Two from Pra

Hello friends. Today we have the latest in our series of benchmark wines from old-world regions.

We’re in the Veneto today (location here), a region in northeastern Italy with a narrow band of a growing zone penned in between the Alps to the north and the Adriatic Sea to the south. The Veneto is probably most famous for three categories: Prosecco, Soave, and Amarone. We’ve recently offered a Prosecco, so we’ll focus mainly on Soave today (we’ll include a little bonus Amarone at the end), zeroing in on a producer that Antonio Galloni calls “a reference point-producer in Soave.”

2012 Pra Soave Classico

You can see on this zoomed-in map of the Veneto that the Soave Classico zone is due east of Verona, on soils that transition from limestone-heavy in the west to volcanic in the east. Only white wines are produced in Soave, and they must come at least 70% from the Garganega grape.

I think my soft spot for Soave has developed over the years mostly due to my love of Italian restaurants, and my loathing of the insufferable numbers of insipid Pinot Grigios that seem to dominate most wine lists. But almost always, hiding in the corner, is an equally-well-priced Soave that almost without fail brings more pizazz to the table than that dullard PG.

Graziano Pra’s Soave is one of the very best: a benchmark value in white wine. He has been producing Soave in the western (volcanic) part of the region since the early 1980s, and his vines are 30-50 years old, with naturally low yields. The result is a bone-dry mouthful with a big whack of chalky mineral. This has an unabashedly rocky core, around which swirl lovely flavors of pear, green papaya, straw, and tarragon. For a sub-$20 white, this has intensity and complexity to spare. It’s a killer introduction to an oft-overlooked category of northern Italian white.

2007 Pra Amarone della Valpolicella

On Galloni’s last trip to the winery, he said “Pra does so many things well it’s hard to know where to start. All five wines I tasted were terrific. I can’t think of too many wineries in Veneto that excel to this degree with both whites and reds.” Okay, then: let’s sneak in a Pra red for fun.

Graziano only started making Amarone in 2006, so this is a relatively new project, but it’s off to a successful start. Amarone is made from Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes, allowed to dry after harvest, traditionally on straw mats. As the grapes dessicate, the water evaporates, concentrating the juice and also increasing the skin-to-juice ratio.

The result: massively-structured, high-alcohol, ripe-as-can-be wines that are well loved for their overt generosity and power. This Pra version presents a massive nose of brambly raspberry, beef stock, and tomato paste, a lovely mix of rich fruits and umami savories. It’s an ultra-intense drinking experience: rich, ripe, and savory-sweet in a uniquely Italian way. What is sacrifices in, shall we say, subtlety, it easily makes up for in power and personality.

Wine Spectator (Alison Napjus): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”

The Soave is first come first served up to 12 bottles. The Amarone is quite limited, so let’s please limit order requests to 4 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill those requests. Both wines should arrive in about a week, at which point they will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.

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