Leonildo Pieropan 1947-2018 (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
I am writing this tribute to Leonildo Pieropan more than a month after his untimely passing. I have been preparing for out-of-town wine lectures as well as a recent trip to Italy, so I have only just learned of this sad news.
I have been a fan of Pieropan’s wines for more than twenty years, and it was his examples that cemented Soave Classico as a great white wine for me. I’ve always enjoyed a well made Soave, but when I tasted his 1999 Calvarino with his wife Teresita and him at their charming winery in the town of Soave, that was a turning point as far as my passion for Soave. Here I was tasting a wine (in 2009) that was twenty years old that seemed as though it was no more than five years old; combine that with the richness on the palate, the complexity, outstanding persistence and beautiful minerality, and I was mesmerized.
Much of those same emotions came to me when I recently tasted the 2015 Calvarino, another superb wine with great intensity and amazing varietal purity. Here is another wine I think will show well at twenty years of age, and I’ll have to go out and try and find a few bottles, as I only have one left in my cellar, and I’m in no hurry to open it. You have to hang on to greatness, don’t you think?
But beyond his brilliant wines, I was so impressed with Pieropan’s kindness and warmth. I met him on three occasions, twice at his winery, and once at VinItaly. He always had time to answer my questions, as well as pose for photos. It was at VinItaly back about 12 or 14 years ago that he answered a question of mine in such a way that I never forgot it.
I asked him about his winemaking philosophy, and specifically, was there one thing that he tried to bring across in his wines? His reply; “Elegance is one of the most difficult qualities to transmit in a wine. But when you understand it, it is one that brings the greatest pleasure.” A marvelous quote that I wish more producers would apply in their craft.
But more importantly, this quote describes Leonildo Pieropan as well as any tribute I’ve heard or read. The man was, simply and purely, elegant. What a legacy he left, not just for Soave, but for all of Italy.
Here is the link to a post from 2010 I wrote about the wines of Pieropan: