Garganega is a wine grape used to produce one of the most popular styles of white wine exported from Italy, Soave (Swah-vay). It originates in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Garganega can also be blended with Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave (and Pinot bianco in DOCG wines), but by law, it must be a minimum of 70% Garganega. Soave was anointed with DOC status back in 1968 and now has Classico and Colli Scaligeri (which is rarely seen on labels) classifications. As time has gone on, some styles of Soave have also been granted DOCG status (the highest status for Italian wines). This has been a bit controversial but still remains categorized as such. Soave wines make dry, crisp wines with notes of citrus and green fruit like honeydew melon unless they are aged. Aged Soave has more complicated flavors, like marmalade, honey, spices, crushed herbs and almonds as a result of their time in oak barrels. To simplify today’s post, we will focus on the Soave Classico version.
Classico, when listed on an Italian wine label, indicates the grapes were grown near the historic center of a larger region in the towns of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone. Soave Classico is grown on hillsides with volcanic soil, while wines just labelled Soave are usually grown in loamy soil on the flat. There is a distinct difference in the quality of the wines resulting from the variation in soil type. The presence of wine in this region dates back to Roman times and the region was even an important center to the Roman empire. Historians note that the 8th bishop of Verona, Saint Zeno, used evangelical images of grapevines to convey his knowledge of winemaking all the way back in 300 AC.
The wine I selected is a 2019 Azienda Agricola Pra’ Soave Classico Otto. I decided to pair it with a Vietnamese cold cut banh mi sandwich. If you are unfamiliar, it is an ode to the French influence on Vietnamese culture. It consists of a french roll topped with pȃté, vietnamese mayonnaise, cilantro, jalapeño slices, cucumber wedges, pickled diakón and carrot sticks, and a choice of meat (BBQ pork, grilled pork, tofu, and pork loaf (chả lụa)) are all very common options. The wine is a pale straw yellow with watery legs that rush down the sides of the glass. It smells of tropical fruits like juicy pineapple, banana, and mango, with citrus notes of bitter lemon pith and lime peel. This dry, light bodied, medium alcohol wine is a bit less acidic than the Orvieto I tasted a couple weeks ago but still has a pleasant bite to it. Bright flavors of green apple, slightly under ripe pineapple, green pear, white peaches, bitter lemon pith, all with a touch of wet slate, immerse the palate. These brilliant fruits paired well with the salty pȃté slathered on the sandwich. The green veggie notes brought out the green fruit notes and minerality in the wine. The citrus brightened up the fresh fillings. Then there was the acid to downplay the fatty components of the sandwich. The wine and sandwich complemented each other nicely but were not outstanding. I would still have the pairing again though!