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Boost for Soave with new UK campaign

Published:  27 February, 2017

Soave, the dry white wine produced in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy, is looking to boost its fortunes here in the UK this summer with the help of new trade and consumer campaign.

A series of press and consumer events under the moniker 'Summer of Soave' will take place in several UK cities to introduce the wines to a wider audience via by-the-glass promotions and restaurant partnerships.

Organised by the Italian consorzio and fronted by Sarah Abbott MW in the UK, the campaign aims to reinvigorate sales of the wine which reached its heyday in the 1970s before losing market share to Chardonnay and the easy-drinking Pinot Grigio.

With over three-quarters of production being exported annually to around 60 international markets, Abbott paints an optimistic picture of Soave in 2017 as Italy's "hero white" winemaking region.

She argues that Soave has a huge range of quality and price positioning comparable to Chablis, as well as Rioja, Chianti, Champagne and Cava - but the problem is communicating that to its customer-base.

"Soave has been making top quality, mineral, elegant and long-lived wines for decades, but the conversation and awareness within the trade and press hasn't been about those wines," Abbott told Harpers.

"Twenty years ago, the consorzio and producers embarked on a mission to protect and reward producers aspiring for quality. They have raised production regulations, reduced yields, made a hero of Garganega, funded research into volcanic and limestone terroirs, partnered with the World Biodiversity Association and researched the benefits of traditional training systems. The vineyard area of Soave has declined, and the fertile alluvial plains are now planted to Pinot Grigio, destined for IGT Veneto.

"But the trade and press don't really know about all this. Influencers including Jamie Goode, Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW, David Gleave MW and Justin Knock MW have all written over the last few years about top quality Soave, and about how Soave is an underrated and underpriced fine white wine."

That's where Summer Soave steps in.

The series of targeted events is being launched by the Consorzio di Soave e Recioto di Soave, implemented by Abbott, as well as Madeleine Waters and Rachel Davey in the UK. 

As well as regulation, among other things to lower yields and focus on quality, Abbott believes that changes in the on-trade and the trend towards light, un-oaked wines has left a door open for Soave in the UK.

"Soave is in luck, because un-oaked, mineral, fresh and what I call 'sneakily aromatic' white wines are in fashion at the moment. A recent piece of research from Wine Intelligence indicated that the rise in casual dining, and the aesthetic and atmosphere and food style around that, is driving demand for these wines. White wine consumption is increasing in the UK. Also, I think the interest in volcanic wine has helped Soave too," she said.

The Summer of Soave campaign will focus on the region's sparkling and sweet wines, as well as its principal grape, Garganega.

Currently, 94% of Soave's 6,500 hectares are devoted to Garganega, which pairs with Trebbiano and Chardonnay as its primary blending partners.

Pinot Grigio continues to reign supreme in the UK, but Abbott doesn't think aiming to erode its market share is an aim that Soave should aspire to. 

"Pinot Grigio is the de facto Liebfraumilch of our time, and that's okay, because something is needed to provide the 'uncomplicated glass of fun', and Pinot Grigio does that well. But Pinot Grigio is losing its Italian identify, never mind having a Venetian one - The 'I heart Pinot Grigio' brand is currently sourcing grapes from Hungary.

"Quality Soave is more likely to pick up sales from consumers currently drinking Chablis, or even New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc."

The campaign will be launched with a tasting and masterclass of 'crus' Soave wines for the trade on March 30 at 67 Pall Mall.

For more information, contact