As for brand names like Valpolicella and Chianti, U.S. consumer perception of the Northern Italian Soave appellation was tainted in the 1970s by market saturation and a tide of low-quality wines that no longer resembled the wines traditionally produced there.
To most Americans in my parents' generation, Soave (the name of a village in the Veneto) was synonymous with a commercial brand name (there's no need to remind you of it here). It was the type of wine that you needed to serve overly chilled because it was so zealously sulfured (i.e., treated with SO2 in order to stabilize the wine and make it fit for shipping sooner than later) that it would smell like rotten eggs otherwise.
Today, more and more high-quality bottlings of Soave are making their way to North America, like the Pieropan that I picked up at Kroger on Buffalo Speedway yesterday afternoon for $14 -- a great value for a "real" wine.
By "real" I mean a wine that retains its geographical and cultural identity and stands apart as a genuine expression of the place where it is made and the people who make it.
Although it also makes high-end vineyard-designated wines, the iconic Pieropan winery in Soave remains a commercial, volume-driven producer. Otherwise, it wouldn't be able to deliver "supermarket" wines at such low prices. But even in its entry-level bottling, the winemaker delivers Garganega (the main grape of Soave, pronounced gahr-GAH-neh-gah) brimming with the appellation's classic acidity and volcanic minerality.
I've always liked the brand (and some of the top wines are fantastic), and I was thrilled to find it at Kroger, where I found myself shopping for wine at the last minute yesterday (after a travel snafu made it impossible to get to my cellar).
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The wine was a great pairing for BYOB seafood at Jasmine Asian Cuisine on Bellaire, where corkage is allowed for the cost of a glass of wine (another great value).
Real wine at Kroger? Who knew? (I'll post about a few other gems I found there down the road.)