"Ci sembra di aver ritrovato un vecchio amico". Si conclude così il commento su una degustazione di Soave condotta da Dorothy J.Gaither e John Brecher, editorialisti de The Wall Street Journal. Grazie alla segnalazione di un amico abbonato al prestigioso quotidiano finanziario statunitense, potete leggere il testo del pezzo riportato qui di seguito.
In sintesi, mi sembra un ottimo incoraggiamento a insistere negli sforzi di promozione intrapresi nel recente passato. Non sono mancati gli errori, il periodo non è facile, anzi, ma credo che in questo commento dagli USA si possano trovare molti spunti per impostare o aggiornare strategie utili a ritornare in bella evidenza sugli scaffali degli store americani.
New Life for an Old Favorite: Soave
The Italian white beloved in the '70s isn't consistent, but the good ones are crisp and vibrant
By DOROTHY J. GAITER AND JOHN BRECHER
We asked for Soave at a nice little wine store and the gray-haired salesman got a faraway look. He turned to a colleague and said: "There's nothing I like better with Soave than clams casino." How perfect. After all, for many of us, the last time we drank Soave was just about the same time we last ate clams casino. What a trip, man.
WSJ Tastings columnists Dottie Gaiter and John Brecher drink up as they comment on the struggle of Soave, once the go-to white Italian wine, to make a comeback.
We hadn't actually thought about Soave for years until Mike Godfrey of College Station, Texas, wrote to us in 2007 and asked: "Whatever happened to Soave? It was once the ubiquitous Italian white wine." We said then that Soave was overproduced and became insipid and unpleasant, dooming it, in the eyes of many people, to a ring of wine Hell just above Mateus, Lancers and Boone's Farm.
The sad decline of Soave can be traced through old books. In 1970, Frank Schoonmaker called it "excellent dry white wine, among Italy's best" in his "Encyclopedia of Wine." By 1984 E. Frank Henriques, in "The Signet Encyclopedia of Wine," had essentially downgraded it to a "good little Italian white wine." He added, however: "It is America's favorite white Italian wine" -- and he doesn't even have a listing for Pinot Grigio. By 1994, in "Alexis Bespaloff's Complete Guide to Wine," Soave had become "a pale, dry white wine with a great deal of charm if it is cleanly made and bottled young." It was all downhill from there.
The Dow Jones Soave Index
In a broad blind tasting of Soave, from the Veneto region of Italy, these were our favorites. These are especially good with seafood. We would buy and drink these young.
Monte Tondo Classico 2007. $14.49. Very Good. Best of tasting. A wine of some substance. Easy to drink, with tropical-fruit flavors, but also layers of complexity and a long, mineral finish.
Folonari 2007. $11.99 (1.5 liter). Very Good. Best value. Nicely clean, with a bit of weight and stuffing underneath -- we could almost taste seashell-like minerals. Some hints of ripe white peach. Well-balanced. Don't tell anyone the price!
A Mano 2007. $13*. Good/Very Good. Pleasant, without the depth of some but friendly, easy tastes of plump, ripe white grapes.
Inama Classico 2007. $15.99. Good/Very Good. Clean and fresh, with some weight and presence. Fleshy tastes, with a bit of round richness.
Suavia Superiore Classico 2007. $14.99. Good/Very Good. Approachable and fruity, with a little white pepper that gives it special character. Very good with food.
NOTE: Wines are rated on a scale that ranges: Yech, OK, Good, Very Good, Delicious and Delicious! These are the prices we paid at stores in Colorado, Illinois and New York. *We paid $15 for A Mano, but this price appears to be more representative. Prices vary widely.
Producers realized years ago that the jig was up and they needed to improve the overall quality to "reconquer the heart and palate of the American market," as the producers' association, the Consorzio del Soave, put it. They firmed up the rules for the "Classico" designation for wines grown in better areas with more carefully chosen grapes -- mostly Garganega, the classic grape of Soave. Then they went a step further and established a "Superiore" designation for what they say are the best, most carefully made wines. These wines are allowed a DOCG mark, which is meant to be a sign of the highest quality in Italian wine. There is even a Soave DOCG Riserva, which requires longer aging before release.
Ever since Mr. Godfrey's letter, we have been keeping our eyes open for Soave because we've been curious how it has evolved. We finally decided this spring that it was time for a broad blind tasting and we set about buying our sample. We were surprised how hard it is to find Soave, both on store shelves and in restaurants. In store after store, we'd have to push our way through shelves and shelves of Pinot Grigio until we got to "other" Italian whites. Some stores had no Soave at all. Most had just one or two. Some had Soave that had been sitting around since, well, since clams casino was in vogue. The vast majority of Soave we saw was Classico. A few cost less than $10 and a few cost more than $20, but most were between $13 and $19. Soave should be drunk young, so we did not buy any wines older than 2006. (We did not see any Riserva wines.)
We bagged the wines and tried them in blind flights over several nights. And we wish we could give you a clear verdict, but we can't. An unusually large number of the wines -- certainly a minority, but more than we'd expect -- simply didn't taste quite right to us, a little skunky and odd. They weren't very pleasant and were not wines we would recommend at any price. And we didn't much like that old standby once known as Soave Bolla, though we did enjoy the memories.
That said, the good wines were very pleasant indeed, with crisp, dry, vibrant, somewhat intense tastes. They gave us what we like in an informal white wine: mouthwatering tastes with some complexity, a little bit of weight, some fruitiness but not too much and a finish with enough grounding that it tastes like wine, not water or lemon juice. As we said about one, "Pinot Grigio-like cleanliness without Pinot Grigio-like neutrality."
"This is a wise wine," Dottie said about one. "It's not a stupid wine. In fact, it's one of the most fulfilling white wines I've had in a while." Fulfilling -- that's high praise indeed, especially for a wine that, it turns out, costs about $15. It was Monte Tondo Classico 2007, which was our best of tasting. It's 100% Garganega. The importer, Clyde Thomas of New York, says the winery made about 3,300 cases of the wine and more than 300 cases were imported.
The biggest surprise came later. "A great party wine," we wrote, "with some stuff and good acidity. Some Viognier-like weight, with a shellfish-mineral finish that makes us think of Muscadet. Quite impressive, with some white peach. Improves with a little warmth, finish becomes even longer and more minerally."
When we unbagged the wine, it was, to our surprise, an old, familiar name: Folonari. The price: around $11.99 for a 1.5 liter bottle. Crazy, man. The importer, Frederick Wildman of New York, says Folonari made 100,000 cases of the 2007 Soave and it imported 17,900 cases that were distributed nationally. It is 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano. We conduct our tastings blind for many reasons, and one of them is that we like surprises. This was a very nice surprise.
At the end of the tasting, we guess we felt that we'd reacquainted ourselves with an old friend -- and old friend who has been through some tough times, but is still standing and working hard on a comeback, with some good days and some bad. Considering the reasonable prices, we would urge you to try a Soave sometime soon and see what you think. And, what the heck, have it with clams casino.