On Tuesday 10th May Andrea Pieropan was a guest presenter at he latest Hart’s Tutored Wine Tasting & Supper. Introduced by Tim Hart, Andrea discussed the making of his wines and led us in tasting 8 wines. 7 were tasted before the meal, of which two were repeated to accompany the first two courses, and then a Recioto di Soave with dessert.

The Pieropan family is widely regarded as the leading Soave producer, almost solely responsible for the realisation of Soave as a fine wine. The family is based in Soave itself – a village 10 or 11 miles East of Verona – and making wine since 1860. They were the first to bottle wine under a ‘Soave’ label in the early 1930s, and the first to make a single vineyard Soave in 1971.

In 1999 Pieropan acquired some Valpolicella vines (the area borders Soave to the North and West) and opened a new winery at Tregnano, some 9 miles North of Soave. Soave is based on the Gargenega grape and must contain a minimum of 70%; the 30% balance can be from Trebbiano di Soave or Chardonnay – although Pieropan uses none of the latter!

Here are my notes on the wines:

We started with two vintages of “Calvarino” Soave Classico (Pieropan) 2014 and 2013.
Calvarino is on a steep vineyard on volcanic  basalt soil at between 200m and 300m above sea level, planted with 30-60 year old vines. The wine is made from 70% Gargenega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave, the former giving structure and acidity and the Trebbiano perfume and richness. The wine is raised in cement tanks…

The 2014 has an open nose with sweetish green fruit – greengage, with pear notes increasing with time. The palate has a refreshing mineral salinity and quite high acidity. It is improved with the food (in our case a brilliant Asparagus with Hollandaise and a poached egg) but shows some need for time.
The 2013 is slightly bigger, more evolved and more complex, the fruit has a rounder, peachy quality and this is supported by strong, but better balanced, mineral and acid in a lovely package. Some floral notes develop and there is greta length… I think this was my favourite Soave…

We then sample 3 vintages of “La Rocca” Soave Classico (Pieropan) 2014, 2013 & 2008.

La Rocca is a vineyard with unusual soil for Soave – a limestone outcrop (more common of Valpolicella), with some clay and stones. This soil ensures great ripeness from Gargenega and the wine is made exclusively from this grape, picked quite late. The wine is fermented partly in stainless steel and partly in 500 l oak casks. It is then aged for a year in these casks and the rest in  2,000 l “botti”.

The 2014 is clearly a bigger wine style produced in a more restrained year. Nose is pungent with some farmyard tones, and a slightly oily, nutty hint recalling Chardonnay… the wine (unlike the Calvarino) seems to tail off rather than develop.
The 2013 shows a similar step up as to that of the other vineyard. The nose is quiet but shows many hints – florality, citrus, seeds… The palate has a supple citrus line, lively with a hint of sweetness, peachy notes and and a mineral finish – just great with the asparagus.
The 2008 has more farmyard pungency with a hint of rubber and a citric undercurrent. The palate is very creamy with a warm citrus line, hints of more exotic fruit – apricot and mango and some ginger. A rich wine that has striking quality but some aged-Burgundy non-typical character.

In all I preferred the 2013 versions of both wines more than all the other wines, so the vintage over-rode the vineyard in my taste! All good wines but a big preference for the Calvarino 2013…

We then went over to reds, and then a dessert wine:

“Ruberpan” Valpolicella Superiore “Vigna Garzon” 2013 is from a south facing vineyard on limestone and clay up to 500 m above sea level in the most Eatern of the 5 Valpolicella valleys. The wine is 75% Corvina, 15% Croatina & 10% Rondinella.  The wine is light with a herby, slightly oily nose – with sage and pepper emerging. Palate is definite cherry with a sour cherry balance. Floral notes emerge later and served with a lamb dish it counterpointed the food brilliantly.

However Amarone “Vigna Garzon” 2012 was just startling, and went even better with the food. The vines are pruned to limit yield and ensure clean pure fruit, this allows the natural yeasts to live at higher alcohol levels and ensure dryness in the wine. The nose is cherry liqueur and with raisin notes. The palate is dry with cherry flavour and great lifting acidity with a slightly bitter finishing twist well balanced by a fabulous cherry and raspberry fruit rather than residual sweetness. Andrea claimed the fermentation took the sugar level down to 10-12 g/l, and the finished wine – after aging – is down around 4 g/l. Just wonderful and probably worth its £43 price-tag….

Finally – with dessert (Tiramisu) – Le Colombare” Recioto di Soave 2011. A dried grape style not fermented to dryness. Hints of botrytis appear on the nose, with orange marmalade peach and oily notes and butterscotch coming through. Palate has sweetness but good balancing acidity and a passion fruit outcome with a slight sweetness-burn. I felt this lacked a little dash by the standards of the dry and red wines, but went fabulously with the ice cream and spongy biscuit in the dessert, although the Tiramisu itself needed a bit more grip…

A wonderful selection of wines, with great expression of style and vintage – the latter very impressively, in my view. Two or three wines deserve an “excellent” rating.

Thanks so much to Tim Hart and the staff at Hart’s for a great evening.