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On the wine trail in Italy – Soave, home to elegant whites

Just a little over an hour from Venice lies the lovely walled city of Soave, the center of the wine region of the same name, and home to some wonderful refreshing white wines. The wines here are made from the Gargenega grape, either alone, or blended with Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or most traditionally, the indigenous Trebbiano di Soave. A visit to Soave is a pleasant, off-the-beaten path stop for anyone touring the region. A perfect stop to combine a little bit of history, and nice meal, and ample opportunity to sample some of the region’s best white wines. Protected over the centuries by the medieval military structure the Castle of Soave, the city changed hands repeatedly throughout history. Beginning as a Roman outpost on the trade route between Aquileia to the east and Genoa to the west, to being ruled by Milan, Padua, and Venice on multiple occasions, and even the French for short period of time. The Scaligeri family, rulers in the 1300s, are responsible for the building of the walls that surround this picturesque city today, as well as several of the lovely palaces that are still standing, including the Palazzo di Giustizia and the Scaligeri Palace. Right in the center of town you will find two enotecas, basically wine bars with a small menu. Il Drago has a lovely covered outdoor venue, with a nice menu. A local wine is recommended with each. Just down the way is the Enoteca del Soave, and again, you have ample opportunity to sample various local wines with your meal. Enjoy a local specialty, bigoli con anatra, a classic local dish of the thick hollow noodles with a duck ragu. For those looking for something more substantial, there is Osteria La Scala. This also offers a menu stocked with very traditional Veneto dishes – bigoli, fegato (liver), and polenta. Try the focacce calde, a hot panini stuffed with grilled vegetables, mozzerella and tomatoes, some of the best bread I’ve had in the Veneto. The wine list at La Scala is a great opportunity to try the local wines. I enjoyed a Soave Classico by Balestri Valda, as well as an Amarone Malo Villa Rinaldi. Other Soaves available by the glass included Coffele and Pieropan. The original Soave DOC zone is located in the hills surrounding this beautiful town. Soave wines were quite popular in the US just after WWII. The original Soave DOC zone was located in the hills that stretch east from this town, but was rapidly expanded in size to include the flatter plains along the Adige river. These plains were planted with new vineyards to meet the high demand for the wine, resulting in a number of bulk producers flooding the market with lesser quality wine, and the reputation of Soave wines suffered enormously. This is quite a shame, as a well-made Soave is a wonderful white, with full fruity wines produced from the limestone soil of the fields nearest Soave itself, to more minerally wines from the eastern vineyards with volcanic soil near Monteforte d’Alpone. Look for producers whose vineyards lie in the hillier areas; the vineyards from the original DOC area. The term ‘Classico’ is usually reserved for these vineyards, but in the initial haste to expand the DOC region, this was not followed strictly. As a result, you can find some wonderful producers, such as Roberto Anselmi, producing their wines as IGT in protest. As for tasting in Soave itself, the large, award-winning and highly regarded Pieropan winery has a cantina here. They have been at the top of Soave winemakers for four decades. You will find these wines in the US fairly easily. Try the Calvarino, from the original vineyards at the heart of the family estate, or the La Rocca, from the Monte Rocchetta hill vineyards, just below the castle built by the Scaligeri family, both Soave Classico wines. They have recently purchased land in the Valpolicella region, and are moving into those as well. I tasted their Ruberpan Valpolicella recently in New York, an elegant, medium-bodied red, rich in red berries. Coffele is another Soave producer, much smaller than Pieropan and hard to find here in the US, but well worth a try if you find one of their wines. They’ve received awards from both Vini d’Italia and Wine Spectator. Their vineyard is located north of Soave, in the hills of Castelcerino, but their very beautiful cantina lies just a few steps away from the two enotecas I visited. We’ve enjoyed tasting at their cantina on our bike tours, which always seem to end up with a taste of their grappa. Try the Classico, a wonderful Soave from 100% Garganega, the Ca’Visco, a blend of their best Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes, and the sweet dried-grape wine, the Le Sponde Recioto di Soave Classico DOCG. They are also expanding into reds, with vineyards just purchased in the adjoining Valpolicella region. For those looking to combine a wine tasting with an overnight stay, visit Azienda Agricola Monte Tondo, which has a small bed and breakfast on its estate. Within walking distance of Soave, you can enjoy spending a night or two in the midst of their vineyards and try a few of the marvelous wines they produce – their two versions of Soave that are aged in wood, the Cassett Foscarin and the Foscarin Slavinus are both recommended. Kathy Bechtel is Owner of Italiaoutdoors. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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