With the Alpine mountain ranges dominating a third of the area, and foothills leading to flat rice fields at the base, Veneto [VEH-neh-toh] is the most geographically diverse of the Italian growing regions. The area around Verona, with its temperate climate and hilly surroundings, is believed to have cultivated grapes since the Bronze Age. From zesty and dry white wines such as Soave, to the full-flavored, smoky Amarone, Veneto offers a spectrum of wine flavors unmatched in Italy. Bordeaux-like grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are found here. Corvina grapes also produce several noteworthy wines such as the Bardolino and Valpolicella.
Soave is arguably the most famous white wine of the Veneto, but its reputation has been tarnished by mass-market versions. Soave literally translates to “gentle,” and a few hard-working producers, such as Ca’ Rugate, do justice to the name. Where did the name come from? There are two current theories. The first is that Dante, the famous Italian poet of the 13th century, named it that because of its mildness. The second theory holds that Romeo (yes, that Romeo) was offered some wine after having met with Juliet. He replies, “soave,” to the servant, but was he talking about the wine, or Juliet? Soave is primarily made from the Garganega grape with small amounts of Trebbiano, Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc allowed, as long as Garganega is at least 70-percent of the blend. Soave has a delicate gold color with a subtle floral aroma and the light flavor of sweet almond.