Last week, I was thrilled to be able to attend the Sensational Soave Master Class - Chicago, presented by the Soave Consorzio Tutela and Full Circle Wine Solutions. Helmed by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, with color commentary by Giovanni Ponchia of the Soave Consorzio. The educational seminar was held at Nico Osteria, a quite beautiful restaurant in the Gold Coast of Chicago, always a fun and swanky area to visit. This was my first visit to the restaurant and I cam e away impressed by the design, the service and, of course, the food.
The seminar started, after some introductory remarks, with a blind tasting of 10 wines - we were left to our own devices to taste and take notes, before being brought back together as a group for the big reveals. Some of the wines I liked, some not so much, but there was a definite sharing of several characteristics across most of the wines: bright acidity, lemony overtones, as well as plenty of almond smells and flavors. The most shocking thing, perhaps, was that these wines, from current releases to three dating back to 2001, 2005, and 2009 respectively, were all available within a range of $9-29. Very nice QPR for the group as a whole.
After a brief break to sip on a Soave Spumante (who knew they made sparklers?!), it was back to the grind and more facts about the area. Soave is delineated by soil types, with the East and Central area siting on volcanic and basaltic soils, and calcareous or limestone soils in the West and South. The average age of the grapevines is 35 years old, brought down only by a few misguided attempts to "freshen" the vineyards (Soave now educates its winegrowers to leave in the ground as long as possible, if they are healthy). Garganega is the principle grape, with a small percentage of Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave also represented. Amazingly, Soave is responsible for 4% of all Italian wine production, spread across 13 municipalities and over 16,000 acres.
Then, what we had all been waiting for, food and wine pairings! A beet salad was the first course, with a mint component that wowed many of us, bringing out new and tasty components of the wine. A second course of Rigatoni with Mushroom Ragù and Lemon Breadcrumbs showcased yet more flavors and aromas - Soave is classically paired with lemon or other citrus-based dishes, so that was no surprise. The earthiness of the mushrooms went beautifully with the wines, an unexpected pairing that was spot on. For the final course, I got a special plate of hanger steak, as I don't eat fish - I didn't expect much from this pairing, as most white wines would be overshadowed by the meat. No problem for the Soave Superiore, though, much to my amazement. I will say that in most cases, both the food and the wine improved when enjoyed together, compared to eating or drinking on their own. The wines ranged from 12%-13.5%, perfect for the dishes we were served.
This really opened my eyes to both the quality of wines coming from Soave and their incredible food friendliness. These are wines that could be enjoyed as an aperitif, but should, when possible, be allowed to shine when paired with food. And don't be shy about pairing these with just about anything - we had beets (with mint!), mushrooms, and (for me) beef, and the wines handled it all with great aplomb. I wouldn't hesitate to put these on the table at any time, including holidays, when the food gets more varied and perhaps a bit fancier.
This seminar was provided for media purposes - all opinions are my own.
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