free and Alberto told me that is because they are struggling with the others in the stable that means they need more space. I understand their need to run free in the outside.

The caregiver of this his flock is a young Afghan breeder who has a special way of handling animals. Seen he is not used to make cheese he doesn’t much understand the efforts we ask the goats in this case. Also now with Easter coming, the four of us are watching the tiny lambs cuddling each other and we all look and feel guilty about their future.

Temperance is the keyword

From my visit at Albaterra I reinforce my belief that Temperance is the key for a healthy and respectful life. Everybody should eat less to let more people eat better food and get our animals treated kindly like we have seen here at Albaterra.

Leaving the mountain goats, the little lambs and all the other animals in the stable we walk across the organic green garden and up to the cellar where we taste many good wines. My mind and soul though was kidnapped by the truly salty Soave 2016 made on pure white calcareous soil and Le sponde mesmerizing Recioto di Soave

… to be continued