If you’re over a certain age, you remember Franco Bolla. He was a refined and impossibly good-looking Italian gentleman who starred in a series of TV commercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In those ads, Franco linked his family’s white wine, Soave Bolla, to the good life in all its forms. If you drank Soave Bolla, you became as glamorous as Frank Sinatra (who supposedly refused to sit down at a table that did not hold Bolla wine), and you’d automatically be able to seduce beautiful women with nothing more than a wink and a glass of Soave.
The ads succeeded brilliantly, and for a time Soave Bolla became the most popular white wine in America. When that popularity faded, Italian vintners discovered that Soave had been permanently branded in the American imagination as cheap and undistinguished quaff (even today, a bottle of Soave Bolla only sells for $8). As a result, few consumers were willing to fork over serious cash for an estate-bottled Soave from a top producer.
One of the producers who weathered that negative image was Pieropan. The winery was founded in 1880 by Leonildo Pieropan, a physician who purchased the historic Palazzo Pallucci in the medieval village of Soave. They became pioneers and trend-setters in the region, releasing the first vineyard-designated Soave from their Calvarino vineyard in 1971; this was followed by La Rocca, a vineyard site located on the Monte Rocchetta hill. Today the estate is in the hands of Dario Pieropan, a fourth-generation winemaker, and remains the standard bearer of quality in the region.
Those generations of tradition become evident in their entry-level wine, the 2014 Pieropan Soave Classico ($17). The nose blends whiffs of citrus and melon with more fundamental scents of hazelnut and fig. The wine enters the mouth cleanly, with crisp acidity; flavors of lemon, quince and stone fruit expand in the mid palate and gain more strength on the long finish. It pair well with finger food, fish and shellfish, and stands out as a particularly well-structured wine for the price.
Structure is even more evident in the vineyard-designated 2013 Pieropan La Rocca ($35). A nose of earth, mineral, citrus and wet hay is followed by a medium-bodied wine with good acidity and a forceful texture. A range of mouthwatering citrus and stone fruit flavors highlight the mid palate, and mineral notes reappear on the finish. Despite its charm, this wine is serious enough to accompany chicken, veal and pork dishes as well as seafood.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Natiion (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is forthcoming from Black Opal Books in Spring 2016. For more information, go to amazon.com