Facts on Garganega
Hard to say, easy to drink...It's time to make friends with one of Italy's oldest varietals.
There are some artists and masters of their craft that crave the limelight. Then, there are those that prefer to stand in the shadow cast by their masterpieces. Soave may be one of the most noted of Italy’s white wines, yet though it is adored across the globe by many, few are aware of the grape variety that makes it possible – the noble Garganega.
Garganega hails from the northeast of Italy and its home soils in the Veneto region. Its most noted role is in the wines of Soave – one of Italy’s most popular white wines – and it occupies an important place in Italian viticulture as one of the oldest and most widely-planted varieties. Indeed, the wines of Soave have been revered by the northern Italian elite since the 6th century.
As a variety, Garganega pleases both grape growers and winemakers alike: the former appreciate its loose-knit bunches, which help lower disease pressure by increasing ventilation; the latter appreciate its perfume and intense aromatics. Together with its softer acidity and ability to produce high volume crops, winemakers can establish their own balance between quality and quantity. Sadly, many Soave producers have chosen quantity over quality, with the market awash with cheap and rather uninspiring wines.
This hasn’t tarnished Garganega’s reputation, however – its name is not noted on the labels of Soave wines, so it still remains rather unknown, and being a challenging wine to pronounce, it’s no wonder that it flies under the radar. Although best known for its dry wines, Garganega has the ability to produce both sparkling wines and luscious dessert wines. The sweet wines are made from grapes that have been dried out for several weeks or even months after harvest.
Sicily has the largest planting outside of the Veneto. Early 21st century DNA profiling revealed that the Sicilian variety of Grecanico Dorato is Garganega. In addition to Sicily, it can be found sparingly in neighbouring Fruili and around Lake Garda in Lombardy.
Garganega has not travelled widely outside of its home country. In Australia, plantings are small but the wines produced clearly show the variety has promise here. There has been some planted in the Barossa Valley and in McLaren Vale, but the vast majority of plantings in Australia are in the central and north eastern regions of Victoria.
Garganega is extremely perfumed and can show aromas of white blossom, stone fruits, baked apple and almonds. Medium bodied in style, it has a softer acidity than most other Italian white varieties. The sweet styles are luscious and creamy with notes of tropical fruits, candied citrus rind and honey.
Garganega complements lighter-to-medium weight dishes such as mussels cooked in white wine or a prawn and lemon bruschetta. It’s great with salads and white cheese, and enjoys a natural fusion with risotto.