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posted: 3/24/2010 12:01 AM

A Soave of finesse with just-ripe fruit flavors

On wine

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Some wines take center stage with dramatic flavors that command the mouth and mind's full attention.

Other wines are crafted for supporting roles, worthy foils to shine a light on food and occasion. Soave is this sort of wine.

I first recognized Soave over a plate of succulent, richly smoked sturgeon carpaccio sprinkled with capers, a challenge for any wine. I was dining in Verona, Italy and - wanting to do as the Veronese - I deferred to my server. His eyes sparkled, presenting "our local wine, Soave!" but my heart fell. "What sort of rube am I," I stewed, "to be served a dull (and often oxidized) white wine sold in every grocery store stateside?"

With one sip, my appetite and attitude adjusted. Here was a Soave of finesse, with just-ripe stone fruit flavors and mineral complexity, delicate solo but also able to outline the full flavors of the sturgeon in bright relief.

Since then, it's been my perverse mission to find foods that Soave doesn't complement. I've tried traditional pairings (Sopressa and gnocchi with black truffles); I've widened the field to international noshes (pickled herring, Asiago cheese and beef and broccoli stir-fry.) So far, I have failed at finding foods that don't taste better with Soave.

Soave doesn't discriminate against those with a sweet-tooth. Wines labeled Recioto Soave are produced from raisined grapes, yielding honeyed and apricot jam flavors, delicious with blue cheese, dessert and a toothsome dolci in itself.

So, as you look for a white wine to complement Spring's multi-dish menus of cold cuts, pasta, salads and international take out, I recommend Soave. Choose the current 2008 or 2007 vintages.

A "Classico" designation indicates the original, pre-expansion zone and often, high quality. My favorites include Inama Classico, a complex value (about $14); Suavia Classico, with mineral and citrus delicacy (about $16); Gini Classico "La Frosca," with full blanched almond and stone fruit complex (about $26) and Gini Recioto (about $40) and Tamellini (see Ross' Choice.)

• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Contact her at food@dailyherald.com.

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