Wed 6 Apr 2011
First, the terrifically tasty Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2009, produced by the Cantina di Soave, a cooperative founded in 1898 that now boasts 2,200 farmers as members. The Soave region lies east of the beautiful city of Verona, site of the annual giant VinItaly trade fair — coming right up, April 7-11 — with the Soave Classico zone rising in hills in the farther eastern reaches of Soave. The region was granted D.O.C. status in 1968; the theoretically higher or better D.O.C.G. ranking was bestowed in 2002 but only for Soave Classico and Soave Classico Superiore. This latter move was an attempt to separate the Classico and Classico Superiore vineyards in the hills from the inferior vineyards in the flatlands, the source of most of the bland, innocuous Soave wines with which the world is too boringly familiar. As is typically the case with the Italian wine laws, the situation is actually more complicated, but the simplification I offer here will be sufficient to our purpose.
Also complicated is the make-up of the grapes that comprise Soave. Principle among these is garganega, a grape that, given the appropriate climate, soil and elevation, is capable of making interesting and even complex, if not great, wines. For the DOCG wines of the hillsides, the characterless trebbiabo Toscana is now forbidden, though is it found ubiquitously in the Soaves of the plains. Other authorized grapes include trebbiano de Soave, chardonnay (which seems an odd choice) and pinot bianco. Garganega must be at least 70 percent of the blend.
The Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2009, as a matter of fact, is 100 percent garganega. The color is pale straw; the bouquet delivers seductive aromas of roasted lemon and lemon balm, almond and almond blossom with hints of green plums, melons and dried thyme. Made all in stainless steel, the wine is notably clean, fresh and crisp, very lemony in flavor with touches of pear and grapefruit and a tremendous spicy element laid over a burgeoning layer of limestone-like minerality. The texture nicely balances scintillating acidity with moderate soft lushness. Thoroughly enjoyable with the bacon and leek risotto with poached egg that I cooked last week. 12.5 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Filippo Pedron. Very Good+. About $15, representing Real Value.
MW Imports, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The recipe for the bacon and leek risotto with poached egg — wonderful dish! — is in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. Here’s a link to the recipe at the magazine’s website.
Next, for a red wine, we try the Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” Vieilles Vignes Beaujolais 2009, from a splendid year in Beaujolais. Notice that this is a “regular” Beaujolais, not a Beaujolais-Villages or a Cru Beaujolais from one of the 10 named communes, yet you would be hard pressed to find a wine that expressed the true nature of the gamay grape more eloquently than this one. The vines average 40 years old, with some going back 70 years. The wine matures in stainless steel tanks and large old barrels, so any wood influence is a subtle, supple sense of shaping and nuances of underlying spice. The wine is lovely in every aspect, from its radiant ruby-purple color with a faint blue cast to its pure and intense bouquet of black and red currants and red raspberries imbued with cloves, mulberries and a touch of graphite-like minerality. In the mouth, this is silken fruit draped over the stones and bones of clean, vibrant acidity and deftly etched limestone and shale, all stated with varietal intensity and concentration that do not cloud the wine’s utter delight. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2012 or ’13. Excellent. Suggested retail price is $17; I paid $20 in Memphis.
North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, Cal. The label in this image is slightly different from the label on the bottle I had.