I was thinking about the other wines of the Veneto recently. By "other wines" I am referring to the salubrious whites of a region more famously known for its voluptuous, silken reds made from corvina and other grapes.
While the balance and finesse of Valpolicella and rispassos may delight, and the power of Amarone is like no other, the whites of the region outside of Venice stimulate sultry summer dreams. They are not too simple and not not too complex. Take sauvignon blanc’s grassy, flinty characteristics and add the fruit and subtle spice complexity of a northern Italian pinot grigio and you are somewhere near describing a garganega from the Soave Classico D.O.C.
Just below the windswept expanse of Lago di Garda, Italy’s largest lake, lie the rolling alluvial hills and moraines of the Veneto. These mountains were formed from the great clash of the European and African continents colliding, forming the jagged and dramatic Alps and the Dolomites. Millions of years of snowmelt-caused river erosion brought that rock down to the low hills of northeastern Italy. Here, the mineralogy of the geology holds the key in these soils of time. The alluvials tend to be more fertile (not as sought-after for grape-growing), while the limestone beneath and beyond hold heat and make wines of more determinate quality. Reverse breezes flow from the Adriatic to condition the nighttime temps.
Unlike the famous sub-Alps (formerly known as cold-climate-zone) box canyon of Alto Adige to the north of the lake, which currently is seeing rising daytime temperatures and night- time heat like never before, the Veneto benefits from the constant breezes. Alto Adige’s inland rock walls act as thermal mass, keeping it warm at night. Soave Classico has a nice moderation of winds and makes wines that are as refreshing as they are complex. The wines translate this geological and climatic region incredibly. They are, in my opinion, almost the perfect, text- book whites for summer sipping or for food pairing anytime.
One of the most classic, recognizable and consistent wines from the D.O.C. is Inama. They have vast holdings and plantings of garganega
both on the hillsides and valleys between – about 70 hectares to be precise. The second-generation operation led by Stefano Inama has been in production since the 1960s – not long by historical standards but at the fore- front of modern Italian white wine production, responsible for changing the region’s reputation as that of a producer of mainly inexpensive bulk wines.
The 2017 Inama Soave Classico “Vin Soave” D.O.C. is largely responsible for the shift in perception. Its shimmering pear, apple, grapefruit flavors, lemon curd mid-palate sweet tones and a pine-nutty, salty finish not only please the palate, they also beg as much for seafood, chicken, fresh basil pesto or pizza with a fresh tomato sauce as they do to be the center of attention on a summer porch session. At a suggested retail of around $15, this wine should occupy plenty of your summer cold “go-to” fridge space.
Another white wine grape lurks in the Veneto region, and you might have heard of it. A younger generation of four Italian brothers who founded Tenuta Sant’Antonio in the mid-1990s now produces a value brand under the name Scaia. The term “Scaia” is a nod to the local Veronese dialect as a colloquialism for describing the Parmigiano-Reggiano crumbs that resemble chalky limestone chips in the region’s soil.
Inspired by modernity, freshness and value, they are blending 45 per- cent chardonnay for their 2017 Scaia Garganega-Chardonnay Trevenezie IGT ($13). The wine is comprised of estate fruit and grapes from trusted growers just outside D.O.C. boundaries. It is fermented in stainless steel for that classic freshness, and the lees are stirred for an amplification of lushness. It is aromatic, fruit-leaning (the chardonnay adds a bit of volume and power) and quite a bargain for a wine that comes off this clean and pure.
It is the high season for the refreshing joys of northern Italian white wines from the Veneto. Get thee to a wine shop.
Cheers! Remember: Wine reveals truth.
Drew Stofflet lives in Carbondale. Correspond with him at firstname.lastname@example.org