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Soave is a wine-producing zone in Italy's Veneto region, about an hour's drive east of the city of Verona. While much of the Soave wine produced here is from flatlands and rather simple, the finest examples of Soave are from hillside vineyards, ranging from 325 to 1000 feet above sea level.

The principal variety here is Garganega (garr-gahn-uh-ga), with Trebbiano di Soave, also found in local vineyards. Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are also permitted in small quantities in Soave wine, but they are rarely found these days.

The Soave zone is divided into several different districts, with Classico, being the best known, and home to most of the finest wines. Here most of the vineyards are on hillsides, with a few being situated on the slopes of extinct volcanoes. It is these volcanic soils, along with deposits of limestone that give the finest offerings of Soave their distinct characteristics, as the finest wines combine structure for aging along with a distinct minerality. Many of the top artisan producers make a single vineyard bottling from this area.

To the north and west of the Classico district, the Colli Scaglieri area is much larger, split between hillsides and valleys. Along the southern reaches of the Soave production zone, from west to east, simple Soave DOC wines are made from numerous valley plantings that are often farmed to  higher yields, resulting in uncomplicated, but very typical examples of Soave. 

Soave earned a DOC designation in 1968 and today, most wines produced throughout the various districts are labeled as DOC. In 2001, the Soave Superiore DOCG designation came into existence, which was first used for the 2002 vintage.  While the DOCG may have sounded impressive, the reality was that this was the brainchild of large cooperative producers, who sought to have Soave become an important wine zone. Aging time before release was increased, while maximum yields, which were already too high, in the opinion of most area producers, were slightly decreased. The result today is that with rare exception, it is only the cooperatives that produce a DOCG Soave Superiore, as the finest artisan estates, continue to use the DOC designation.

While this is a relatively cool zone with average rainfall totals, the Soave zone can be quite warm during the summer months. This explains the marvelous tradition of many vineyards being planted in the pergola system, with overhead foliage that shields the clusters from the sun's roasting heat; under the pergola, temperatures are often 10-15 degrees F cooler than outside, helping maintain freshness in the grapes, which are a signature of this appealing, delicious white wine.

Soave works best as an aperitif and should be consumed young. Soaves which spend time on lees can stand up to grilled fish, chicken and seafood-based pastas. (Wine/Appellations)