‘You can’t speak of Soave’s greatest producers without including Pieropan’ – Eric Guido, April 2022, Vinous.
By way of background, Soave is a wine region comprising hillside vineyards to the east of Verona, east of Valpolicella in fact, that extends over 4,500 hectares. The finer examples of Soave are made from an indigenous Italian variety called Garganega, though wine laws permit it to be blended with 30% of either Chardonnay or Trebbiano di Soave (the latter more often known as Verdicchio). The problem with Soave is there is a lot of decidedly average wine produced.
The real exception is the wines of Pieropan. This estate was founded in 1880 and now rests in the hands of the fourth generation – Leonildo Pieropan. A far cry from the straightforward early drinking styles synonymous with the region, the Pieropan wines are beautifully crafted, textural and of great complexity and longevity.
I recently had the chance to taste a range of samples, and the two single vineyard Soave from Pieropan, namely the 2020 Calvarino and the 2020 La Rocca, immediately stood out. The Calvarino tends to be the more linear of the two, showing a strong mineral impression, yet it has an accompanying textural richness in 2020 – this is the finest Calvarino I have tasted. The La Rocca showed great concentration, with an almost waxy texture and complex notes of almond and candied citrus peel and incredible persistence. It, too, was hugely impressive. See below for further details on the two wines offered here.
The Calvarino vineyard lies at around 200-300 metres above sea level, facing north-west, and is characterised by volcanic, basalt rich soils, with an average vine age of 30-60 years. The Pieropans opt to harvest their fruit later than most, sometimes towards the end of October and harvest invariably consists of two passes through the vineyard to harvest only fully ripe grapes. The grapes are then destemmed and fermented in glass-lined cement tanks before spending a year on lees in cement tanks, a process which builds richness and complexity, prior to bottling.
If there is one wine that consistently steals the headlines at Pieropan, it is La Rocca; a wine produced from a terraced, south-west facing vineyard on the Monte Rocchetta hill, just below the medieval castle that dominates the village of Soave. The vineyard rises to 300 metres above sea level and is characterised by a chalky, clay base. The first vintage of La Rocca ever made was in 1978 and it has since become a standard bearer for the region. To build greater complexity, the Pieropans allow some skin contact once the fruit is crushed in the cellars, rather than simply crushing and running the juice off for fermentation. After fermentation, the wine is aged in barrels of differing capacity for around a year (500 to 2,000 litres) and the wine remains on its lees for this period, all the while picking up complexity. This is a highly individual wine, and, as Walter Speller said of La Rocca in 2021, it is ‘a proper cru and one of Italy's greatest white wines’.
As you may gather, nothing is hurried at Pieropan – over the years they have refined their approach to consistently deliver the quality and complexity we have come to associate with these distinctive wines. I could not recommend them more highly and they continue to offer astonishing value. Please see below for Eric Guido’s scores and notes: