California Wine Club
For many of us who have loved Italian wine since the days when we made candlesticks out of used wicker-wrapped Chianti bottles, it was sad to see many of our favorites go through a lackluster period a while back.
After upgrading the nation's wine laws during the 1970s and bringing a degree of order to what had been an exceptionally chaotic wine industry, many of Italy's producers invested in modern equipment and happily embraced high wine technology. But then, sadly, it seemed to me (and to many observers) that the desire for cash flow inspired a flood of wine made to please a mass market: Modern, "international" in style, technically correct and all too often boring.
The phenomenon affected many regions, but perhaps none more so than the Veneto, the rich agricultural plain to the west of Venice, where once proud names like Valpolicella and Soave - particularly those made by larger producers like Bolla - soon gained a new and less admirable reputation as cheap, inoffensive wines of little interest.
But more recent years have brought good news, as native Italian craftsmanship and pride are restoring the reputation of these amiable table wines. I have frequently reported on good, affordable and interesting Valpolicella in this column. Today let's take a look at one of the best (and still affordable) Soaves.
Made from Garganega, a white grape rarely seen anywhere but Soave ("So-ah-vay"), today's wine is from Pieropan, a winery with a heritage of more than 140 years. A rich and surprisingly complex white, even this basic Soave shows the variety's appealing floral and tropical-fruit aromas and flavors and cleansing, tart and slightly bitter finish. It's worth seeking out, as are Pieropan's more limited-production (and pricey) single-vineyard bottlings, particularly the noteworthy "La Rocca."Pieropan 2000 Soave Classico ($11.99)
Clear light gold. Delicate floral and white fruit scents, Crisp and dry, flavors follow the nose; figs and dates and elusive hints of banana and almonds riding on a crisply acidic structure with a pleasant hint of bitterness in the finish. U.S. importer: Empson U.S.A. Inc., Alexandria, Va. (Feb. 25, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with a fennel risotto accented with pastis and Limoncello.
VALUE: It's a good value, standing well above many competitors for dry whites in the $12 range.
WEB LINK: The winery Website (available in Italian, English and German) is at http://www.pieropan.it. The importer's fact sheet on Pieropan Soave is at http://www.empson.com/official-site/cmn/schede/pierop.htm?usa.Administrivia
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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.