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Home | White Grape Varieties MP | Garganega - Marketing Gone Wild

Garganega - Marketing Gone Wild

April 23, 2014

If you are old enough to remember Queen, Abba, and Police, you are old enough to remember the marketing blitz unleashed by Bolla Wines, specifically for Soave Bolla in the 1970's and 1980's.  The onslaught rocketed Bolla wines, and more specifically Soave Bolla to front and center among wine consumers looking for value.  Mass produced in the Veneto region of Italy, Bolla Soave is a blend of primarily Garganega (gahr-gah-NEH-ah) (95%) blended with Trebbiano di Soave (5%).  Soave Bolla flooded the U.S. markets and was well received due to its low price, old world romance, and sheik newness.  But Soave Bolla's day in the sun lasted less than a decade, and the fickle wine community quickly tired of this marginally bland white wine, and moved on to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and now Pinot Grigio.

Fortunately for wine lovers, this short lived love affair had no effect on quality producers in Garganega's homeland of Italy, where the grape has enjoyed a multi century's long respect as a staple of the Veneto region.  Beginning in the early part of this century, Garganega based wines have enjoyed a revival, with quality wines reaching the shores of the United States.

History and Cultivation

Like many grape varieties, Garganega is thought to be of Greek origin, although it has been established for centuries in the Veneto region of northeast Italy and considered indigenous by many.  Small quantities of Garganega are also planted in Friuli, Lombardy and Umbria.  Garganega is a prolific grape variety, the fifth most widely planted white grape in Italy.  The majority of the Garganega vineyards are located in Veneto in the DOCGs of Soave Superiore and Recioto di Soave.  Other DOCs that include Garganega are Soave Classico, Soave, and Gambellara.

Garganega is better known by the names of the regions where it is produced, most notably Soave and Gambellara.  Technically Soave can be a blend with a minimum of 70% Garganega, the remainder including Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio), Pinot Bianco, and Chardonnay.  Adding to the confusion, Soave has several DOC based quality designations – Soave (DOC) Soave Classico (DOC) and Soave Superiore (DOCG).  The increased quality of wine is attributed to hillside, volcanic soils terroir, and the inclusion of viticultural practices that limit yields.

Tucked to the east of the Soave DOCG is the town and DOC of Gambellara.  This lesser known white is similar to Soave, and was even granted DOC status two years before Soave.  Much like Montsant (as opposed to its well-known neighbor Priorat) in Spain; Gambellara has not had the benefit of multi-million dollar marketing campaigns and has remained a well-kept secret in the United States.  A quick search on yields 173 Gambellara wines, compared to nearly 8,000 Soaves.

Garganega Styles

Soave, which means soft or delicate in Italian, is a vinified as a dry white wine. Most Soaves are light-bodied, refreshing with mild acidity and medium alcohol levels.  The style can vary based on vineyard location and yields.  Hillside locations with controlled yields produce the higher quality grapes with more complex fuller bodied wines resulting.  Gambellara is very similar, with the possible addition of a touch of spiciness.

Garganega can also be produced in a Recioto style, where the highest quality grape bunches are dried on straw mats until winter, and then fermented slowly to produce a port like dessert wine.











Honeydew Melon

Burnt orange

Dried fig


Dry  (except Recioto)

Light bodied – Although most Soave is light bodied, medium to full bodied wines are produced.  The Recioto version is a sweet full bodied dessert wine.

Low to medium acidity.

Moderate Alcohol levels.

No Tannins



Most Garganega wines from are less than $20.  Some of the more well-known producers command prices in the $20 - $30 range.

Recioto DOCG wines range from $20 to as much as $100 for older vintages.


Bolla is now a part of the vast empire that is Banfi Wines, and increasingly integrated into a new marketing push more appropriate for today's social media conscious younger wine consumer.  The flood of forgettable Garganega based plonk of the 70's and 80's has been replaced with a steadily increasing availability of quality wines from the likes of Ca Rugate and Pieropan.  At the risk of sounding like a maudlin wine historian, I can't help but think we perhaps owe Bolla a debt of gratitude for introducing a wine with such a valued history and tradition.  The single variety Garganega wines being increasingly imported to the United States are well worth a second look.  Don't look for another Soave marketing blitz, but a good Soave should be a part of any wine lovers portfolio of go to wines.


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·  Pinot Blanc - The forgotten Pinot
·  Verdicchio - The Elusive One
·  Cortese - The bambino of the boot
·  Sicily - Vineyards in the Shadow of Mount Etna
·  Vermentino
·  Pinot Gris - What's in a Name?
·  Wine labels from Italy
·  Veneto


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