Pieropan, La Rocca 2021 Soave Classico

La Rocca vineyard

A real classic this week. If you're based in the UK, take a look at the graph at the bottom of this article.

From €22.14, 21.90 Swiss francs, 4,158 Japanese yen, NZ$48.99, CA$39.75, $29.99, 249 Danish kroner, HK$288, £30, 399.90 Norwegian kroner, AU$67.32, 840 Czech koruna, SG$84

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Earlier this month we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the launch of my wine glass and two decanters at Hedonism, London’s most glamorous wine shop. It was on one of the hottest days of the year but in their cellar, which they keep at extremely low temperatures. In fact between the two receptions, one for wine professionals and one for Hedonism’s customers, I made use of one of the warm rugs they provide for the events they run.

UK importers Liberty, who distribute the glassware to the UK hospitality industry, supplied some wines to demonstrate the versatility of the wine glass is (the whole point of it is that there is a single glass for all types of wine, whatever the colour or level of sweetness, alcohol or fizziness). I was too busy proselytising to take notes on the wines but both my design partner Richard Brendon and I agreed that the most outstanding one was the magnum of Pieropan’s La Rocca 2021 so I made sure that I tasted it from bottle subsequently and was again hugely impressed.

I have long been a fan of this pioneer of high-quality Soave. Pieropan was one of those names – along with Cloudy Bay, Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon and the Ryman family’s Bergerac Ch de la Jaubertie – that distinguished superior wine retailers back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. (I remember Zubair Mohamed, who went on to build his Raeburn Fine Wines company into a hugely respected wine supplier, telling me that when he started his business in a little Edinburgh flower shop he simply looked up which were the most celebrated wines in the annual Which? Wine Guide from the Consumers’ Association, of which I was founder-editor in the early 1980s, and made sure he stocked them.)

Then the other day our Italy editor Walter Speller rekindled my interest in this peerless producer with his detailed look at the company and the family through the prism of their celebrations of the 50th anniversary of their other single-vineyard wine, Calvarino. I strongly recommend that you read Calvarino, rebel with a cause, turns 50. Calvarino’s first vintage was 1971, La Rocca’s 1978.

Calvarino, with its base of volcanic basalt, typifies the classic soil type of Soave – even though far too much wine labelled Soave shows not a trace of it, being grown on the plain rather than in the hilly Classico zone. But La Rocca vineyard, pictured above, is on Soave’s one-and-only clay-limestone outcrop on the Monte Rocchetta hillside at 200–300 m (656–984 ft) facing south-west just below Soave’s mediaeval castle and so has particular nerve – although, being treated to some skin contact and full oak treatment, it’s richer than the unoaked Calvarino. After passing through the crusher-destemmer, the grapes are given a short maceration in 2,500-litre casks. After fermentation, the wine is racked into 500- and 2,500-litre barrels, where it’s aged (in the new cellar pictured below) for about 15 months on fine lees.

New cellar for Pieropan's La Rocca

It's made from 100% Garganega, which is deliberately picked late, often as late as the end of October and often with two passes through the vineyard.

Liberty Wines point out that La Rocca has been awarded no fewer than seven gold medals at the International Wine Challenge over the years, adding, ‘Such consistency is rare, but what we would expect from Pieropan’. In Italy it has also been an almost embarrassingly frequent winner of a Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchiere award. And Tam chose the 2018 and 2019 as her wines of the week back in 2021.

All Pieropan wines have been certified organic from the 2015 vintage, two years before Leonildo Pieropan fell ill and was succeeded by his sons Andrea and Dario, who, together with their mother Teresita. run the estate with its smart new winery just outside the town .

Pieropan's La Rocca

With such a pedigree, the wine is not cheap, but compared with so many French wines at the same price it has so much intensity and vitality. My rather inadequate tasting note on this 13% dry white wine, preceded by Walter’s notes on the 2021 vintage in italics, is:

A very balanced year, according to Andrea Pieropan, with a very warm August and September causing smaller berries, and much greater temperature differences between day and night than are usual for this region.
Intense, concentrated, tense flavours of dried citrus peel, fermented honey and almost piercing acidity. Dry finish. Real grip. Already hugely impressive but surely this will just go on and on acquiring extra layers. Extraordinarily persistent. The flavour lingers for a minute or even two. Glorious! 18/20 Drink 2023–30

This is a stellar vintage of this great wine. I thoroughly recommend you have some in your cellar for drinking and showing off with over the next few years. I have been sipping from my open bottle over many evenings and thoroughly enjoying it not only with food but also as a luxurious aperitif and even as a nightcap.

The wine is delightfully easy to find in the UK and US as well as being available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, Czechia, Norway, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Heaven knows how much they make!

Prices are all over the place with, unusually, the second-best price in Switzerland. In the UK the best price is, as so often, at The Wine Society, where it’s £30. (The Society’s CEO has just emailed all members, incidentally, with the graph below showing the extent to which some of their mass-market competitors have been raising prices in the wake of the recent duty increases – generally by much more than the rises in duty. He also points out that, unlike The Wine Society, few of them have reduced prices on those wines for which duty has declined.)

Thw Wine Society comparative prices 2023
The Wine Society: 'Our comparative basket is made up of 14 wines which represent a typical member shopping basket and like-for-like wines sold by two leading wine retailers where members tell us they also shop.' (Steve Finlan, CEO, 17 September 2023)

Members can find reviews of over 400 Soave wines in our tasting notes database.