Soave is so-so at best: That's the line you often hear from people disappointed (and fed up) with Italy's most popular white wine. But Soave, named for a town/area in the Veneto region, can be quite good, minerally crisp and food-friendly. Some of the best representations of Soave can be found under the distinctive neo-classical labels of Inama.
The winery was founded in 1965 by Giuseppe Inama, who died last year. His goal, according to his son and successor, Stefano Inama, was to provide bottlers with quality Soave, which is made from garganega grapes.
"In 1991 I started to bottle our own estate white wines," Stefano Inama wrote in an e-mail from Italy. "The idea was, from the beginning, to produce the 'old-fashioned' Soave Classico, according to my research and after having spoken to native Venetians about winemaking practices of traditional Soave Classico. In 1992 we produced our first Soave, the Vigneti di Foscarino, from our pergola vineyards located on the Monte Foscarino."
What his father started with garganega, Inama now is doing for carmenere, a red grape that once had a relatively minor role in Bordeaux wine production. The grape was transplanted to Chile and northern Italy and largely misidentified or ignored.
But whether a red grape or white, Inama said the winery applies the same philosophy to making wine: "No winemaking." Sounds funny, I know. Here is his explanation.
"Although our winery is modern, we keep intervention during winemaking to a minimum. The wines are made in old barriques with really minimalistic enology like in the previous centuries,'' he wrote.
"We believe that authenticity has to be a key feature of the wines,'' he added. "The red vineyards are all certified organic. The whites are in a virtually organic management but with no certification. No consultants or wine gurus are allowed here. All the wines are estate produced and bottled with our own grapes."
Here are more of Inama's thoughts on wine and winemaking:
Q What should American consumers know about your winery? About you?
A Americans should know that most people in the world want predictable wines. I want to make wines that are different, and wines that taste different from year to year.
Q What prompted you to begin working with carmenere? Where do you see the wine going?
A In 1997 I started looking at the possibility of producing a red wine to complete our production. I immediately fell in love with the nearby hills of the Colli Berici, an ancient bradyseism (volcanic ridges generating a soil extremely rich in trace elements and minerals made of red clay on limestone). This quite unknown area was the first site for Bordeaux varieties in Italy, beginning in the 1850s. Upon purchasing vineyards in the Colli Berici, we discovered carmenere vines scattered throughout the region. We bottled our first wine, Bradisismo, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and carmenere, which was a tremendous success. The varietal responds so well to this unique soil type and to our viticultural techniques that I see carmenere from the Colli Berici being elevated to the world stage. We are the sole pioneers in this vision; presently we own 26 acres of carmenere vineyards, which are the largest vineyard holdings of carmenere in all of Europe. Some might say it is crazy, but that is what was said about cabernet sauvignon from Bolgheri and Sassicaia in the '70s.
The Inama list
Here are the Inama wines available in the United States:
2008 Vin Soave Soave Classico (100 percent garganega), $15
2007 Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico (100 percent garganega), $24
2007 Vigneto du Lot Soave Classico (100 percent garganega), $30
2008 Vulcaia Fume Sauvignon del Veneto (100 percent sauvignon blanc), $30
2007 Carmenere Piu Colli Berici (60 percent carmenere, 30 percent merlot, 10 percent raboso veronese), $20
2007 Bradisismo Veneto Rosso (70 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent carmenere, merlot), $30
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon del Veneto (100 percent cabernet sauvignon), $65
2004 Oratorio di San Lorenzo Veneto Rosso (100 percent carmenere), $65
2003 Vulcaia Apres Veneto Bianco ($100 percent sauvignon blanc), $45