Some of you may remember, I was too young and wasn’t even arrived in the UK yet, but I was told that in the eighties Soave not only was one of the most famous Italian wines but also had a great reputation - it was one of the first Italian wines to make the other side of the Alps.
Soave is a white wine made with at least 70% of Garganega
grapes and the remaining of Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave obtained from vineyards located in Veneto, province of Venice, with the best producers using a higher percentage and many using only Garganega.
However, within a few years, that reputation started to fade due to poor quality wine flooding the market and by the time I arrived, in the noughties, Soave had become possibly the cheapest Italian wine together with Frascati, supermarkets were selling it at slightly more than £3 per bottles. I still remember the price, it was my first impact with the UK wine industry. The Soave then slowly started disappearing, from supermarkets’ shelves and restaurants’ wine lists, replaced by the Pinot Grigio as the country’s favourite white wine until the same happened again. It looks like Italian wine producers didn’t learn the lessons – Prosecco will probably be the next casualty.
Fast forward 20 years and the Soave consortium has announced the creation of 33 crus, known as UGA “Unità Geografica Aggiuntiva” or Additional Geographical Units, covering approximately 40% of the DOC area hoping, to polish the Soave reputation. Will it work? I am not a pessimistic person, I always see the glass, of wine, half full but I don’t believe it will make much difference, it will probably do more harm than good. The new system will force the producers outside the crus to put their prices even lower starting a war, whilst at the same time the new system will not help the Soave’s cause creating confusion for wine drinkers. For the crus system to work, producers and consortium would need to spend a considerable amount of money, money I don’t believe they have.
What is a cru? A cru indicates a particular vineyard within the appellation that can, from the 2019 vintage in the case of Soave, be vinified separately and have its name appearing on the label. Until 2018, there were Soave and Soave Classico. Soave classico is made with grapes grown in the “classic” area, obtained from vineyards located within the borders of the town of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone, and the bulk of the newly classified crus are in the Soave Classico area.
Soave is not the first Italian wine that has divided its appellation into crus, the same was done a few years ago by the Barolo consortium with mixed results, but Barolo is a wine with a different history and price compared to Soave. Will the new system work and help the wine to remedy to some of the mistakes done in the past? Will wine drinkers bother to learn about the different crus and pay a premium? It will take a few vintages before we can answer these questions.