Soave pioneer Leonildo ‘Nino’ Pieropan dies aged 71

Tributes have been paid to a pioneer of Italy’s Soave winemaking region, Leonildo ‘Nino’ Pieropan, who has died at the age of 71.

Leonildo ‘Nino’ Pieropan died on 13 April aged 71

Pieropan died at his home on 13 April 2018, the family’s UK importer Liberty Wines, confirmed via a tribute written by its managing director David Gleave MW and posted on its website.

The Pieropan estate in Soave was established in 1880 by Nino’s grandfather, Leonildo, who had two sons, Fausto (Nino’s father) and Gustavo.

Fausto moved to Verona when he married late in life, so Nino was raised in the city but frequently visited his uncle in Soave, where he developed a passion for wine. He studied at the oenological school in Conegliano, graduating in 1966, and took over the running of the family estate in 1967.

The Pieropan estate was instrumental in raising the quality perceptions of Soave, championing single vineyard ‘cru’ sites in the region, as well as the ageing potential of the region’s white wines.

It was the first estate to bottle a wine with the name ‘Soave’, in 1932, despite the DOC for Soave not coming into effect until 1968, with Nino continuing to champion his family’s philosophy to prove that Soave could produce wines of outstanding longevity.

“A walk through the vineyards with Nino was always educational, as he would explain in detail why the vines were trained the way they were and why he picked when he did,” said Gleave.

“The clarity of his thought was the result of years of observation, experimentation and reflection. His first bold experiment was to bottle the 1971 vintage from the Calvarino vineyard (purchased by his grandfather in 1901) as a single vineyard Soave Classico. This was at a time when most Soave was being sold was in 2 litre bottles, primarily to the North American market.

“Urged by the great Luigi Veronelli to take the high road of quality (Veronelli also persuaded Piero Antinori to make Tignanello as a vino da tavola), Nino started to prove, with that wine, that the best wines of Soave could age beautifully and could, in the right hands, be considered among Italy’s finest white wines.”

Nino later bought the La Rocca vineyard, one of Soave’s few limestone outcrops, and made it as a single vineyard in 1978, producing only Garganega, which has come to become one of Italy’s outstanding white wine.

“The estate has evolved significantly since I first tasted and started selling the wines in 1983. When Nino’s two sons, Andrea and Dario, joined him and his wife Teresita in the business, they finally had enough people to manage more land and make more wine,” added Gleave. “In 2002, they bought land in Tregnago in the neighbouring Val d’Illasi to plant red grapes and make Valpolicella. Once again, Nino followed his own path rather than be swayed by the then fashion for big and beefy wines. His characteristic style – fragrant and elegant – is now once again in vogue, but the Pieropan wines have been like that since the outset.”

Speaking to Gleave, Nino’s son Andrea, who is the estate’s vineyard manager, added: “For me, as well as being a great father he was also an extraordinary man, an open book from which I learned everything, and which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. That is the greatest legacy a person can leave.”

2 Responses to “Soave pioneer Leonildo ‘Nino’ Pieropan dies aged 71”

  1. Andrew Oliver says:

    I have never commented on our stories before, but this man was a role model for putting quality first. He should be a case study for everyone who is looking to be involved with Italian wine.

  2. David Hemsley says:

    Amazing wines and still among my favourite white wines ever, (over 26 years in the trade.) Such uniqueness between the wines and ageing ability. You will be sorely missed. My heartfelt condolences to your family and friends. Thank you for all the great wines you made for us all to share. Total legend.

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