Seven years ago in a ceremony at Castello Scaligero in Soave, Italy, I was inducted into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia, a world wide women’s organization that praises “Il Vino Bianco Soave.” The members are people that love food and wine. I was inducted as “Capitano Spadarino,” protector of the Women of the Castle and for my contributions to Italian food and wine and Soave in particular. They presented me with a spadarino, a short sword on an embroidered sash. Soave has been one of my favorite white wines for many years. It was a great honor.
Last month Vignaioli Veneti invited me on press trip to the Veneto. We would stay on Lake Garda and visit 11 of the top producers. One of the producers I was looking forward to visiting was Pieropan. I have been enjoying their Soave for a very long time.
The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals. There is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. The soil does make a difference. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir- based wines.
The Pieropan winery is located in the center of the medieval town of Soave.
Andera Pieropan welcomed us at the winery. Andra said Pieropan is a family winery and he works with his father Leonildo, his brother Dario, and mother Teresita. Andera said he and his brother are the fourth generation. Andera led us through a tasting of the wines.
Soave Classico 2016 is made from 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. Grapes are from hillside vineyards in the classical zone. The soil is volcanic and the vineyard is situated at 100/300 meters and is facing west. Training system is guyot with 5,200 plants per hectare and 3,000 vines per hectare with the pergola Veronese system.
The grapes are hand picked in mid September for the Trebbiano di Soave and in October for the Garganega. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed with the free run juice fermented separately in glass lined cement tanks. The wine remains here on the lees for a period of time according to the vintage. In the spring following the harvest the wine is bottled and released after one month. Dario said this is the freshest and youngest of their wines.
I have been fortunate enough to taste and drink many older vintages of Soave going back almost 30 years. We tasted the 1995 Pieropan Soave Classico. The wine was showing almost no signs of age and I wished I could of had it with dinner that night!
Soave Classico DOC “Calvarino” 2015 made from 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave from hillside vineyards in the Soave Classico zone.
Andrea said the name Calvarino comes from “Little Calvary” reflecting how difficult the soil is to work and the tortuous path, which winds from top to bottom.
The soil is rich in clay and tufaceous basalt. Dario said it gives the wine an attractive mineral quality. The vineyard is situated at 200 to 300 meters facing northwest. Traditional pergola Veronese trained, 3,000 vines per hectare. The vines are 30 to 60 years, hand harvested, often in two harvests to select the ripest grapes. Trebbiano di Soave is picked in mid September and the Garganega in October. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed with the free run juice fermented separately in glass-lined cement tanks. The wine remains in glass-lined cement tanks on the fine lees for one year. It is aged in the bottle for a few months before release. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with a fresh aroma and hints of flowers, lemon and cherry.
We also tasted the 1992 Calvarino which was showing very well and again proves the point that not only can Soave age but improves with age.
Soave Classico ‘La Rocca’ 2015 DOC Pieropan 100% Garganega. Dario said the La Rocca vineyard is on the Monte Rocchetta hill just below the Scaligeri castle in Soave.
Single vineyard with chalky, clay soil situated at 200 to 300 meters, facing southwest. Spur pruned cordon trained with 5,000 vines per hectare. The age of the vines is 10 to 50 years. Grapes are handpicked at the end of October, often in two harvests to select the ripest grapes. The grapes are de-stemmed and crushed followed by a short maceration with skin contact in 2,500 liter barrels. After fermentation the wine is racked into 200 to 500 liter barrels and ages for over 12 months on the fine lees and remains in bottle for a time before release.
This is an elegant wine with hints of exotic fruit, nuts and a touch of spice. It was interesting to taste the La Rocca and the Calvarino wines together. Both were excellent but the La Rocca is a bigger wine and will need more time to develop.
Amarone della Valpolicella 2013 DOCG In 1999 the Pieropan family purchased property in the Cellore d’Illasi zone in the Valpolicella and Amarone production zones. The wine is made from 60% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina, and 10% of old traditional Valpolicella varieties. The vineyard is 14 years old and is south facing at an altitude of 500 meters. There are 5,800 vines per hectare; the training system is guyot, pruned to 8 buds per vine. The grapes are hand picked in September and naturally dried. They are pressed and destemmed and the must is fermented for about 30 days during which time pumping over and punching down the cap takes place every day. Aging is in 500 liter barrels for 24/30 months and one year in bottle before release. This is an Amarone to drink with food. It has hints of blackberries, black cherries and plums.
On Lake Garda a few years ago I saw the Pieropan Amarone 2006 in a restaurant. I did not know they made an Amarone so I ordered it. I was very impressed with the wine! Andrea said 2006 was the first vintage.
Recioto Soave Classico 2012 “Le Colombare” 100% Garganega (Veneto) Pieropan
Certified Organic. Volcanic soil, rich in basalt and tuffo eocene. The vineyards are at 300m and the exposure is west. The training system is Pergola Veronese and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. There is a manual harvest with careful selection of ripe grapes. All the grapes are collected in small boxes and brought to the winery for the drying process. The grapes are manually placed in a loft on mats made of bamboo reeds. The drying is natural and the grapes remain until they wither which is around the end of February. The natural climate conditions allow for berry dehydration, loss of water and the development of noble rot (Botrytis). The yield of juice is very low and the grapes lose 1/4 of their original weight. The wine is only produced in good vintages. Destemming and pressing of the grapes takes place. There is a selection of the must and fermentation at a controlled temperature 14 to 16 degrees C in barrels of 2,500 liters. The residual sugar is 110 to 120 g/L. The wine is aged in oak barrels of 200 liters for about two years and in glass for 6 months before release. This is a dessert wine with ripe fruit, hints of apricot and quince with a very long finish taste and nice aftertaste.
I did not taste this wine at the winery but at a dinner that night. I have always liked their Recioto, which is one of the best dessert wines produced, so I had to include it.