Garganega is the grape of Soave and gives to that wine its body, acidity and structure and well as wonderful aromatics of honeydew melon, pear and yellow flowers. While many examples of Soave are steel aged, some vintners age their wines in oak casks, yet most of these wines have relatively similar profiles that emphasize the brightness of the Garganega grape.
I just tasted a wine made entirely from the Garganega grape that turns everything you thought you knew about the variety and its resulting wines on its head. It’s from a artisan producer named Dama del Rovere, managed by Massimo Prà. Located in the hamlet of Brogoligo di Monteforte d’Alpone in the eastern reaches of the Soave Classico zone, the winery was established by Prà in 2003.
Prà works only with the Garganega grape and produces sparkling Durello from the hills near Soave along with a traditional Soave Classico, named “Tremenalto”. The 2009 is the current release and it is nicely balanced with fresh melon and pear perfumes backed by lively acidity and good depth of fruit. It is a typical Soave and a fine example of the quality of this zone.
But it is the 100% Garganega bottling he calls “Spinaje” in which Prà really displays a uniqueness rarely seen with the variety. The 2006 is the current bottling and it is identified as an IGT Veneto Bianco, as this is not anything like the Soave Classico he produces. The grapes are from vineyards in Monteforte d’Alpone, ranging from 10 to 76 years of age; after manual harvest, Prà lets the grapes dry naturally in the appassimento manner for several months; this is the same drying process as is used for Amarone as well as the sweet Recioto di Valpolicella and Recioto di Soave.
The wine is then partially fermented in various sizes of French oak for approximately twelve months and is then bottled. The result is something truly special, which you note with one glance at its color, a brilliant orange/amber. Not knowing anything about this wine before I tried it a few nights ago, I thought that given this was a wine from the 2006 vintage, I must have received a flawed bottle, given its deep color. Boy was I wrong!
The wine features aromas of Bosc pear, dried honey, a hint of pineapple and wheat germ (!). Medium-full, the wine has a dry, clean finish with very good persistence, pure fruit flavors, good acidity and notes of sweet brown spice. What I love most about this wine is its remarkable freshness; many white wines that have undergone appassimento often have a dried, slightly oxidized character to them, almost like an older sherry. Not so with this wine, which tastes much younger than its age. I expect this wine to drink well for another 3-5 years, perhaps longer.
Dama del Rovere is one of thirteen producers of Soave that has joined together in an organization called Vignaioli del Soave, whose stated goal is to “restore the dignity” of Soave to consumers. Other producers include such renowned estates such as Pieropan, Inama and Ca’ Rugate; on the website, you can learn more about this organization in general as well as each specific producer. While the “Spinaje” from Dama Del Rovere may not technically be a Soave Classico, it shares the same base material. It’s how Massimo Prà used the Garganega grape to fashion such a remarkable wine that is the story here; a new wine from an ancient variety.