Friday, November 27, 2009

Soave is Back

Gary Grunner, National Sales-Brand Manager of Cantina di Soave, invited me on a recent Sunday afternoon, to Il Poeta, one of the finest new Italian restaurants in Queens, New York. Three new wines from Veneto were the main event, paired perfectly with cuisine from the same region prepared by Veneto native, Chef Mario DiChiara, and co-hosted by his business partner Luca.

Rocca Sveva Soave Classico 2008 DOC

When I was a younger man, the most famous white wine from Italy was from the Soave region, near Verona. Regional Garganega and Trebbiano grapes were among the finest then and remain so until this day. The first tasting selection, from Cantina di Soave is this very same Soave Classico, a fond reminder of my youth, and proof in my estimation, that Soave has not only made a strong comeback but remains one of Italy's greatest white wines.

This straw colored white wine, made with 100% Garganega grapes, expresses blossoming aromas of fresh fruits, melons, pears, apples and mild cinnamon. A surprising depth of flavor and texture balances very nicely with bright, crisp acidity, and a nutty finish.

Soave Classico proved to be a super match-up with the first two courses, a burrata with arugula and prosciutto, and "sardines in carpione," delicate fish that's fried, then marinated in a saor sauce (vinegar with onions, pine nuts and raisins).

Rocca Sveva Amarone della Valpolicella 2006 DOC

The Amarone Process
The hand-picked clusters are set to dry on "drying racks" for at least 3 months in special temperature- and humidity-controlled lofts. During the drying period, the grapes are affected by "noble rot" or botrytis cinerea. By the time they are ready to undergo maceration and fermentation they will have lost up to 50-60% of their water content. They are then de-stemmed and pressed, and the must is put into small fermenters where it ferments at low temperatures (50°F) for some 25-30 days. When the alcohol reaches two-thirds of its final level, the wine is put into stainless steel tanks at 68°F to complete fermentation. The wine is then matured in oak casks for a minimum of 24 months, followed by an additional twelve months in bottle.

Deep ruby with warmer colors around the edge of the glass, along with cherry pie aromas, layered with flavors of rich chocolate, dried fruits, bing cherries, and dark berries urge you to savor every sip. This full-bodied gold medal winner is the perfect pairing for a hearty meal. On the palate has a nice full-bodied structure, with notes of hazelnut, a beautiful balance and lasting finish. We decanted this wine for over an hour and it opened beautifully— the perfect partner for a Risotto with duck ragu.

Gold medal winner 2008 Vinitaly
Gold Medal and Trophy 2008, 2007, 2006 International Wine Challenge

Rocca Sveva Ripasso di Valpolicella Superiore 2007 DOC

Made from 70% Corvina, and 30% Molinara and Rondinella, and employing a process by which the wine is "re-passed" for 11 to 14 days over the freshly fermented pomace/lees of the grapes used to make Amarone, this lush 2009 International Wine Challenge Gold medal winner, is then further aged for six months in the bottle. The "re-passing" provides increased structure as well as an appealing roundness; 30% of the wine is then matured in oak barriques and 70% in large oak botti for an additional 12-18 months.

The hospitable bouquet is abundant with black fruits, a smoky oakiness, with slight barnyard alongside exotic spiciness. Luscious ripened black cherries and vanilla contrast a slightly floral edge, as a prelude to a smart, smooth and long finish, pairing exquisitely with sirloin steak and mustard sauce, mushrooms and potatoes.

It was clear to all on this particular Sunday afternoon, that the best vineyards in Italy are producing premium but affordable wines. Soave is back with a flavorful vengeance, and Chef Mario and I were happily surprised and excited about the many amazing selections from this rich and fertile region.

Il Poeta is a family owned restaurant featuring classic Italian dishes brought to life with the culinary touches of Chef Mario DiChiara. Fine dining and exceptional service is what you can expect when you visit there. After years of experience as Chef at such restaurants as Harry's Bar (owned by Cipriani in Venice, Italy), Cipriani (NY), and Il Corso, Chef Mario DiChiara and his brother-in-law Luca opened Il Poeta to rave reviews.

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