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Experiments | with euganean garganega grapes


a cura di Laura Riolfatto

natural wine - Venetian wine

The typical golden yellow color and the thick and generous bunch of grapes with small leaves are unmistakable; a healthy and strong grape, resistant to diseases and with a good and constant production: we are speaking about Garganega.

I have far memories of an old vine of Garganega in my great grandfather’s vineyard and when I was a child I was fascinated by this fruit because it was called the golden grape, like something very special and precious. Over time I understood that it was called like that only for its intense yellow color.

Those vines of my memory were located in the Euganean Hills, volcanic territory where it is still produced today, although not as much, in fact it is currently seen as an ‘outsider grape’.

Native Italian grape, known and cultivated since ancient times in the Veneto, the researches of the historians Borlolami and Valandro, tell us of testimonies of the presence of Garganega in the Monte Ricco in Monselice starting from the first half of the 12th century (garganegis cum olivis), then some documents written in the 13th century prove its presence in the Monte Ventolone in Arquà (terre de vitis garganegis). This variety seems to have been produced in the soft hills of Gambellara (Vicenza) and Soave (Verona), where it quickly became popular and was welcomed by an intuitive class of farmers and entrepreneurs, who bet a lot on this grape. Today, the extension of these vines is of great importance and the production of Soave, representative wine of the territory, an example of high quality and of a successful class of businessmen at a national and international level.

euganean hills - natural wine

Precisely in the Euganean territory I undertook a study journey and met winemakers and producers who believe in this grape and started experimenting with its vinification. We are aware that Garganega never was a main grape in these hills, on the contrary it had always been treated poorly and the wine produced from it in great quantities was often used to cut other wines considered more prestigious, like the white Moscato, in the 1970s.

It is one of the grapes of the Colli Eugenei Bianco DCO, established in 1969, but it has never been a grape thought as important to launch and characterise the territory. It isn’t particularly scented, it is considered a neutral grape, but it has many different virtues, it is generous and well able to make people fall in love with it, being particularly vocated for tardive harvesting and aging, especially if one wants to test it and have fun with it. In these hills I spent the summer meeting certain producers who, despite everything, keep believing in this grape, producing it pure as excellence of their company; these producers all share a deep respect for the territory, the environment, the raw material and future generations. Maybe it’s a chance, although I don’t think so, but all these companies are certified organic or anyway apply the principles of organic, biodynamic or natural production. Listening to them, I understood how the motivations that bring these farms to be certified as respectful of nature, are linked to personal stories, which gather several principles tied to family ethic and production. As we will see, each wine represents its producer, and behind each wine there is a life project, made of important investments and a work that is truly tiring but also fascinating and that often leads to great satisfaction. Satisfaction is constant from the first experimenting phase, to research and production, which involve a long process of trial and waiting. Some producers told me about their failures with the vilification of Garganega, of difficult tests before reaching unique results that could identify their company. Failure is always difficult to see with a positive eye, but it is actually a logical process of growth and learning.

euganean hills - Venetian wine

The starting point for this Euganean tale is Arquà Petrarca, in the lower part of town, where we can see a grape that was born from the former Osteria al Guerriero, an example of Garganega more than 150 years old, extraordinary in its current state of beauty and health.

From Arquà Petrarca I arrive in the marvelous and luxuriant Faedo Valley, formerly known as Pedevenda, immersed among vines and olive trees, from which it dominates the majestic Monte Venda (601 mt), the highest of the Euganean Hills. It can be recognized from far away from its gigantic steel tower, important and strategic radio and television transmission center, although in this moment it is the botanical biodiversity that makes it the most representative of the whole complex. Here, at the foot of this beauty, there is a wine company that made the history of twine in the Euganean territory: Cà Lustra Zanovello, in constant research and fermentation.

It’s about ten years that there are experiments with the maceration on the skins and their ‘Garganega’, on the market since 2017, is an interesting fusion among tradition, experimentation and balance, following organic cultivation practices, through a work that is attentive and respectful of the environment, both in the vineyard and in the canteen, using indigenous yeasts and spontaneous fermentations. The resulting wine is of a nice gold yellow, with a scent of ripe yellow fruit, spices, turmeric and dried fruit, it has a strong body with a final note of almonds. Excellent paired with seasoned cheese and chutneys and jams, or combined with oriental and slightly spicy dishes.

garganega ca' Lustra Zanovello - euganean hills - Venetian wine

garganega ca' Lustra Zanovello - venetian wine

My journey continues down to Fade and walking through the cingolina road, I arrive in Fontanafredda, at the end of a white street, surrounded by vines, cherry and olive trees, in the Grape Farm Monte Brecale, which carries the name of the mountain the dominates it, rich in chestnut woods and vines. I am welcomed by the Sinigaglia family who with passion and perseverance leads a small and functional Canteen that produces niche wines of great quality. A quality that we note in their wine ‘Garganega’, result of a research lasted quite a few years and that implies spontaneous vilification and fermentation, with a 6 month aging in concrete tanks in contact with a 30% of full grapes picked by hand, the wine is eventually bottled with no filtering and remains in contact with its own yeasts. The result is a refined wine with golden reflections, intense perfumes of dried exotic fruit, aromatic herbs and spices. A really interesting and elegant result, a soft wine with a good persistence.

natural wine - monte brecale  wine - Venetian wine - euganean hills

Laura Riolfatto sommelier | wine and food photographer  | wine blogger

I leave the cantina Monte Brecale and go towards Cornoleda, a small town nestled in the Monte Gemola, a magical place, with a small church, a tower bell, a Renaissance country house and a bunch of small houses. Here time seems to have stopped, the calmness, the silence and the pure harmony with nature are the characteristics of this place surrounded by woods. I take a white road that runs along the small cemetery and I enter the woods, following several ups and downs I start to see the vines. I park the car between two rows of a vine and I reach the only house I find, I have arrived in Castagnucoli, a small and artisanal farm that produces natural wines, an explosion of authenticity. Here I meet Nicola, an archaeologist who left his former job to look after the vines of his father, starting a difficult and tortuous, yet virtuous, journey that implies an entirely natural vilification, with no compromise. One either likes these wines or not. Few hectares of cultivated land in the Monte Gemola, with surprising varieties:garganega, dorona, marzemina bianca, merlot, corbinella, pataresca, turchetta and cavarara. The wine I am interested in is the Castagnucoli Bianco, a blend of garganega, dorona, glera and marzemina bianca, this wine requires 2 harvestings. The first one foresees the collection of glera, dorona and white marzemina, to which garganega is added in a second moment and left macerating on the skins for 15 days. The aging takes place in an amphora over 6/7 months, followed by the bottling with no filtering. The resulting wine is definitely not clear nor clean, but rather veiled with intense golden reflections, it is intense at the nose, with scents of ripe yellow fruit, dandelion flower, Gerber and herbs of the wood. Soft and definitely persistent, in the mouth it is a complex and well structured wine.

garganega | natural wine | Venetian wine

ai castagnucoli | euganean hills | Venetian wine - natural wine

I proceed downwards to Cornoleda towards the luxuriant Valnogaredo Valley, small and fascinating town rich in history and culture: here we find the Buso della Casara, an aqueduct built in Roman times that still functions today, Villa Contarini Piva, marvelous example of the greatness of the Most Serene Republic built in the 1700s with frescoes by Jacopo Guarana, and and ancient oil mill built in the 1700s by the Doges Contarini, amazing example of how the tradition of extra virgin olive oil was and still is an euganean excellence. I pass in front of the oil mill and head towards Monte Versa, where I am greeted by Mr Marco Sambin, of the company with the same name that produces 4 types of pure Garganega and defines himself as an experimentalist. Mr Sambin has invested a lot in this grape, which for him represents flexibility and multiformity. The farm is organic certified, but actually his farming methods and the entire production process follow the natural and biodynamic philosophy. We can find pure Garganega as sweet wine, Helena, or on the opposite side the re-fermented in the bottle Martha, or Psyche, macerated on the skins, and Sarah, a dry white wine with great elegance. Soon there will also be a Metedo Classico sparkling wine, currently resting on the yeasts.

marco Sambin | garganega | natural wine | Venetian wine

I leave the top of the hills and go downwards, until I arrive in Lozzo Attestino, precisely in Valbona, a town known for its medieval castle of the 13th century that dominates the plain on the west of Monte di Lozzo. I am between the Provinces of Padua and Vicenza, at the foot of the Euganean Hills, from where I can clearly see at a distance the Berici Hills. In this boundary land of peasant tradition, cultivated with corn and vines, I have an appointment with Elisa of the Farm Azienda Agricola Nevio Scala, a place in perfect harmony with nature, where the Scala family has put together strength, passion, commitment and dedication to enhance the territory and a truly special good: the Earth. In 2014 Claudio, the son of Nevio Scala, together with his sister in-law Elisa, decided to quit their jobs and take over the family company, started back in 1929. An important investment, personal and economical, brought them to re-plant vines that had been eradicated twenty years before. They returned to the origins planting Garganega grapes and decided to follow natural vilification methods, their wines are clean, not extreme, elegant and easy to drink. They stake everything on Garganega grapes. Already one year after planting, the first production was of 5,000 bottles; it is known that Garganega is a very generous grape and this is why it is so appreciated. Currently the company stakes a lot on three pure wines: Gargante, re-fermented inside the bottle, Còntame, macerated on the skins, and Diletto, a dry white wine perfect throughout a meal. To them it is a life-saving wine, because when one doesn’t know what to cook and which wine to choose, Diletto is the perfect solution.

nevi scala wine | natural wine | euganean hills | Venetian wine

nevio scala wine | natural wine | euganean hills | Venetian wine

Once left Lozzo Attestino, I end my journey on the west side of these Hills, I cross the municipality of Vò Eugene, known as the land of wine and trachyte, and I reach Zovon, a town immersed in woods and vines. I take an uphill road and after a few changes of route due to the navigator going crazy, I finally find the farm Azienda Monteforche, located on the mountain with the same name. It’s a sunny mid July afternoon, the temperature is 34° with a very high percentage of humidity, the sun is shining and the singing of the crickets is almost deafening, in this atmosphere I meet Alfonso Soranzo, who welcomes me under the shade in a fresh spot. Alfonso is a man with clear ideas, firm and nonconformist, respectful of the rules but also skeptical about the Institutions, an independent and extremely honest wine producer. For Alfonso those who produce Garganega in the Euganean Hills are producers of a certain type that carry out a certain type of research, and that are sensitive, in fact for him this grape is perfect for this territory and climate. Garganega is strongly rooted in the territory and it is impossible to exclude it. His vines are located on marly soils, some vines are very old, whereas the new vine was recovered through a chip budding. The raw material and the work in the vines are essential to him, like the use of indigenous yeasts with no added sulphate and no filtering, for this reason he changed several winemakers before finding the one who married his un-corruptible ideas. Vigneto Carantina îs his pure garganega wine, it undergoes only 2/3 days of maceration on the skins, as he prefers to produce a simple and fresh wine, for him it is important to picture the essence of wine, he seeks integrity and minimalism. The wine has a nice hay yellow color with golden notes, strong scents of white peach, orange zests, wild flowers and herbs of the woods, sage and incense, it is fresh, well-balanced and with an almond final taste.

monteforche | garganega | natural wine | euganean hills | Venetian wine

I like to think that these are illuminated farmers, able to look far. People convinced that contributing in an independent way to the research and the diffusion of territoriality, finding in a grape that had almost been abandoned, is almost a duty and not only a personal pleasure.

Wine is a project | ethics and practice become essential.

This is a short summary of my journey researching Euganean Garganega, after having met and chatted with some small and medium producers who love and respect their land.


Follow my upcoming pairings stories to learn more about these wines:

Cà Lustra Zanovello | Garganega IGT Veneto | 2020 BIO | 11,5%VOL (100% garganega)

Monte Brecale | Garganega IGT Veneto | 2018 BIO | 12%VOL (100% garganega)

I Castagnucoli | Bianco IGT Veneto | 2020 | 12% VOL ( blend di garganega, dorona, glera, marzemina bianca)

Marco Sambin | Martha Trevenezia IGT | 2019 BIO | 10.5% VOL | refermented in the bottle (100% garganega)

Marco Sambin | Psyche Trevenezia IGT | 2018 BIO | 10.5% VOL | macerated on the skins (100% garganega)

Marco Sambin | Sarah Trevenezia IGT | (2018 BIO | 13% VOL | (100% garganega)

Marco Sambin | Helena Trevenezia IGT | 2016 | 13% VOL | sweet raisin wine (100% garganega)

Nevio Scala | Gargante IGT Veneto | 2020 BIO | 11.5% VOL | refermented in the bottle (100% garganega)

Nevio Scala | Còntame IGT Veneto | 2017 BIO | 12% VOL | macerated on the skins (100% garganega)

Nevio Scala | Diletto IGT Veneto | 2019 BIO | 12% VOL | (100% garganega)

Monteforche | Vigneto Carantina IGT Veneto | 2021 | 12%VOL (100% garganega)


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