Soave is a famous Italian white wine region named after the eponymous town near Verona. The town of Soave is dominated by a massive medieval castle and its impressively crenellated walls. From these high swallow-tailed vantage points you can see that Soave is surrounded by vines and is at the centre of the Classico zone. As with so many Italian DOC regions, Classico is the ancient and superior enclave, a landscape of rolling limestone hills with excellent exposure to the sun. In marked contrast, â€œnormal Soaveâ€ remains an insipid industrialised wine produced by overcropped vines on the flat plains to the south. Because that accounts for 80% of all Soave production the image of Soave remains cheap and cheerless.
The regulations that govern Soave have not improved Soaveâ€™s reputation either. Since 1998 there has been a theoretically higher DOCG classification, a so-called â€œsuperiore,â€ designed to improve quality, but this has been boycotted by most of the leading producers. Instead, they have either stuck with the older DOC classification or just abandoned it completely. They show just how fine and satisfying the white wines from this area can be.
Soave exists in three main guises; as a sparkling wine, a dry wine and a gloriously rich and sweet recioto. The mainstay of all these is garganega, a grape variety capable of real quality. Other white grapes may be included in the blend, including chardonnay and pinot bianco. However, a regular partner is often the dreaded trebbiano. While this is indeed the dull trebbiano toscano in the cheap wines, a quality producer will employ the far superior trebbiano di soave, which is just the local name for verdicchio, an entirely different grape.
Coffele is found in the heart of the medieval town, on the main street, the via Roma. In 1971, Giuseppe and Giovanna Coffele retired as teachers to rejuvenate this estate. Today their work is being carried on by their children, Alberto and Chiara. They own some of the best vineyards in the Classico zone and today sit at the producer top table alongside their peers such as Pieropan (found just a few doors away), Anselmi and Inama.
The Coffele family vineyards are at Soave and to the north at Castelcerino. These terraced hillsides are planted mainly with garganega, though trebbiano di soave, sauvignon and chardonnay are also farmed. They also have red varieties: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Under the management of Alberto Coffele, the estate is organic, cultivated traditionally without chemicals and with an abundance of olive, cherry and oak trees. They are rightly proud that their organic manure comes from their own stables – Coffele are horse breeders too.
Caâ€™Visco is made from their vineyards at Castelcerino and is a blend of 75% garganega and 25% trebbiano di soave. It is named after Giovannaâ€™s family, the Viscoâ€™s being the original vineyard owners. The harvest is by hand, with several vineyard passes made during September and October to select the ripest bunches – the selection is performed in the vineyard. The grape varieties are fermented separately at the winery at low temperature in modern stainless steel tanks. The wines then sit on the lees to pick up complexity before racking, blending and bottling. No oak is used with Caâ€™Visco, so it is a true expression of Soave character.
Pale yellow with green hints, the aromaâ€™s are fresh and welcoming – blossom, minerals and apple are to the fore. On the palate, there is great balance, a welcome moderate level of alcohol and soft acids bring mouth filling texture before a clean refreshing bite. You might find victoria plum, peach and grapefruit on the palate but the memory is that of almonds. The 2010 vintage is drinking well now but this is a wine capable of developing complexity over the next five years. On the evidence from the 2009 to 2006 vintages, additional acacia, herb and pepper notes can be expected.
As with most Italian wines, Caâ€™Visco is ideal with food. Seafood like scallops are an obvious match but pairing with asparagus risotto is a classic. Try spinach and ricotta tortellini, those delicious pasta parcels with a little truffle oil and parmesan seem tailor-made.
As for an aperitivo, nothing beats a cold glass of Coffele Caâ€™Visco on the terrace of the Enoteca del Drago in Soave, just a few yards up the via Roma from Coffele…but thatâ€™s another story. Memories are made of this.
In the U.S., recent vintages of Coffele Caâ€™Visco 2007-2010 are available from $16.99 to $22.99 in a range of stores.