From €14.64, £15.95, $20.85
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Soave is a big appellation in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, with about 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of vines that produce more than 50 million bottles a year that are sold in over 70 countries. At one time, if you asked in a bar or pub for nothing more specific than a 'dry white wine', you might have been given a glass of Soave. Today, you would more likely be given a cheap Italian Pinot Grigio.
Producers in Soave are in a difficult position – one shared by their neighbours in Valpolicella – of trying to convince consumers that, just as in many big, and well-established regions, the quality of the wine is immensely varied, ranging from delicious wines such as Vicentini Agostino’s Il Casale 2014 Soave Superiore to the inoffensively neutral; the voice of its very best examples, which combine citrus and pear flavours with a slightly nutty quality and a lovely chalky texture, may be drowned out by the noise of the cheap and not so cheerful.
The different appellations – Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOCG, Soave Superiore DOCG and Soave Superiore Classico DOCG – suggest a ladder of quality but this may not always be the case in practice. Soave Classico comes from a smaller area at the heart of the zone and Superiore wines must come from vines grown on the generally less fertile hillsides, in theory producing more flavourful wines. Il Casale is classified as Soave Superiore and the photo below shows the Vicentinis' terraced vineyard of the same name.
Ironically, I came across Vicentini Agostino’s excellent Il Casale 2014 Soave Superiore, one of those quiet voices, in a tasting that focused on wines from grapes grown on volcanic soils (see full report). Ironically because although vineyards in the eastern part of the appellation are planted on volcanic soils, this particular wine comes from another part of the region which has limestone soils derived not from volcanic eruptions but from deposits that were once at the bottom of the sea.
The wines from the two different types of soil were quite different even though they are both made from 100% Garganega (the regulations insist on a maximum of 70%). Those from the volcanic soils were more powerful, almost oily (though I have tasted others that are more steely), whereas this one was more subtle, with aromas and flavours of citrus and green fruits and fresh almonds, made more distinctive by a light smokiness, and carried along by a deliciously chalky texture so that the flavour had real intensity without being strident. The 2014 vintage had a saline quality as well, and the 2012 showed some very attractive notes of spice and honey from the extra time in the bottle, but was still very fresh. The 2013 vintage, which I tasted later when I saw that some retailers are still selling these slightly older vintages, was similar to, but less intense than, the 2014 and did not yet have the attractive development of the 2012 and would benefit from another year in bottle.
Vicentini Agostino – the surname first, as in many Italian producer names – is a family business, with 14 ha of vines inherited from Francis Vicentini by his son Agostino, and now run by Agostino and his daughter and son Francesca and Emanuele. They produce both Soave and Valpolicella. The vines in the Il Casale vineyard are around 40 years old and the yields are very low. The quality of the fruit and the simplicity of the winemaking – fermented cool in stainless-steel tanks and undergoing only partial malolactic conversion – combine to give a wine of impressive purity and length, a wine that can only enhance the reputation of Soave.
According to the Francesca Vicentini, the wine is available in the UK, Japan, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland. It is imported into the US by Enotria Wine Imports. In the UK, Philglas & Swiggot are selling the 2014 for £17 a bottle (£16.15 if you buy 6), either online or via their London shops, and Bianca Trading's website shows the 2012 at £15.95. But use the wine-searcher link below for more stockists.
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