I’m going to break from our normal offer format and start with our panel’s tasting notes on today’s white: “great depth and texture”; “a saline mineral component”; “ripe notes of white peach and green tropical fruits”; “viscosity balanced by citrusy freshness”; “green-laced florals.” If that all sounds good, well, it is—and the wine’s an excellent value, too.
I didn’t lead with the fact that it’s an Italian Soave, and I might not have shown you the label first if I were pouring it for you in person, because Soave still carries a lot of baggage from its mass-marketed, low-quality ’70s heyday. It was an Italian wine cliché that persisted into my days at Babbo in New York in the mid-2000s (where, much to my irritation, the occasional joker would reference ’90s one-hit-wonder Rico Suave when ordering a bottle). If you love Chablis, or dry Alsatian whites, or Godello from Spain, you’ll love this Soave from Roccolo Grassi. It’s a satisfyingly deep white with rich fruit and palpable mineral savor, along with a hint of creaminess from sur lie (lees) aging in oak. It’s quite luxurious, in fact—especially when you consider the price—so if you’re still harboring fears about Soave, it’s time to grow up and get with the program. You’d be thrilled to encounter this wine in a seafood restaurant in Venice and will be equally happy to open it at your table at home. I’m certain of it.
The original Soave winemaking zone consisted of a small cluster of hills between the towns of Monteforte d’Alpone and Soave, east of Verona. Among these hills are some ancient volcanos, although throughout Soave the soils vary from volcanic to more “calcareous” (clay/limestone) depending on location. Like the Valpolicella region immediately to the west, Soave is part of a band of foothills that spread out from the Monte Lessini to the north; a series of streams flow down from the Lessini Mountains (which form part of the regional border with Trentino) and so there is also an “alluvial” (i.e. river-borne) component to the soil as well, with gravel and sand factoring into the mix.
The Roccolo Grassi property is headquartered in the commune of Mezzane di Sotto, which is in one of the more easterly valleys of the Valpolicella DOC, not far from where it gives way to the Soave appellation. Brother-sister team Marco and Francesca Sartori have vineyards in both appellations, and take a very focused approach to their production: From a total of 14 hectares of vines they make five wines—three from Valpolicella and two from Soave. As is traditional in both zones, they craft not just the headliner dry wines but off-dry/sweet styles from grapes that are dried after harvest (appassimento), such as Amarone and the sweeter recioto versions of Valpolicella/Soave.
“La Broia” is a single vineyard of about two hectares, with soils described as “alluvial and very rich in limestone.” It is planted to the Garganega (gar-GAH-nay-gah) variety, which comprises 100% of today’s wine; although Soave wines may be blends (and often contain not just other local varieties such as Trebbiano di Soave but also international grapes such as Chardonnay), producers in the region are redefining what’s possible with Garganega. Long prized for its productivity, it shows not just great concentration and fruit expression when treated with care but also some exotic aromatics. It’s personality, at least in serious examples like today’s, is kind of a Chardonnay-Pinot Blanc-Albariño mashup.
Roccolo Grassi’s 2016 “La Broia” is 100% Garganega fermented and aged in a mixture of French oak barriques and 22-hectoliter Slavonian oak casks. It spent a full year aging on its lees in barrel then six months in bottle before it was released, but if you’re expecting something buttery and flabby, think again: The wine is bright, mineral, floral, and fresh, with no overt “oakiness” and a very subtle creamy note from the lees aging. In the glass, it’s a pale yellow-gold moving to straw at the rim, with inviting aromas of white peach, green mango peel, nectarine, white flowers, lime zest, and wet stones. It is medium-plus in body, with a pleasing, mouth-coating viscosity that is cleaned up by a brisk wave of freshness and that hint of salinity mentioned above. While I don’t love the word, I’ll go with “yummy” here. It’s yummy, it’s ready to drink now, and it will make a great choice for seafood of all types (not to mention chicken, pork, and veal). Check out the very Venetian recipe we’ve attached: This wine is what you’d likely get with it over there, and trust me, they were meant for each other. Enjoy!
Barriques & 22HL Slavonian Casks