Monday, February 27, 2012

Visiting Balestri Valda in Soave, Italy

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Laura Rizzotto at Balestri Valda in Soave

Following the EWBC 2011 in Brescia, I went with a number of fellow-bloggers on a day trip to Soave, guided by Elisabetta Tosi . We visited 3 wineries – Balestri Valda, Coffele and Cantina Sociale di Soave and met a group of winemaker – Soavecru - in the Palazzo Vescovile in Monteforte d’Alpone, where we had lunch with them and tasted their wines.

This is the third in a series of postings on Soave:

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

The Soave Zone

Soave is a white wine produced in the surrounding area of the fascinating middle age villages of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone, between the picturesque cities of Venice and Verona in the eastern part of the province of Verona in Italy’s Veneto region.

The majority of the vineyards are in the hills. Beautiful centuries-old castles, churches, bell towers, and aristocratic villas are all part of the rich history and traditions of this area, and indicative of the region’s principal product, Soave wines. There are about 3000 growers and 120 wineries, ranging from boutique producers making wine from tiny plots to a few large cooperatives, which make credible wine at attractive prices.

Many of the vineyards are comprised of basalt rock or volcanic stone, which explains the minerality in the wines, while other sites are more dominated by calcaire (limestone). Given the excellent drainage of hillside vineyards, yields are naturally low, which provides more deeply concentrated wines which can age for many years.

Picture: The Soave Castle

Soave has developed a reputation of producing simple, crisp wines which pair very well with Italian but also other food. Soave wines tend to have low acid. It is one of the top selling wines in Italy, exported all over the world.

The prevailing grape is the Garganega, the fifth most planted white grape in Italy. Soave must contain at least 70 percent of Garganega, and the rest can be Trebbiano, but Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are also allowed.

Classification of Soave Wines

All Soave wines – as all Italian wines – belong to one of the following 4 quality levels.

(1) Vino da Tavola (VDT): A very basic wine, made for local consumption; the bottle label does not indicate the region or grape variety. This is the wine you typically get served in a Pizzeria or Trattoria in Italy, when you ask for the “house wine”. Simple, cheap and decent. I can tell, sitting late in the evening at a Piazza in Soave and eating Pizza with a Vino da Tavola, served in a 1 liter jug, is just great.

(2) Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT): Wines that are considered to be of higher quality than simple table wines, but which do not conform to DOC and DOCG regulations. In the case of Soave, the label would only indicate the region, Veneto. So, you would not recognize it as a Soave. Sometimes, these are premium wines of winemakers who dropped the DOC/DOCG designation and instead carry the broader Veneto IGT designation, allowing them to try to improve quality by using nontraditional grapes, blends, viticultural practices or vinification techniques that are not allowed under the DOC and DOCG standards.

Picture: Balestri Valda Vineyards

(3) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC). Soave is currently the largest DOC appellation in Italy, with 15,500 acres of vines. There is Soave DOC and Soave Classico DOC. Soave Classico DOC can only come from the Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone communes. The Soave zone produces approximately 40 million bottles of Soave DOC wine every year and 15 million Soave Classico DOC wine.

(4) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). DOCG wines are a tick higher in terms of quality requirements than DOC wines (maximum yield for example), which is the highest category in Italy's wine-classification system. About 13,000 acres of vine of the 15,500 acres of the DOC appellation also qualify for DOCG.

There are 2 Soave DOCG appellations: The Soave Superiore DOCG and the Recioto di Soave DOCG.

The Soave Superiore DOCG production zone is in the hillside sites, outside of the communes of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone. If aged for a minimum of 2 years, the wine can be labeled as Riserva.

Second, there is Recioto di Soave DOCG, which can come as Bianco (normale), Classico (from the classical zone) and Spumante. These are sweet-style straw wines, where the grapes are dried indoors in open plastic containers for from four to six months, during which they lose over 50% of their moisture, followed by a long, slow fermentation, often in small barrels.

Straw wines are typically sweet wines, capable of long life, but do not have to be sweet. For example, the straw wines from the blend of red wine grapes typical of Valpolicella can come as dry or sweet: If fermentation is complete, the result is a (dry) Amarone della Valpolicella; if fermentation is incomplete, the result is a (sweet) Recioto della Valpolicella. Fermentation may stop for several reasons including high alcohol.

Balestri Valda

Our first stop was at Balestri Valda, just over the hill from Soave, a small family estate, founded and managed by Guido Rizzotto. Balestri Valda has 20 hectares of land planted mainly with Garganega (70%) and Trebbiano di Soave (30%). The total production of Balestri Valda is about 50,000 bottles.

Picture: Laura Rizzotto

We were received by Guido’s daughter, Laura Rizzotto.

Wine Making Philosophy

Laura explained: “Our management practices are an expression of our respect for our vineyards and the environment. Pruning, thinning, bunch selection; everything conforms to the idea of living in harmony with the vine. We harvest by hand, as tradition commands, when the grapes reach their peak, a fleeting moment that is carefully ascertained by daily testing.

Pictures: Touring Balestri Valda

Then the focus of attention moves to the cellar. This is where our wines are created and gently age, where flavor and bouquet reach perfection. The "red" cellar is where ancient culture and modern technique meet and melt. So next to pneumatic presses that gently press the grapes, and steel fermentation and storage vats stand fine oak barrels and barriques.”

Wine Portfolio

SOAVE CLASSICO – Laura: “This is the true lord of this land. The "Classico" appellation gives it a special quality reserved only for the wines made from grapes harvested and vinified in the Soave and Monteforte d'Alpone areas.”

Picture: The Wines of Balestri Valda

LUNA LONGA – a white wine

SENGIALTA - from the Sengialta vineyard, aged for 6 months in large Slavonian wood barrels. Laura:”excellent with rice dishes and with grilled fish.”

SCALIGIO – named after the Scaligera family who governed Verona in the early 1300s.

RECIOTO DI SOAVE – A Passito from Soave. Laura: “Its name comes from the term "rece", which in the dialect of Verona means the "ears", i.e.e. the upper lobes of the bunch where the grapes are ripest.”

SOAVE BRUT - a brut sparkling wine.

RECIOTO DI SOAVE SPUMANTE DOCG – Laura: “it originates from the best and ripest bunches of Garganega, naturally dried until February. Thanks to it's delicate sweetness and characteristic almond taste, it's perfect with every dessert. Serve it cold, about 7-8°C.”

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Wines of the 2010 Giro d'Italia

Italy's Top Wines - 2011 Gambero Rosso's Vini d'Italia Wine Guide

Meeting Winemaker and Owner Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy and Tasting His di Lenardo Vineyards Wines

In the Glass: 3 Easy Drinking Wines from the Soave Region in Italy

The Wines of casa 236 in Italy – Peter Schiller

In the Glass: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems, Italy

Kobrand’s Impressive Tour d'Italia 2011 in Washington DC, USA

The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

1 comment:

  1. The vineyards are absolutely gorgeous, there is no way you can have bad time there.