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May 30, 2022 View:

Legendary Italian winemaker Leonildo Pieropan dies at 71

On the 13th of this month, the news of the death of legendary Italian winemaker Leonildo (Nino) Pieropan was announced. The news came as a huge shock to wine lovers and industry insiders alike. Thousands of Italian wine lovers from all over the world are gathering in Verona, Italy these days for the most important annual OperaWine and Vinitaly wine shows, and the hottest topic of discussion at the shows is undoubtedly the news of Nino Pieropan's death.

Image courtesy of: wine dendrobium.com

The name Pieropan not only equates to the finest Soave white wines, but it is also one of the best white wine producers in the world. Moreover, as David Gleave (Pieropan"s UK importer) described in his obituary posted on his website on the 13th, the name also represents Mr. Pieropan's lifelong courage and commitment to not only benefit the wineries that carry the name, but also to make the region in which the winery is located, Soave, better known to the world.

Nowadays, of course, it is possible to buy a rather mediocre bottle of Soave white wine, as is often the case with most Italian or other appellations. But the professional buyers who come to the Vinitaly wine show may find at the Soave stand that the region is indeed capable of producing top quality wines with real complexity and exceptional personality.

The Pieropan family's contribution to the appellation dates back to 1932, 30 years before the region was officially recognized as a DOC appellation, when the winery pioneered the labeling of wines from the Soave appellation. In 1971, Nino introduced a single-vineyard Soave Classico from the Calvarino parcel, and in 1978 he introduced another distinctive wine from the La Rocca parcel.

Since then, the practice of naming premium Italian wines from Soave, Valpolicella and other regions after vineyards has become quite common, but at the time Nino Pieropan was taking this step, he was taking a rather lonely path.

In 2009, more than 30 years after the first La Rocca wines were made, and with encouragement from Gleave and others, and after his own experiments, he took a bolder step and introduced the Stelvin screw-cap-sealed Soave Classico. However, stereotypical Italian wine laws require all DOC wines to be sealed with cork, so it is not actually a true Soave Classico.

But Pieropan followers don't need any explanation that removing the word classic from the label has no effect on the quality of the contents of the bottle. On the contrary, the shift to sealing with screw caps will only allow Pieropan wines, already known for their ability to age, to age longer.

In 2012, lawmakers finally compromised and screw-cap sealed bottles could be included in the Soave Classico DOC and Superiore DOCG classes (but then they foolishly required that the Soave Classico Superiore class still require cork-sealed bottles).

Pieropan is always experimenting, always innovating. The winery has a Ruperpan Valpolicella wine that is produced from newly reclaimed highlands at an altitude of over 400 meters, so this wine has a unique style not normally found in wines from this region. And in 2015, he decided to apply for organic certification for all Pieropan wines as well.

Nino Pieropan was a respected winemaker who was eager to share his knowledge and experience, but also curious and inquisitive about other appellations and winemaking. Let's remember and honor this pioneering figure who changed the face of the Soave region in Italy.

Leonildo Pieropan passed away on April 13, 2018, at the age of 71. His estate was inherited by his sons Andrea and Dario.