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Soave, anyone? New life for a wine people used to hate

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Wine life people used Soave

Soave, anyone? New life for a wine people used to hate

By Michael Austin, Chicago Tribune on Nov 8, 2016 at 6:12 p.m.

Soave, anyone? New life for a wine people used to hate

You can score a likeable bottle of soave for as little as $12. Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune / TNS

The list of wines that awaits you below has 10 bottles, all in a particular wine style that is delicious and usually priced much lower than it is worth — "worth" meaning what most of us would be willing to pay for wines of such quality. The wines in question are lively, dry white wines from Italy at fair or even bargain prices. Say no more, right?

Truthfully, the rest of the story is not that involved anyway. We're talking about soave, the wine that took a beating in decades past for its lack of ... everything but wetness. It was practically odorless, colorless, flavorless liquid. But somehow it kept arriving by the shipload in the United States, and people kept buying it until better options were available.

It's a different story today, qualitywise. It's not as if the entire soave region has transformed itself; there are certainly blah soaves alive and kicking out there. But now, really nice bottles are pretty easy to find.

Soave wines come from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy not far from the enchanting city of Verona, which is a modern Italian wine mecca (host of the famous Vinitaly wine exhibition) in addition to being the "home" of Romeo and Juliet, among other Shakespeare characters. Some of the nice bottles come from the Soave DOC, but the majority of the area's best wines come from the predominantly hillside Soave Classico region, which features both volcanic and limestone soils, and wine styles that range from angular, steely and citrusy to rounder, more lush, melon-y and earthy — all with bright and lively acidity.

Look for Soave Classico DOC or Soave Superiore DOCG on the labels to find the area's top bottlings. And don't be surprised that most of them will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $15. Some specially designated single vineyard names might also appear on labels. Expect to pay about double for those. Still, you're often topping out at about $30. One has to believe that today's popular pricing is due in part to the wine style's image issues — presently deserved or not.

From light- to medium-bodied, soave is made mostly of the garganega grape variety (the law calls for 70 percent) with a few other grape varieties allowed for blending — trebbiano di soave, chardonnay and pinot bianco among them. These are expressive wines that will wake up your nose and taste buds, and could also match well with appetizers, salads, sushi, other fish dishes, poultry and pastas with vegetables. They are easy to drink and easy to like.

The best part of it all — if you are still even reading — is not that you can return to a wine that you once looked down on, or always avoided because of what you had heard about it. The best part is that you now have a new white to explore, and it won't require you to skip any utility bill payments. Discovering and delving into a wine style that is easily affordable is one of the great joys of anyone's wine journey. Sharing your bounty with a fellow wine lover is another.

The following wines were my 10 favorites from a recent tasting. They are listed in ascending order, according to price. Most are 100 percent garganega, but at least three of them (noted below) also used trebbiano di soave in their blends. Their alcohol contents landed within 12 to 13 percent, making them great as stand-up-and-chat aperitifs as well as sit-down-and-eat pairings.

• 2014 Franchetto Recorbian Soave: Citrusy and mouthwatering, this wine was tempered by a hint of orange zest, minerality and a slight note of spice on the finish. $12

• 2014 Inama Vin Soave Classico: Minerality, a satisfying earthy character, lemon, spice and fresh minerality made this wine fun and easy to drink on its own or with food. $15

• 2014 Cantina di Soave Rocca Sveva Soave Classico: Full of pear, this brightly acidic wine offered a suggestion of stone fruit that leads to a clean, refreshing finish. $16

• 2014 Cantina del Castello Soave Classico: Crushed stone, lime and pear are prominent in this wine, which consists mostly of garganega, blended with some trebbiano di soave. $16

• 2014 Fattori Danieli Soave: Fermented and aged in stainless steel, this one offered ripe melon aromas that segued to tropical and citrus flavors, ending with a subtle hint of spice. $17

• 2014 Marcato Monte Tenda Soave Classico: Floral with bursts of lime and lemon plus bright acidity, this vineyard-designated wine combines garganega and trebbiano di soave with great success. $18

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