Friday, September 9, 2022

The Legacy of Pieropan in Soave

When you think of some of the great white wine appellations of Italy, what Italian white wines do you think of?  Does Soave make that list of top 5 or even top 10?  I love covering this area when I have the opportunity and this time around it’s been quite the pleasure as I had the opportunity to sample one of Soave's top producer, Pieropan.  Established in 1880, Pieropan has always been one of the producers leading the way with a strong focus on quality overturning the image of Soave from the past.   

The Winery ~ Pieropan 

Pieropan owns almost 100 acres in the Classico zone in Soave.  Soave, a town only about 30 minutes outside of Verona in the northern region of the Veneto.   

The winery, and home to the Pieropan family, was located inside the Palazzo Pullcini for 250 years in the center of Soave.  In 2019 the winery was relocated and built into the hillside completely hidden. Leonildo, known as Nino, was the nephew of the original founder Leonildo whom brought tremendous change to Pieropan and the wines they were producing.  After completing his oneology studies in Conegliano in 1970, he purchased suitable land for growing grapes and invested in newer technology.  He was the first in Soave to produce single vineyard crus creating the distinctly different Soave Classico single vineyard wines, Calvarino and La Rocca. Unfortunately, Nino passed away in 2018 and the 4th generation sons of Nino, Andrea and Dario are the agronomist and winemaker respectively for Pieropan.   

Interview with Andrea Pieropan 

Pieropan has such a rich history when it comes to the wines of Soave.  Tell me about the philosophy of Pieropan of the past vs. what it is today?   

The philosophy has remained the same. We have always been very loyal to our origin. My father never changed his mind or followed trends. We always used cement for vinification, and always used indigenous varieties in the blend of our wines, without been enchanted by international pipe dreams. So we can say that one of the most important characteristics of Pieropan is coherence. The new facility helps us to facilitate operations, reducing costs and making us more sustainable, so that is for us the main difference. 

What led to the decision of moving the winery from the center of Soave out to the hillside vineyards?   

The former headquarters was in a very ancient palace, and the winery was on three floors so when we reached the production of half a million bottles per year, it had become impossible to work in those conditions. But we needed 10 years to find the perfect place to build a new winery, a place that could gather both the need of a one floor only winery, with large space and less environmental impact.  

How would you categorize the difference between your Soave Classico wine vs. the single vineyard crus? 

The Soave Classico is the youngest and fresher expression of Garganega and Trebbiano. It’s a wine perfect for every day, crisp and floral with lemon notes. More complex and suitable for more gastronomic pairings are the crus. Those are two completely different expressions of what the terroir could express. More vertical, sapid, austere Calvarino; warm, cuddling, restrained La Rocca 

Are all your wines certified organic? 

Yes since 2008. We are now approching a new certification on sustainability, not only for the wine production but for all the processes of the winery. 

Pieropan is known for your Soave white wines, but I also see that you're producing reds.  How long have you produced red wines and can you share with me more about them? 

We bought the estate in Monte Garzon in early 2000 to have a second project dedicated to red wines. This has been and is still nowdays a real challenge because of the height. Vigna Garzon is at 500 meters above sea leavel., one of the highest in Valpolicella region. The grapes ripen fully, but retain high acidity. For this reason, the style of our Valpolicella is so different compared to the others. We prefer to work more on finesse and elegance rather than power and concentration.  

What does the future hold for Pieropan and any particular projects you are focused on now or plan to for the future? 

We have a project for the future that is called “collezione vini dell’anima.” The "soul wines collection" was sparked by Leonildo Pieropan’s belief in the ageing potential of his wines. With the help of his sons, Andrea and Dario, he began to age several hectoliters of Calvarino and La Rocca in cement tanks or large oak casks from 2008, curious to see how they would evolve. Convinced of the results of bottle aging, he wanted to investigate what might happen to his two top wines during a prolonged aging process in the cellar. The project began with Calvarino 5 and will continue in the future with other limited-edition wines which will be released under bespoke packaging. 

We have also just finished the new winery in Soave that has become quickly a tourist destination. In the future we want to enhance hospitality services. We are going to open a Country house in Tregnago with Villa Cipolla including 7 rooms and a spa. 

Anything interesting or fun facts that you'd like to add that some may not know about Pieropan and it's history? 

The curiosity is why everything started. My great great grandfather (his name was Leonildo as well) was a medical doctor that was scared of blood! So that is the reason why he decided, with his chemical knowledge, to produce wine in the Calvarino vineyard and maybe that’s the reason why we started with white wines vs. red! 

The Wines 

The 2021 Pieropan Soave Classico DOC is one of the classic styles of a beautifully produced Soave in production since the early 1900s.  Located on volcanic soils at about 325-985 feet above sea level this wine is made from 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave.  The grapes are hand-picked with the free run juice fermented in glass lined cement tanks.  A brilliant straw color in the glass, this wine showed tropical aromas of pineapples along with some green apple and a hint of lemon.  Light-bodied, clean, crisp and refreshing on the palate showing beautiful fruit and well-balanced right to the finish.  ABV 12% SRP $21   

2020 Pieropan Soave Classico DOC

What makes the wines of Pieropan’s Calvarino and La Rocca so different?  Calvarino was the first single vineyard cru to be produced back in 1971.  The name Calvarino means “little calvary” and presents the arduous labor required to hand harvest these grapes on steep, rocky, volcanic soils of 650-985 feet. This wine is primarily based from the Garganega grape with some Trebbiano di Soave blended in. Plus, the wine is aged in cement tanks. La Rocca, on the other hand, was produced in 1978 and is made 100% from Garganega and was the first oaked Garganega. Therefore, they have very different personalities, but they both share beautiful balance and elegance.   

2020 Pieropan Calvarino and La Rocca

The 2020 Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico DOC is made from 70% Garganega with 30% Trebbiano di Soave on vines aged 30-60 years old.  The grapes are harvested at two different times with the Trebbiano di Soave harvested about mid-September and the Garganega following in October at their ripest levels.  This wine spends 12 months on the lees in glass lined cement tanks with an additional few months in the bottle. 

This wine was straw colored with beautiful, tropical floral aromatics. Such a clean wine with grace that was light and airy on the palate. Citrus and tart green apple notes with a gorgeous finesse with some minerality showing up on the lingering finish. ABV 12.5% SRP $38 

The 2020 Pieropan La Rocca Soave Classico DOC is produced from 100% Garganega from 10-50 year old vines.  This wine is named after the La Rocca Castle where the vines are located at the foot of the slopes of Monte Rocchetta.  Grown on clay and limestone rich soils these grapes are also hand-picked two times at the end of October.  This wine instead spends about 15 months in 500-2000 liter barrels with the lees followed by afew months in the bottle. 

This was straw colored with golden hues. On the nose you spot the immediate difference between these two wines. Aromas of banana, toasty vanilla and a hint of coconut filled the glass. A lush texture with buttery flavors and pears with great acidity and balance. Lots of complex layers on this one. ABV 13% SRP $42 

It’s all about personal style with these wines, but I loved all 3 in their own way. Have you tried Pieropan and their single vineyard wines. If so, what was your personal preference? 

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.