Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico DOC (2009)

Since taking over the Pra family estate that nestles amongst the volcanic hills of Monteforte d’Alpone in the early 1980s, Graziano Pra has dedicated himself (somewhat unfashionably) to the production of high quality Soave. In stark contrast to the majority of producers in Soave who saw the way forward from the 80s as being increased production and neutrally flavoured wines, Graziano has always demanded the highest quality and level of individuality from his wines.

Now working 20 hectares of vines (5 hectares of which are new vineyards for the production of Valpolicella in Mezzane), over 30 years Graziano has collected an impressive number of accolades at Pra and has (along with producers such as Pieropan and Suavia) reinvented the image of Soave.

Currently Graziano produces four separate expressions of Soave - all produced from grapes hailing from within the original “Classico” zone of Soave production – not the flatter (and poorer) land that was later added to the appellation. This Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is the most limited of Graziano Pra’s Soaves, with just 6,600 bottles produced each year.

Made from a selection of the best grapes from the Pra vineyards, aside from this additional level of grape selection, the thing that separates the style of this Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico from the “entry level” Pra Soave is that following fermentation, this Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is left in contact with the “lees” (waste products from fermentation) for six months with regular stirring in order to add an additional layer of complexity to the flavours of this Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico.

In the glass, this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is a fairly pale lemon colour that is broadly consistent from the centre of the wine to the rim. At 13.5% in alcohol this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is moderately higher in alcohol than the “basic” 2009 Pra Soave and most Soave produced.

Once swirled the aromas of this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico are expressive and complex. Whilst the overt white fruit notes of Graziano’s “basic” Pra Soave are maintained in the form of white peach and apricot, here with this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico white flower and (lees-aging derived) toasty notes are also evident, along with a clear sense of nuttiness.

On the palate, minerality is the driving force of this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico. Dry and medium bodied, this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico still rounded and white fruit-based, but instead of obscuring the minerality of this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico as one might expect, the toasty and nutty autolysis notes serve to highlight the sleek graphite under-body of this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico. This 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is a seriously complex Soave, but one that remains eminently balanced. Very long through the finish.

With slightly more heft and drive than Graziano’s “basic” Pra Soave this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico can stand-up to slightly more weighty dishes. Whilst lobster makes for a decadent and exceptionally pleasurable pairing, this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico would also pair well with chicken or even duck.
Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico DOC (2009)

Score: 92/100 - This 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is an exceptional Soave. Strict grape selection and 6 months lees maturation take the essential building blocks of Graziano’s already excellent “basic” Pra Soave and add further complexity and nuance. Outstanding.

Value for Money: 7/10 - At nearly twice the price (£18 per bottle) of Graziano’s excellent “entry level” Pra Soave this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico seems to be victim of Graziano’s skill with its “lesser” brother when it comes to value for money. Clearly superior (in the same way that Graziano’s “basic” 2009 Pra “Soave is from most “entry” level Soave) it is nevertheless a tough case to make that this 2009 Pra “Staforte” Soave Classico is “worth” almost twice the price of this “basic” Pra Soave.