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Canberra Today 8°/13° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Gem of a wine that unbuttoned the past

“I can remember tasting soave in a bar in Melbourne in the 1990s and noting that it should be avoided in the future. But this wine was a gem, especially given the price,” writes wine columnist RICHARD CALVER.

I went to Vintage Cellars in Manuka to ask if they had any lambrusco. 

Richard Calver.

I wanted to re-experience the flavour of the lightweight, red sweet fizz that I’d been served by an Italian friend’s family in the 1990s. 

It was a mission to show that context is everything and that even a wine as everyday and as cheap as lambrusco (from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, northeast of Tuscany) could be a worthwhile drink depending on the company and, perhaps, the food that its served with. At this point I should tell you a memory joke but I seem to have forgotten them all. 

But no, they didn’t stock any Italian or Australian lambrusco so the experiment was set aside for another day.

Instead of a memory-triggering tasting where I could, over dinner with my daughter, test the context question once again, I bought a wine to start new memories and stimulate older ones of the time my daughter and I visited Rome. 

By its label bearing the word “Italia” this wine couldn’t have been more apt: it was part of the Postcards from Italy range by Revino. I know you don’t drink the label, but it is a very picturesque scene – an island in a calm and deeply blue lake framed by distant, snow-covered mountains. 

Plus, bonus, the wine was on sale to members of the Vintage Cellar club at only $14. It is an organic soave 2022 and how they can make, bottle and land the wine in Australia for only this amount is astounding. 

Soave is made from Italian garganega grapes, although it may also be made with chardonnay or trebbiano di soave added. 

The label… a picturesque scene – an island in a calm and deeply blue lake framed by distant, snow-covered mountains.

For it to be a soave the denomination rules (DOC) require it to be at least 70 per cent made from garganega grapes. 

Wine usually gets its designation from either the grape variety or a region. In this case, it’s obviously the region with Soave being part of Veneto in northeast Italy. 

This wine was popular in the 1970s and 1980s but greed saw its decline as it became an overproduced, diluted, low-cost wine, that ruined the image of soave on international markets

I can remember tasting soave in a bar in Melbourne in the 1990s (is my memory stuck there?) and noting that it should be avoided in the future. 

But this wine was a gem, especially given the price. It was light yellow in colour with a bouquet that was slightly floral. The finish was smooth and, as it came to room temperature, a light fennel taste emerged that went well with the smoked trout we had for entrée. 

And then a dad joke to go with the main course: “Tragedy about the Italian chef. He pasta way. There’s just not mushroom for Italian chefs these days.” 

I served prawns for main course and the wine matched well with its acidity cutting through the richness of the sauce.

We reminisced about our wonderful few days in Rome, in particular sitting in a piazza in the late afternoon drinking a light red wine (the varietal forgotten) and people-watching to our hearts content. 

As we finished the soave and spoke of our lovely time as tourists, I told my daughter the final dad joke of the night, featuring a childhood memory: 

When I was a boy, your grandma would send me to the local shop with just a shilling and I’d come home with milk, bread, chocolate, cheese and eggs. Alas you can’t do that now. Blasted security cameras.

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Richard Calver

Richard Calver

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