Kulers Uncorked: Gil Wins The Lottery

Credit: Gil Kulers

Credit: Gil Kulers

For reasons I can only guess at, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution octupled my pay. Finally, my Champagne dreams and caviar wishes are coming true.

First stop: the wine shop to stock up on some summer wines. What should I get? Well, I’ll take a bottle of Salon Champagne ($


450), of course, and I do like those Bouchard La Montrachets ($550). Oh, and why not a Kongsgaard Chardonnay from Napa Valley ($150)?

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Gil, you misread the memo. It said you misspelled “octopus” and you should be paying us for the “stuff” you submit.)

Darn. I’ve hit the rocky shoals of reality … again. First stop: the wine shop to stock up on some summer wines. Let’s see. I’ll take a California bubbly from Gloria Ferrer ($18), a Houchart rosé from Provence ($16), and what about a Soave from Italy?

I know what you’re saying: “No situation can be that bad to drink a Soave,” right?

First of all, spelling “octopoos” is hard. Second, you’re totally wrong about Soave wines. They don’t all come in 1.5 liter bottles that go for $5 each. The Soaves I’m talking about are crisp, flavorful and a joy to drink, especially during the summer.

Soave wines indeed suffer from an image problem. Many do, in fact, come in large to very large jugs and are dirt cheap. If you like them, great. I get the sense, however, that cheap Soave lovers may be choosing quantity over quality.

Before moving on, we should come to terms with what a Soave is exactly.

Soave is a winemaking region in northeastern Italy, in the hills just east of Verona. Its star attraction is the white garganega grape, but winemakers can add a little chardonnay, pinot bianco and trebbiano, if they choose.

There are two faces of the garganega. One is zen-like; the other is more like Freddy Krueger.

The horrific side of garganega is that it is prolific, which is great if you want to make monstrous amounts of cheap, flavorless white wine and put it in impossibly large jugs.

The flip side is that garganega is perfectly adapted to its environment. It has a thick skin, which thwarts opportunistic fungi that thrive in the misty hillsides above the Po Valley. This way, even though it is slow to ripen, growers can get grapes to fully mature. This allows Soave wines to show us their true depth of flavors.

The only caveat is that vineyard managers have to cut back the vines to concentrate aromas and flavors in the remaining bunches. In recent years, grape growers also have sought out vineyard locations that require the vines to struggle, so they are not so grotesquely vigorous.

And here’s the best news about Soave (especially for those of us navigating the world’s constant barrage of career setbacks): It is as good a value as you’ll get in the wine world. For the price of the three bottles I was going to buy with my phantom pay raise, you can buy five cases of the Pieropan Soave I’m highlighting with this column. And there is more than just one great Soave out there. Allegrini and Inama immediately come to mind.

So, remember: When life gives you lemons, you can always go wine shopping. And may the wines of your dreams always be the ones you can afford.

Gil Kulers is a sommelier and maitre d’ for an Atlanta country club. You can reach him at gil.kulers@winekulers.com.

  • 2014 Pieropan Soave Classico, Italy
  • $20
  • Two Thumbs Way Up
  • Intense aromas of fresh pear, toasted almond and tart citrus. A medium-bodied wine, but quite crisp, with an array of flavors that changed with its temperature. Flavors of lemon, pear, ripe mandarin orange, white peach and pleasant, lingering spice notes.

Note: Wines are rated on a scale ranging up from Thumbs Down, One Thumb Mostly Up, One Thumb Up, Two Thumbs Up, Two Thumbs Way Up and Golden Thumb Award. Prices are suggested retail prices as provided by the winery, one of its agents, a local distributor or retailer.