A couple of weeks ago, I had some great Veneto wines at the four star restaurant, Del Posto. Those who know Veneto may think it is very odd to use the word “great” in the same sentence as their wines. I certainly understand feeling underwhelmed by the wines from the Veneto. I typically consider it a region for “everyday” drinking wine. These wines are like an old marriage: comfortable, complacent and not requiring much attention.
Italian Wines in the US
Italian wines are the imported wines with the longest history in the US market. This is mainly due to the many Italian immigrants that have settled in this country. According to the Library of Congress, by the 1920s, over 4 million Italian immigrants had come to the US; hence why Italian wine and food can be seen in many American cities across the country. The above fact has helped Italian wines become a regular staple for many Americans, especially New York City wine drinkers. But in other ways, it has been a detriment by mainly introducing Americans to the everyday basic Italian wines.
The early association with entry level, easy drinking wines, such as some Prosecco, Veneto Pinot Grigio, Soave and Valpolicella, has made it seem that great wine only exists in certain regions in Italy. Piedmont and Tuscany have received most of the glory with their Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello and Super Tuscan wines. Veneto wines have mainly been viewed as the quaffing wines that are not even given a second thought.
Soave is a perfect example of a white wine from Veneto that is not taken usually seriously. I agree that many Soave wines are simple wines that do not inspire that much passion. But a quality minded producer can produce a Soave that makes one’s heart sing. I was not necessarily excited to taste the 2013 Pieropan Soave “La Rocca” a couple weeks ago. I felt like I had been in a long, unfulfilling marriage with Soave. I knew what I was going to get and it was nothing special. But I have to say that the Pieropan Soave knocked me off my feet. I felt like the husband who sees a beautiful woman across the room, and so he approaches her only to discover it is his wife – he sees her for the first time as her true self – a magnificent creature.
And so my affair has started with Soave, and I only hope it continues to grow. It was only fitting that I had this beautiful encounter at the only The New York Times four star Italian restaurant, Del Posto, the first to be given such an honor in 40 years. There have always been great Italian restaurants in New York but why did it take so long to properly acknowledge one? Maybe it is like the husband who sees his wife for the first time – sometimes we don’t realize that the most special things in this world are right in front of our face.
Everyday Drinking Wine (less than $15)
NV Scu Dò Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy ($9): 100% Glera grape variety. This Prosecco was not poured during my dinner at Del Posto but I wanted to suggest an everyday drinking Prosecco that was a great value wine. This is a dry sparkling wine with light floral, peach notes. It is fresh, clean and simply fun!
Special Occasion Wine (from$15 to $50)
2013 Pieropan, Soave Classico DOC “La Rocca”, Veneto, Italy ($32): 100% Garganega grape variety. This is the remarkable Soave white wine I was talking about in the above article. It had an intense, chalky minerality with honeysuckle and tropical fruit flavors. A creamy texture perfectly balanced by zingy acidity. A stunning wine that can be enjoyed now and will only get better with age.
Fantasy Wine (over $50)
2008 Domini Veneti, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC “Mater”, (average price $144): 70% Corvina, 15% Corvinone and 15% Rondinella. This Amarone has an exquisite label that was designed by artist Gianni Burato. A rich, powerful red wine with sweet raisin fruit with cinnamon spice and a hint of vanilla. Domini Veneti only makes this wine in extraordinary vintages and if you find it, grab it, since it is a wine that is difficult to find.
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