Gianni Tessari Soave

Soave is an often forgotten wine damaged by the 1980’s restaurant scene, but can you now find an excellent example? We look at Gianni Tessari and find out…

Ben @winehack – 8 June 2020

Soave, like Chianti, is another Italian great that suffered some serious reputational damage in the great uprising of the 1980’s Trattoria. We’re happy to pick up a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay without much thought, but you might be met with a funny look when you suggest a Soave. I always think it’s crazy that despite the huge variations in styles and indeed quality of something like a Sauvignon Blanc, it’s just seen as a grape that will be enjoyed universally. In the same train of thought, Soave is seen as something that universally won’t be. So, what’s going on here, is it really a ghastly beverage or are we just missing out on something wonderful?

Gianni Tessari Soave
Gianni Tessari, Soave DOC ,2018

Some history

Like Chianti, Soave was one of the first wines in Italy to get its own Royal decree by having the potential to produce fine wines. Traditionally, Soave is a medium bodied white wine with a hint of almond that gives it a unique characteristic and separates it from the otherwise similar(ish) Chardonnay. In the 80’s and 90’s the global wine trend was for a lighter a crisper wine more akin to Pinot Grigio. It’s hard to know if this trend was consumer driven or driven by vineyards themselves who were capitalising on the general increase in demand by making wines outside of the traditional Soave zone in the hills of the classico zone and thereby altering its terroir related qualities. In any event, what resulted was a wine of much poorer quality than that which was traditional. There has however been a resurgence in the last two decades of artisan producers, usually independent and with smaller vineyards that have re-instilled a pride in not only their wine, but also in their heritage and wine making traditions that began to be lost in upping of output in the 1980’s. The focus now is on quality, terroir and increasingly bio-diversity and environmental protections. So now it is once again possible to drink a really cracking Soave.

Soave classifications

As with other Italian wines of note there is the DOC and DOCG classification system for Soave. Typically a general recognition of quality due to the many different rules employed by the classifications. The key of these for Soave is what the wine can be blended with. The chief Soave grape is Garganega, both DOC and DOCG demand at least 70% of the wine is made from the Garganega grape. The difference arises in the remaining 30%. In DOC this can be made up with Trebbiano di Soave or Verdicchio as it’s sometimes known. (note, you can no longer use the lesser quality Tribbiano Toscano, which is primarily used for Cognac). In DOCG the 30% can be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Trebbiano di Soave. It also allows for a 5% total from some other local varieties such as Friulano, Cortese and Vespaiolo. Some of the best producers including our own Gianni Tessari don’t actually use the DOCG label instead opting for the DOC class as they feel the lower alcohol content is more in keeping with their own wine vision. Whilst this does make things more confusing on the shelf, it does highlight that just because something has a better title, it certainly doesn’t automatically make it taste better.

Gianni Tessari Soave

So lets’ take a closer look at Gianni Tessari and find out what’s so special about his little piece of the Soave hills.

The Gianni Tessari winery is located in Roncà, in the heart of the Alpone Valley in the province of Verona which is in the North of Italy. Gianni started working in the family vineyards from a young age, after graduating at the agricultural institute he began his journey, developing his passion, curiosity and a desire to reach new goals. In the late 80’s he began working with his brother and eventually their Soave began to be seen around the world. They collected numerous awards and accolades and are widely regarded as one of the best Soave producers. The terroir boasts an unmistakable enological personality thanks to its volcanic origin with differentiates it from the other surrounding historical areas. The climate is mild and temperate creating perfect growing conditions for the two grape varieties Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave. The Trebbiano (up to 20% in Gianni’s wines) adds flavour and vivacity to the density and structure that’s so typical of the local Garganega.

Here at winehack we currently stock 2 of Gianni’s Soaves; the DOC and the Classico Cru ‘Monte Tenda’. Additionally, we also have his Pinot Grigio.

Gianni Tessari, Soave Classico Monte Tenda, 2018

Soave DOC, 2018

The DOC has a floral nose with white flowers and fruit pulp including hints of sage and melon. The palate has a lovely balance of stone fruit and acidity. It’s a perfect match for some white fish or as an aperitif.

Here’s what the winemaker has to say:

Producing a Soave DOC means to interpret non just the enological characteristics but first of all the essence that an enologist, like a sculptor, must extract from the grapes. And the essence of Soave is typicalness. It is being a wine of the origins, of traditions. About the history of a territory. Between the aromas of white flowers and light straw yellow colour, emanates powerfully a sensation of familiarity: each sip is a memory, something known and already lived through. Gianni Tessari winemaker

Soave Classico Monte Tenda, 2018

White flowers and peach dominate the nose. The palate has a fine balance of minerality, ripe fruit and lemongrass. There is a subtle hint of almond on the finish. White meat, fish and appetizers all pass muster with this delicious wine.

Here’s what Gianni says

Like a statue the souls of which is concealed in the raw material: this is what this Cru is like, produced in a hilly area with a mainly calcareous soil. A Soave Classico Doc in which one can recognise immediately the limestone: an easy material to carve, friable. Extremely pliable. And like the most graceful works of art, the wine of such a terroir is gentle. Its elegance is immediately perceivable with the nose, in a very fine bouquet of white flowers and white pulp fruit. – Gianni Tessari winemaker

What some others have said...

Of course, you don’t just have to take our word for it, here’s what the Wine Enthusiast Magazine and The Observer had to say:

“White spring flower and white orchard fruit aromas mingle with whiffs of beeswax on this fresh, polished white. The lovely palate shows ripe yellow apple, white peach and citrus zest before an almond and graphite finish” – Kerin O’Keefe, wine enthusiast magazine on the Soave Monte Tenda, 2018

“For many years, drinking the dry white wines of the Soave zone in the Veneto region of Italy was an exercise in cognitive dissonance. Watery and weak to the point of tasteless, they failed to provide the mellifluous, soft, easy charm promised by their name. As ever, greed was to blame: a boom in production had led to vineyards being planted in unsuitable areas far from the wines traditional home and producers maxing out the vines yield. Bland as they were, the wines filled the lists of generic Italian restaurants and shops, until drinkers moved on to the next big bland Italian thing: Pinot Grigio. Much of this ordinary soave is still made, but producers such as Gianni Tessari are now making something graceful but flavourful, floral and melon-scented that is worthy of the name” – David Williams, The Observer on Gianni Tessari Soave DOC