In Soave there is one king, and that king is Pieropan. The list of ‘firsts’ that Pieropan can lay claim to is almost unbelievable: the first to label a wine “Soave,” the first to age a Soave wine before release, the first to make a single vineyard Soave (1971 Calvarino), the first to make an Italian native-grape white wine from a single vineyard (also 1971 Calvarino), the first to make a barrel-aged Soave (1978 La Rocca), the first to bottle under screwcap in the region, the first to convert to organic farming in Soave…All of this pioneering centers primarily around Leonildo (“Nino”) Pieropan, the third generation winemaker and mastermind behind the first vintages of Calvarino and La Rocca. With just those two wines, he helped lift the reputation of the Soave region as a whole.
Soave is located in the Veneto region, just east of the Val d’Illasi in Valpolicella. The wine growing region surrounds the historic city of Soave, which is roughly 20km from Verona. Soave Classico is 1,500 ha and shows a mix of volcanic and calcareous soils on the hillsides, along with a broad alluvial plain, but production for the top wines of the region comes exclusively from hillside vineyards.
Soave has two primary soil types: volcanic and clay/calcareous. Pieropan showcases both of these soil types with their two single-vineyard wines. Calvarino is primarily volcanic with some calcareous inclusions, which gives the wine electricity and clear minerality. La Rocca, on the other hand, is a south-facing clay and calcareous vineyard, bringing out a Burgundian breadth for the native grape of Garganega. Both stunning examples of the best the region has to offer while starkly different. Calvarino is a pure expression of the land, fruit and region resulting in a clean, mineral focused wine. La Rocca on the other hand is deep, rich, and hearty. Aged in oak, La Rocca is an age-worthy white that single handedly defined the style.
In total, Pieropan farms 40 ha in Soave Classico, all of it prime hillside locations throughout the Soave Classico, with their winery built into a hillside, just a few hundred meters from the ancient city walls of Soave.
Leonildo’s innovation was not in the technological sense, but in the conceptual: he elevated the Soave appellation. In fact, it can be said without hyperbole or boast that he was the single most important figure in Soave. He advocated for lower yields, higher-quality hillside vineyards, and later harvests. He produced the first single- vineyard Soave Classico, the 1971 vintage of Calvarino, proving to the region, and the world, that great wines of terroir could be made in Soave. He followed that up with another single- vineyard wine, the first oaked expression of Garganega ever sold, the 1978 vintage of La Rocca, which showed the world that native Italian whites could compete with the likes of Burgundy.
Today, Andrea Pieropan, the older of the two brothers, is the agronomist, while Dario makes the wine, but it is fair to say they share responsibilities. Inherited from their father, the passion for the wine remains preserving the wineries legacy.