Winter vegetables meet Italy’s wine queen

Winter vegetables meet Italy’s wine queen

Seasonal food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. As the mercury drops in Shanghai, we are so lucky to be able to enjoy the winter vegetables. While my wise friends at Shanghai Daily introduce these delicious vegetables, I want to spend myself on the details of wine pairing and choose an ideal partner.

Winter vegetables come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, including popular root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets, etc. and cruciferous and leafy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, fennel, cabbage, kale, spinach, etc. All boast high concentrations of healthy vitamins, minerals and antitoxins and all taste better with a glass of wine.

As a rule, white wines tend to go better with winter vegetables, as they complement rather than drown out the original taste of the vegetables and are more versatile and flexible partners to the many different spices and sauces in many vegetable dishes. The natural acidity of white wines also highlights the freshness of the vegetables.

The list of winter vegetable synergistic whites is long and varied, but especially a white style has the combination of freshness, elegance, balance and viscosity to pair with a host of seasonal vegetable preparations.

Winter vegetables meet Italy's wine queen

Ti Gong

The hilly vineyards of the Soave Classico region


The more I drink Soave, the more I love it. Considering I’ve been drinking Soave for half a century, that really says something. Located about 20 kilometers from romantic Verona and 90 kilometers west of Venice, the small medieval town of Soave is one of Italy’s most charming and picturesque destinations. The historic town is surrounded by scenic, vineyard-clad hills that generously contribute their fruit to one of Italy’s most noble white wines.

The nearby red wine region of Valpolicella makes the mighty Amarone wines, the king of Italian reds; while Soave has earned the right to be called the queen of Italian whites. Although this noble wine was largely worthy of her recognition, it experienced a temporal fall from grace.

Half a century ago, when I started drinking wine, Soave was at the forefront of the growing wine markets in the US, UK and Germany. For a time, Soave even overshadowed sales of the Chianti red wine, making it the most popular Italian wine in the United States. After two decades of enviable success, the Soave brand fell victim to its own success.

Greater demand pressured Soave producers to expand production. During the 1970s and 1980s, Soave’s production area and vineyard yields grew exponentially, and it was not surprising that the overall quality of the wines suffered. The Soave brand was spotty and other Italian white wines were quick to fill the vacuum. In particular, the friendly and fruity Pinot Grigio whites captured the hearts of white wine lovers worldwide and became Italy’s new white wine sensation.

A small team of high-quality Soave producers continued to produce excellent wines and their number gradually grew. In 2001, Soave Superiore wines gained DOCG status, and these wines, along with the better DOC examples, gradually began to regain their historic appearance. Italy’s best white wine started a new and better chapter.

The historic grape from Soave is Garganega. By law, the variety must include 70 percent of Soave wines with Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay also allowed in the blend. Basic Soave DOC wines are light, fresh and pleasant, while the Soave Classico and Superiore wines offer greater elegance and complexity.

The lands around the idyllic town of Soave consist mostly of clay, limestone and volcanic soil, and the best vineyards in the traditional hilly Classico region are certainly less fertile than the flatter vineyards of the lowlands. The climate in the Soave region is affected by mists flowing from the Po Valley in the late stages of the growing season. These afternoon breezes have a beneficial cooling effect on the vines and help the grapes retain their natural acidity.

Today, there are two different styles of dry Soave white wines. Basic Soave DOC wines are usually simple and pleasantly fresh wines, while Soave Classico DOC and Soave Classico Superiore DOCG wines of higher quality tend to be more textured, complex and long. Superior DOCG wines have a higher minimum alcohol and longer storage requirements.

An excellent example of an apex Soave wine has recently arrived in Shanghai.

2018 Cantina di Monteforte Castellaro Soave Classico Superiore DOCG is a magnificent rich and textured wine with a light golden color, expressive nose of peaches and yellow fruit with mineral notes and a delicious velvety soft taste with good freshness and a long elegant finish. If you want to experience a top Soave, try this wine.

Not all good Soave wines come from the Classico region. The family-owned winery La Cappuccina makes a 100 percent Garganega organic Soave wine that offers lively flower and almond aromas and delicate fruit flavors. Renowned Valpolicella producer Bertani also makes a lively, tasteful Soave called Soave Edition.

Additional producers that have lovely Soave wines in Shanghai are Zenato, Viticoltori, Tommasi, Masi and Sartori. In addition to dry quiet white wines, the Soave region also produces some fine sparkling and sweet Recioto di Soave wines.

Basic Soave DOC wines should be served well chilled or around 6-8 degrees Celsius, while the better Classico and Superiore wines are best served a few degrees higher to allow them to fully showcase their elite race and tasty qualities.

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