When Andrea Pieropan called us saying he wanted to show “some old vintages” of his Soave La Rocca and Calvarino, we weren’t really prepared for what was about to come our way!
Today, we had the privilege of opening La Rocca and Calvarino from 2014 back to 1986, and tasting for ourselves how Soave can develop for decades when it’s made by a quality–minded producer like Pieropan.
Calvarino, the 'linear' wine, develops slowly, showing vintage in and vintage out more and more balsamic notes of thyme and basil.
Richer and more immediate, La Rocca carries its signature flavour of mango across all vintages, giving a surprising sense of youthfulness. The development of this wine adds toffee to the mango jammy notes, marmalade (the botrytis deriving from the late harvest) and caramel flavours, bitter almonds and an intriguing touch of flintiness.
Both wines display very lively levels of acidity across the decades - all the way back to a 1986 Calvarino - and their structure is so refined it is actually difficult to believe their age.
They may be old wines, but they are surprisingly young at heart.
The steep Calvarino ('little Calvary') vineyard, sited in the north-west part of the Classico territory, has been owned by the Pieropan family since 1901. Its basalt soils are planted with Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave - not the Tuscan Trebbiano, but very similar to Turbiana and Verdicchio.
La Rocca, a beautiful vineyard sitting behind the Soave castle (‘the rock’), has a limestone topsoil which is unique in this area. The white soils reflect the sunshine and bring more colour to the Garganega grapes, which are picked later than in Calvarino, allowing a little botrytis to develop.
Following a conversation between Nino Pieropan and Luigi Veronelli (the first Italian wine writer), Calvarino was first made in 1971 and was, at the time, the first Italian wine using the name of the vineyard on the label. The first vintage of La Rocca followed in 1978.
It was a brave enterprise at a time when Soave DOC had just been established in 1967. Before the Second World War, the wines from Soave were labelled as “Petit Chablis” as their characters recalled the zesty and minerally style of those wines from northern Burgundy.
Since then, the winemaking has remained unchanged as "these wines were designed to express their soil and the character of Garganega” says Andrea, “not the fashion of the moment".
For this reason, no malolactic is used in either wine because that would mask the character of the Garganega, a grape that is naturally low in malic acid.