Home Wine Regions Italian Wine Soave: Classico or Superiore?

Note from the editor: We’ve added a new reviewer to the Cheap Wine Ratings team and this is the first of what will hopefully become many reviews from David Germano.  And now, on with his review…

This is my first official post on cheapwineratings.com, and my first assignment, ironically, has brought me right back to my roots.  It seems like only yesterday that, literally, on a daily basis, wine rep after wine rep would have me sampling dozens of Italian whites as I searched for distinguished, yet affordable examples of traditional Italian varietals.

In the mid 90’s that task was challenging, as Italian wine making was unfortunately mired in old-world thinking.  But that’s another discussion.  Over a decade later, I find myself impressed with the selection and quality of Italian white wines, and the newfound progressive approach to wine making, particularly with stalwarts like Pinot Grigio and Soave.

Recently, I had an opportunity to sample two new Soave examples, Prime Brume Soave Classico 2009 D.O.C. from Cantina Di Gambellara, and Capitel Al Pigno Soave Classico Superiore 2008.  As I tasted and rated these wines, I expected to write up two independent reviews.  But as I looked back through my notes and compared my scoring for each wine, I realized that while the scores were fairly similar, the wines were anything but.  There are important nuances to these two wines that can’t be adequately conveyed without some explanation about how the wines classifications affect their different interpretations of the varietal.

First of all, these two wines are both good quality examples of Soave, a wine that I’ve always been partial too.  But they go about things a little differently.  While some of that can be attributed to the obvious differences – winemaking and vintage, much of that can be attributed to their classifications – Classico versus Superiore.

The name Soave not only represents where the wine comes from, in this case the Veneto region in northeast Italy, but what varietal(s) are used to make the wine.   Garganega is the predominant varietal used to make Soave, but some wine makers will use other white varietals in small percentages, such as Trebbiano Veronese, or even Chardonnay.   While Cantina Di Gambellara’s Classico uses around 15% Trebbiano Veronese in the blend, the Capitel Al Pigno’s Superiore is 100% Garganega.  Further, the Superiore is released no earlier than 1 year after harvest, with a minimum of 3 months of bottle aging.  This typically translates into Soave that’s more complex and mature, but in some cases, a wine with less forward fruit.

Prime Brume Soave Classico

I sampled the Prime Brume first and found the initial aroma and bouquet to be indicative, and actually pleasantly intense, showing signs of honeycrisp apple, turning to crisp bell pepper as the wine opened up.  On the palate the wine was well balanced offering floral and mineral tones and crisp acidity, along with a long, lingering finish.  Overall the Prime Brume is a good, modern example of what Soave can be.

Capitel Al Pigno Soave Classico Superiore

In contrast the Capitel Al Pigno was a bit more subdued on the nose with more muted tropical hints of banana, and honey.  The Superiore, not surprisingly was a little fuller in the palate, but lacked the intense finish of the Prime Brume.  I couldn’t help but feel a little de ja vu while sampling the Capitel Al Pigno.  While I think the Capitel Al Pigno is a good example of traditional Soave Classico Superiore, I believe there is an opportunity to make this wine even more appealing by breaking from tradition, something that many progressive wine makers in Italy have already found success doing.

So, it really comes down to style preference.  Both wines offer a good Italian white wine experience.  Both wines pair well with lighter fair, such as seafood, and pasta.   The Capitel Al Pigno would even do well with dishes like veal scallopini, while I think the Prime Brume would make a great aperitif.  Or here’s a thought – don’t choose.  Serve both for your next Italian wine dinner, and impress your friends with your knowledge and good taste.

A  Salute!

Wine: Prime Brume Soave Classico from Cantina Di Gambellara
Variety: 85% Garganega/15% Trebbiano Veronese
Vintage: 2009
Alcohol: 12.5%
Rating: 85
Price: $16.00

Wine: Capitel Al Pigno Soave Classico Superiore
Variety: 100% Garganega
Vintage: 2008
Alcohol: 12.5%
Rating: 84
Price: $10.00

Disclosure: These wines were received as press samples.

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