Anteprima Sagrantino 2023 – Exploring the wonderful wine escape of Umbria more seriously, Filippo Magnani

One of Italy’s most unique native varieties, and Umbria’s flagship grape “Sagrantino” was showcased on April 19th and 20th in the charming town of Montefalco at the 2023 Anteprima Sagrantino. The Anteprima Sagrantino is an opportunity each year for wine professionals to rediscover this symbol of Umbria’s heritage. This year was the release of the 2019 vintage of Montefalco di Sagrantino DOCG which requires 3 years+ of aging before it can be released onto the market. Although it always takes centre stage, it is surrounded by the reputed neighbours: Montefalco Bianco DOC, Montefalco Grechetto DOC, Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino DOC, Spoleto Trebbiano Spoletino Superiore DOC, Montefalco Rosso DOC, and Montefalco
Rosso Riserva DOC.

The town hall of Montefalco, also known as “Ringhiera dell’Umbria” or railings of Umbria for its perched position overlooking the countryside, was transformed into a magnificent tasting room that welcomed Italian and international press. Since 2015 the Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco has organized this event in the village of Montefalco.

A New Vision for Montefalco

This year the Consortium presented a new initiative that shifts the focus from “Anteprima Sagrantino” to “A Montefalco”. This new name represents a change in perspective that offers a more holistic expression of Montefalco as a “Land of Wine”. No longer just Sangrantino or an Anteprima event, “A Montefalco” is meant to show visitors the evolution of the numerous native varieties in addition to Sagrantino that the region expresses today.

Sustainability is another important theme of the event. The Consortium launched its “Sangreentino” initiative that provides electric cars and bikes to transport visitors to the wineries and on other tours. The project plans for 30 charging points to be available at different wineries. In addition, 31% of wineries have received or are transitioning to organic and biodynamic certifications. Their sustainability practices also include solar systems, biomass boilers, botanical gardens and ecological corridors to protect bees and promote biodiversity.

Montefalco – Land of Wine

Montefalco lies in the heart of Italy surrounded by hilltop vineyards and historic villages. Its character is defined by its authenticity and unique terroir. As a part of the country’s only landlocked region its rivers, lakes and hills provide a variety of elevations and soils. Add to that its Mediterranean climate, and the result is wine with balance, depth and complexity. Most of the grapes grown here are native and have been thriving for over a thousand years. And of course, one grape has become a symbolic expression of the Montefalco terroir “Sagrantino”.

Sagrantino and the other grape varieties of Montefalco

Sagrantino is inextricably linked to Montefalco’s past and future. The name is said to be derived from ‘falco sagro” or ‘sacred falcon’. Legend recounts that in the 13th century Sagrantino wine was used to cure the dying falcons in the area much adored by the emperor Federico. Perhaps not a coincidence then that this would become the most famous wine from Montefalco or “Falcon’s Mountain’. In 1992 Montefalco Sagrantino was
awarded DOCG status. Sagrantino was traditionally made in a sweet ‘passito’ style but its dry version has now earned it a place among Italy’s best red wines. This thick-skinned grape is low yielding with a lot of tannin, structure and intensity which also gives it excellent aging potential. This tannic power is harnessed through the required aging process for DOCG certification.

But as the Montefalco wine producer’s Consortium demonstrates in its inclusive approach to promoting the wines of Montefalco, Sangrantino is just one of several local grape varieties to be discovered. For example, Trebbiano Spoletino and Grechetto are among the white wines that should not be missed. Trebbiano Spoletino can be surprisingly rich and structured with both fruity and savoury elements that are delivered with refreshing
acidity. There are also Sangiovese-based reds produced under the Montefalco Rosso DOC. These can vary from fresh and fruity with herbaceous undertones to more structured wines aged in barrique. You can find reds and whites alike in a dry style or sweet made in
the ‘passito’ method.

The Epicentre of wine tourism in Umbria

Montefalco has been known as the “Land of Wine” since the Middle Ages.
Evidence that vines were present in the area date back to 1088. These native grape varieties have evolved in harmony with local traditions and culture making this land of wine an incredible place for wine enthusiasts to visit. The region has seen rapid growth of small, dynamic estates over the past decade. They are supported by the Consortium and the combined determination of the local hospitality, restaurants, heritage sites and fellow
wineries to promote the area and its great qualities, especially after the pandemic.

The ‘Associazione Strada del Sagrantino’ is one of the main bodies promoting tourism along the wine road to these five towns: Montefalco, Bevagna, Castel Ritaldi, Giano dell’Umbria and Gualdo Cattaneo. Not only do they all have deep rooted wine traditions, but they also offer rich history, beautiful architecture, and tasty local specialties. For example, the
Museum of Montefalco is a treasure trove of art and a reference point for Umbrian history, tradition and painting. The Rocca Sonora is a fortress that stands in the main square of Gualdo Cattaneo as an emblem of the territory’s fortified defence system. San Francesco Church in Giano dell’Umbria has some incredible frescoes by the reputed painter
Giovanni di Corraduccio. And the uniquely shaped Piazza Filippo Silvestri in Bevagna is one of Umbria’s most attractive medieval squares.

Here is a selection of wineries to visit with memorable tasting experiences and many lodging options:

A landmark estate in Montefalco, Azienda Agraria Scacciadiavoli has been producing wine since 1884 and was bought by the Pambuffetti family in 1954. The name means “cast out the devils”, taken from a local 19th century exorcist who was known to use wine while mperforming his rituals. Today the winery is a state-of-the-art four-level facility allowing for gravity flow throughout the entire production. Winery visits consist of a guided tour and
different tastings to choose from paired with Pambufetti family products or even lunch.

Scacciadiavoli – Montefalco Grechetto Doc 2022
Brilliant, yellow colour. Intense flavour of ginger with a scent of apricot.
Fresh, balanced palate with good persistence. The acidity matches well with the fruit. I enjoyed it!

Founded in 1919 by three brothers, Alfredo, Francesco, and Alberto. The brothers commenced making wine in the local hospital in Montefalco. Eventually, their wines were exported throughout Italy, including the Vatican. Today their great-grandsons Gianluca Rio and Alberto
Mario kept the family tradition alive. With their 11 hectares of vines, they grow the local varieties Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino, but also international grapes like Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay.

Le Cimate
Le Cimate winery is the culmination of over 200 years of dedication to agriculture by the Bartolini family. From farming in the 1800’s to viticulture in the 1960’s and then the strategic purchase of land in 1992, the family started to build their winery in 2011. Three generations contributed to its construction, including Grandfather Paolo who was President of the local community winery Colli Spolentini for more than 20 years. The
location at 400m nestled against the Martani Mountains provides an excellent diurnal shift in temperatures with regular winds to keep the vines healthy. Surrounding their 23 hectares of vineyards are 33 hectares of olive groves and 15 hectares of hazelnut orchards. The winery benefits from the latest technology and produces wines from an impressive array of grapes, both native varieties and international favourites such as Chardonnay, Viognier, Vermentino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Giampalo Tabarrini is the fourth generation who took control of his family’s agricultural estate in the late 1990’s and transformed it into the winery that it is today. His vision is thoroughly focused on terroir. Three of their bottlings are selected from distinct parcels among the vineyards to highlight their unique expression. In addition to their 15 hectares of vineyards they have olive groves and wheat fields from which they produce their own stone-ground flour perfect for making pizza, pasta, and desserts.

Cantine Lungarotti
Founded in the 1960’s by Giorgio Lungarotti, the family has an estate in Montefalco and Torgiano, just 30 minutes northwest of Montefalco towards Perugia. The winery is a family affair with Giorgio’s two daughters Chiara and Teresa now running the family business. Their mother Maria Grazia was a pioneer in wine tourism creating the region’s first wine museum in the 1970’s and more recently an olive and oil museum. Teresa herself was one of Italy’s first female oenologists and her children Francesco and Gemma manage the estate’s sales and events. All their wines have been organic since 2010 wine with good acidity.

Arnaldo Caprai
Founded in 1971 by Marco’s father Arnaldo Caprai who was a textile entrepreneur. In 1988 Arnaldo passed the reins to Marco when he was only 21. He has grown the winey from just 12 acres to a thriving 370-acre estate. Early on he made the choice to drastically reducing the quantity of grapes to focus on quality. Believing in Sagrantino’s full potential he began exporting dry Montefalco Sagrantino to the U.S. even before its DOCG status, paving the way for an international revival of Sagrantino. The state-of-the-art winery in Montefalco offers multiple tours and tastings on their panoramic terrace or in the vineyards.

Originally owned by the bishop of Spoleto for over 600 years, the property was bought by Francesco Antonelli in 1883. Today the Antonelli estate is spread out over 430 acres in the heart of the Montefalco territory. The variety of terrain from rich clay deposits to rocky limestone results in several microclimates with each plot expressing its own nuances. The
cellars are completely underground allowing for the use of gravity flow during production. The grapes, mostly Sagrantino and Sangiovese for reds, and Grechetto and Trebbiano Spoletino for whites, are all organic. Visitors are welcomed in the beautifully restored antique farmhouse called Casale Satriano which includes 6 apartments and a swimming

Devis Romanelli
Perched on San Clemente hill in Montefalco the Romanelli estate has been cultivating wine, olive oil, walnuts, and grains completely organically for over 40 years. Their love for this special terroir can be seen in everything they do from the Romanelli Nature Project which promotes sustainability and biodiversity to their eco-friendly approach to tourism. The winery is run today by the young and dynamic Devis Romanelli. He produces three special Cru wines that are a result of decades of research into the unique qualities of the different plots on the estate.

Tenuta Bellafonte
Located just outside of Bevagna, Tenuta Bellafonte was started by a successful businessman from Milan, Peter Heilbron, who fell in love with Umbria and the unique terroir of Montefalco. A good example of a winery dedicated to sustainability and biodiversity. They use solar panels and a biomass boiler to avoid any environmental damage or waste. The wine production and cellar are both underground to blend in with the landscape. The vineyards are surrounded by forests and a massive olive grove of
2500 trees which they use to produce their own olive oil. Their vines include Sagrantino, Sangiovese and Trebbiano Spoletino grapes. A large country estate was built to welcome visitors with 7 charming bedrooms, a lush garden and an indoor pool.

Cantina Tudernum
Established in 1958 by a group of vineyard owners who decided to join forces to market their wines as a cooperative group. They grew from only a few hectares of vines to the 400 hectares they have today. Since the 90’s they have invested in quality and technological improvements to make an impressive variety of wines from both modern and classic
styles, also using rare native varietals.



French company Zephalto is offering luxury wine tasting in space

French company Zephalto is offering passengers the chance to travel to the stratosphere in a balloon, starting at €120,000 /$132,000 per person in 2025.

Beyond organizing a panoramic viewing experience, Zephalto is also bringing in French luxury and the ‘art de vivre’ with a pre-flight gourmet meal prepared by famous French chefs, followed by a unique wine-tasting experience.

The wine tasting will take place in the Celeste, a metallic-like “spaceship” made from composite fibres to ensure its lightweight and exceptional strength. Its luxurious interior is said to be designed by Parisian interior designer Joseph Dirand.

Zephalto plans to launch the balloon from France on a six-hour experience that will include three hours at its highest altitude — above 98 percent of the atmosphere and twice as high as the average commercial jet. According to The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the boundary of space is at 62 miles altitude, over four times higher than Celeste’s final ascent.

The ship will sit beneath a vast helium balloon “the size of the Sacré Coeur in Paris”, which will push the ship into the stratosphere. The experience will last six hours and will hold two pilots and just six guests.

Because the Celeste will not reach this space boundary, it will not leave the Earth’s atmosphere, meaning passengers will not experience weightlessness. This will make the experience open to anyone without specialist training.

Passengers will be presented with a pre-flight gourmet meal, which the company claims will be provided by a team of famous French chefs, and will then receive a unique guided wine tasting, featuring carefully selected French vintages.

Zephalto representative states: “From regions to grape varieties, discover France from sky and land.”

Pre-reservations for their first year of operation are open with 60 flights planned.

Reserve your seat for this unique experience:



Anteprima della Vernaccia di San Gimignano, discovering a truly unique wine in Tuscany “The White Queen in a Land of Red Kings” – Filippo Magnani

A few weeks ago, experts, wine enthusiasts and the press gathered in the charming town of San Gimignano on February 16th to taste not only the new vintages of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, but also the reserve wines not yet released on the market. 41 wineries and 96 wines were presented to the Italian and international press at the De Grada Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, in the historical centre of San Gimignano.

The following two weekends the wines were also presented to 200 wine trade and wine enthusiasts at the Rocca di Montestaffoli, home of the Vernaccia Wine Experience. Here we had the extraordinary opportunity to meet the “unique, noble and rebellious” White Queen Vernaccia di San Gimignano! This is the only DOCG white wine to be produced in Tuscany where illustrious reds such as Brunello, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Chianti Classico usually take centre stage. United by a great passion for this grape and territory, the Consortium celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. It continues to support those who are the custodians and greatest interpreters of an age-old white wine tradition.

During this year’s event, Master of Wine Gabriele Gorelli conducted a Masterclass called “Timeless Vernaccia” with a vertical tasting of vintages going back as far as 1997, which was a wonderful chance to experience the results achieved with this grape over time and appreciate the longevity of the wines. The President of the Consortium described the latest vintage as a record year due to the continuing drought and high temperatures: “These did not, however, prevent Vernaccia di San Gimignano from reacting masterfully, once again, to the year’s climatic challenges, proving that this ancient, native grape variety has evolved in perfect harmony with its terroir.”

The Ancient Hills

As the cradle of white wine production in Tuscany, San Gimigano’s territory is situated completely on hills with variable exposures and altitudes of between 200 and 400m above sea level. Its ancient soils have high concentrations of fossils, shells, calcareous sediments, and clay. This composition is ideal for producing vigorous and mineral-driven white wines, and the unique combinations of all these factors, even in such a small area, make the wines produced in this denomination extremely fascinating and complex. Vernaccia is an ancient grape that, although grown throughout Italy, thrives particularly well here in San Gimignano which has become its spiritual home.  Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first Italian wine to be granted DOC status in 1966. It was elevated to DOCG status in 1993, confirming its role as the leading white wine in Tuscany.

San Gigmignano, An Alluring Wine Destination

Almost half of San Gimignano is dedicated to farm production (vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and grains). It is a place where man and nature have lived together for centuries in a mutual relationship of respect. Tucked away in the Tuscan countryside, San Gimignano warmly welcomes wine enthusiasts from all over the world. It is located almost halfway between Florence and Siena (about 60 and 45 km) and is easily reachable by car or by bus. Historically the town was a place loved by important nobles and political figures of the past who left a trace of their passage, enriching this unique place with culture and art. It is known as the “Town of Towers” because in the first centuries after 1000 AD it was embellished with seventy towers and numerous palaces, built by the many wealthy families to display their wealth and power. Today 14 towers remain to create an unmistakable silhouette overlooking the surrounding Tuscan hills.

AMARONE OPERA PRIMA 2023, an extraordinary event that reveals the special territory and wines of Valpolicella

This year Amarone Opera Prima took place on February 4th and 5th.  It was magnificently organized by the Valpolicella Wine Consortium at Gran Guardia Palace, which is in the heart of Verona. The President of the consortium, Christian Marchesini, opened the event with a presentation of Amarone sales in Italy and abroad based on data obtained by the Nomisma Wine Monitor. Interestingly, the value of Amarone has increased both in Italy and abroad, but the volume of sales went slightly down in 2022 following an exceptional year in 2021. However, the United States increased its import of Amarone by 24% making it now the biggest importer of the king of Valpolicella worldwide. Giambattista Tornielli, an associate professor of General Arboriculture and Arboreal Crops at the University of Verona, gave a special preview of the 2018 vintage which he said expresses all the typical characteristics of Amarone and the Valpolicella territory. Then several distinguished professors and high-ranking officials were part of a special panel that discussed Amarone’s candidacy to become a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. A total of 64 wineries participated in the Amarone Opera Prima and each evening offered tastings open to the public.

The Valpolicella Wine Region
Picturesque rolling hills, limestone, clay, and volcanic soils

The Valpolicella wine region is endowed not only with beautiful landscapes of rolling hills nestled against the Dolomite mountains and Lake Garda, but also holds one of Italy’s richest traditions in winemaking. The region is shielded to the north by the Monti Lessini plateau, which protects against the cold currents from the Alps. The region also benefits from mild winters and good ventilation due to Lake Garda. There is also a longer growing season, which helps produce wines with good concentration and high acidity. For centuries these ideal conditions have attracted winemakers who developed the traditional method of ‘appassimento’, or drying of grapes, to produce a unique style of wine famously known as “Amarone” which has become the flagship wine of the region. The classification of wines in the Valpolicella region can seem complex at first because there are both wine styles and wine territories with similar names. The region produces four traditional wines: Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG – these are classified according to how the wine is made. All four of these wines come from three distinct territories within the Valpolicella region: Valpolicella DOC, Valpolicella DOCClassico and Valpolicella DOC Valpatena.

Valpolicella is an ideal destination for wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs

The long-standing tradition of Amarone and special grape drying techniques used are a fundamental part of the region’s identity, which the Valpolicella community is trying to protect with its candidacy for UNESCO Intangible Heritage. It is meant to reflect the social, political and economic heritage of the area and how it will evolve in the future. As explained by the Valpolicella Consortium, the UNESCO recognition is not needed for the success of Amarone, which already brings in over 600 million euros in revenue, but rather as a means to safeguard the tradition for future generations. Preparation of the dossier has also worked to unify and strengthen the Valpolicella community while respecting producers’ inclination towards tradition or innovation.

For those who wish to experience this heritage first-hand, the region offers an abundance of natural beauty and authentic wine experiences. Less than half an hour north of Verona the gentle plain of the Adige River Valley gives way to the rolling hills of Valpolicella, a patchwork of vineyards, villages, farmhouses, and renaissance villas many of which have been converted into family-run wineries and restaurants with accommodation. You can enjoy a variety of experiences, from intimate farmhouse tastings to magnificent Venetian villas complete with wine resort and spa.

I tasted some excellent wines at the 2023 Amarone Opera Prima. Here is a selection of my favourite wines and also make fantastic wineries to visit with memorable tasting experiences with a variety of lodging options.


The charming Collina dei Ciliegi is nestled in the hills of the Valpantena territory. It was the dream of winemaker Massimo Gianolli who got his start in 2005 with a small production of grapes that would become the first Amarone produced in the small village of Erbin. Now La Collina dei Cilliegi produces 3 collections (Classic, Riserve and Emporium) that are exported to over 20 countries worldwide. They have some of the highest vineyards in Valpolicella (750m) and with their chalky soils produce wines with excellent acidity and minerality. Their modern approach includes new blends that combine traditional and international varieties. A visit to the winery takes you on a memorable journey of the land, culture and flavours of Valpantena. Their beautifully restored farmhouse Ca’ Del Moro welcomes visitors for tastings, vineyard walks and fine dining along with 6 finely refurbished rooms, each named after symbolic wines of the region (Amarone, Valpolicella, Recioto, Ripasso, Garganega and Corvina).


Colour ranging from ruby core to light garnet rim. Intense flavour of ripe plum with balsamic notes of mint. A hint of vanilla. Rich in structure, with persistent ripe fruit, well balanced with soft tannins. Fresh long finish. A great wine.


Located in the heart of Valpolicella Classico is the Azienda Agricola Ca’ La Bionda, it was founded in 1902 by Peitro Castellani in the outskirts of the town Marano di Valpolicella. Estate vineyards extend over 29 hectares and have been producing only organic wines since 2016. Now it is run by the family’s fourth generation of brothers, Alessandro (winemaker) and Nicola (viticulturist). They carry on their family’s heritage by producing genuine examples of traditional Amarone with a focus on the vineyard and the grapes. Tastings of their Valpolicella, Amarone and Ricioto are accompanied by small food pairings, and their villa provides elegant accommodation with modern amenities.


The colour is medium ruby with a compact rim. Pronounced intensity of ripe red fruit mixed with notes of chocolate and tobacco. Medium body with ripe red fruit and freshness. Moderate coarse tannins. Quite a long finish.  I really appreciated it!


The Giacomo Montresor Cellars date back to 1892 and continue today to produce wines with a unique identity and style. Hospitality has become an integral part of the winery’s philosophy, so much so that they have created a wine museum in the winery that offers an immersive experience in history, culture, and territory. Montresor produces an impressive range of Valpolicella wines that also includes a sparkling wine and an aperitivo. Their “satin-finished” or frosted bottles of Amarone were patented at the beginning of the 1900’s to protect the wine from the Atlantic sun during their first exports to North America. Winery tours are followed by a guided tasting paired with local salumi and cheese. All products are available for sale on site.


Deep ruby red with paler reflections. Pronounced intensity of ripe red fruit mixed with notes of chocolate and tobacco. Smooth and delicious palate with delicate tannins and quite a long aftertaste present.  A great wine!


Luciano Arduini is another remarkable winery in the ‘classico’ territory of Valpolicella. Founded in the 1940’s it is now run by the third generation, Luciano with his wife, son, and daughter. Luciano has maintained the winemaking culture of his father which was mostly focused on the vineyard with minimal intervention in the cellar. However, he has added his own personal vision which included taking innovative steps to create a new and modern winery in 2000. Their tastings offer the complete range of wines together with older vintages of Amarone upon request and must be booked in advance.


Garnet red with a pale tinge. It displays an intense flavour of dark cherry and raspberry with light earthy overtones. Juicy and vibrant with a medium-bodied palate, firm tannins with a light smoky hint at the end. I really appreciated this wine.


Hidden in the valley of Mezzane in Valpolicella is the Massimago winery which dates back to 1883. The name comes from Latin meaning “maximum wellness” and that is certainly what they have created here. Current owner and winemaker Camilla Rossi Chauvenet renovated the entire estate in 2003 expanding the cellars and creating a Wine Relais with 7 elegant country-style suites, a pool, private spa and restaurant serving dishes created from ingredients grown on the property. Visitors can enjoy a variety of tasting experiences from a vineyard walk to a picnic or e-bike tour.


Ruby core with narrow light rim. Great nose with ripe plum, spicy notes of liquorice and rhubarb. Slight notes of leather. A full-bodied wine with good freshness. Present delicate tannins and quite a long aftertaste.  I liked it.


On the top of a gentle hill overlooking the Marano Valley in Valpolicella Classica sits a 15th century manor, home to the Novaia winery. The name means “new farmyard”, a place where the Vaona family settled in the 1800’s to cultivate vines, olives, cherries, corn and silkworms. Here they found an ideal location with the right topography, soil, water and climate for growing grapes and the subsequent grape- drying process. Their vineyards are divided into three different ‘Cru’. The family offers visitors a ‘Woods and Wine Tour’ which consists of a guided walk among the olive groves, forest and vineyards followed by a tour of the ancient cellar and a tasting of their wines and olive oil.


Brilliant, deep garnet colour with compact rim. Various and intense aromas of ripe plum, blackberry and raisin. Full body with a discrete alcohol level and soft tannins. Long finish. A delicious wine.


Torre di Terzolan rises from an ancient stone cellar, built centuries ago by our ancestors who knew the geographical orientation there encouraged the fresh breeze of the Squaranto Valley to flow through, providing favourable ventilation for a healthy vineyard and ideal conditions for the grape drying process. Entering the cellar through a small staircase and walking through the ancient portico will transport visitors back to an age-old world of stone and silence. Near the winery visitors are also welcomed into the historic residence of Cardinal Ridolfi which now houses 4 suites decorated with glass, marble, and colourful furnishings. Tastings also include their Veneto Valpolicella DOP olive oil.


Bright with intense core and paler rim. The wine displays ripe red fruit and floral notes of violet with hearty overtones. Exuberant and full body on the palate, elegant fruit, and velvety tannins. Long, fresh finish. A very good wine!


Valentina Cubi is a love story between Valentina and Giancarlo who grew up and met each other in Valpolicella. In 1969 they invested their entire savings in 7 hectares of land in Fumane where they planted their most important vineyards. Fumane is located in the heart of Valpolicella Classica and boasts the renowned Molina falls and the Fumane cave, which was inhabited since prehistoric times. All their wines are now organic which reflects their philosophy of “great wines do not originate in wineries but in vineyards”. Their estate is also an agriturismo with 5 rooms inspired by the traditional raw materials of the area.


Brilliant with a deep ruby core. Pronounced bouquet of black cherry, dried prune and fig. Overtones of coconut and the scent of tobacco. Good structure with firm, velvety tannins, and long length. A wine with a personality.


Last but certainly not least is Zýmē, a state-of-the-art winery ingeniously built on a 15th century sandstone quarry in the heart of Valpolicella Classica. The owner and winemaker, Celestino Gaspari, grew up in the fields outside of Verona and was deeply influenced by the soil and seasons. In his 20’s he studied with renowned winemaker Giuseppe Quintarelli and through much hard work developed his own personal vision of the winegrower’s profession. In 1999 he was ready to build his own winery that represented a synergy between tradition and innovation, man, and nature. His wines are meant to be transparent to all, so that those who drink it can “read in every sip” his connection with the land.


Medium garnet core, pale on the rim. The nose shows the beautiful flavour of blueberries. Spicy with a hint of anise. The palate is elegant with overtones of black cherry and fig. Dry, medium plus body, silky tannins, and a long finish. A great wine!

Oslavia: Forefront of the Amber Wine Revolution – Filippo Magnani

Oslavia is located in a tiny corner of northeastern Italy.  This small war-torn region has given rise to a truly special place for producing unique wines. Home to 150 inhabitants, the village of Oslavia is just a short walk from the Slovenian border. From the village, you can see the surrounding vineyards and a giant war memorial in memory of the many battles fought here during WWI. In fact, its strategic location would force the area to be divided between the two countries for more than 70 years. It wasn’t until the fall of the Iron Curtain that these two cultures began to heal and grow. Now, most of the road signs are written in both Italian and Slovenian. The local traditions and the food and wine are also a testimony to their unique blend of cultures. It is perhaps no surprise that this land has also attracted some of the most revolutionary and strong-minded winemakers who show a profound respect for this land.

Climate and Soil Give Rise to Unique Wines

Hidden in the eastern foothills of the Collio wine region, Oslavia’s location was not only strategic in battles, but it is also ideally located between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The Alps protect it from the cold winds from the north while the Adriatic helps to moderate temperatures. The Oslavia hills are around 150 -190 meters and represent a very heterogeneous environment as far as temperatures, exposure and orientation of the slopes are concerned. This special place also benefits from two other key ingredients: the “Bora” winds and the “Ponca” soil. The Bora is a north-easterly wind that sweeps down through the Isonzo River Valley providing proper ventilation for the grapes and a healthy range in temperatures between day and night. This diurnal shift ensures the grapes do not ripen too quickly, allowing their flavor compounds to develop fully. The Ponca is a type of soil in the Collio region typically known to produce elegant wines. Formed 45 million years ago under the sea it is a blend of marl and sandstone that is low in fertility but rich in mineral content due to its marine origins. Concentrations of Ponca can vary drastically from one vineyard location to the next, offering an incredible array of wines depending also on the type of vine planted in it. These variations in soil are one of the reasons why Oslavia is defined as a distinct wine area.

Ribolla Gialla: The Signature Grape of Oslavia

The Ribolla Gialla grape has become synonymous with Oslavia wines precisely because it thrives in this terroir.  Known as “Rebula” just across the border in Slovenia, Ribolla Gialla is an ancient variety with thick skins and long but compact grape clusters. It needs good ventilation from the Bora winds and prefers lower fertility soils like Ponca which helps concentrate the flavours but also provides a distinct minerality. Because of the unique combination of soil and climate producers here believe that Ribolla Gialla expresses its best qualities in Oslavia which is why it has become the signature grape of the region. With its high acidity, it will produce light, floral and crisp wines if made with little or no skin contact. However, if fermented and macerated with the skins for longer periods such as in Oslavia, the wine takes on more structure, soft tannin, and flavors from Ribolla’s thick skins. This produces a completely different style of wine that can have deeper colors from golden yellow to amber. These white wines made with extended skin contact are broadly referred to as “orange” wines, a term that can be confusing to some. This is why many proponents prefer to call these “skin-contact wines”. There are other native and international grapes grown in the region as well. For native whites you will find Tocai and Malvasia whereas the native reds showcased by producers are mainly Refosco, Tazzelenche, Schiopettino and Ribolla Rosso. Some producers also use international grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

A Secret Spot for an Authentic Wine Vacation

Just a short drive from Venice and Trieste airports, Oslavia is a great place to start your exploration of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region. Follow the Soca River as it winds its way up from the Adriatic to the town of Gorizia nestled against the foothills of the Julian Alps. Its 11th-century castle and alluring palaces earned the town a reputation as the “Austrian Nice”. The vibrant market, restaurants, and cafes have plenty to offer those in search of local specialties. Take some time to explore the beautifully preserved castle and the Coronini Cronberg Palace where King Charles X, the last king of France, stayed and then died.

It’s then only a 10-minute drive into the heart of the wine country, where it’s easy to visit small, family-run wineries and their vineyards. Many offer agritourism experiences with B&B accommodation and/or home-cooked meals. Most welcome visits if arranged in advance.

The producer’s association APRO has created a self-guided walking tour called the “Orange Bench Trail” which connects all 7 winery members. The trail is marked by orange circles and one orange bench per winery. This orange bench trial is an open invitation, as open as the acronym for the producer’s association itself APRO, which literally translated means “I open”. Not only do the producers open their doors and bottles of wine to visitors, but they also open their minds and their hearts. There is a respect for the past and a vision for the future. The trail is an open invitation to reflect not only on these but also on the landscape.

For those wanting to learn more about Oslavia’s strategic role in World War I, you can visit the impressive Sacrario di Oslavia. Built like an imposing fortress, this ossuary is a memorial to the over 50,000 Italian soldiers who fell during the battles of Isonzo. It stands on a 150-meter hill and was inaugurated by Benito Mussolini in 1938.

Traditionally in October wine travelers and enthusiasts from all over the world come together to participate in RibolliAMO; a play on words in Italian essentially meaning “We love Ribolla”. This event went from being an exclusive gathering for just a handful of journalists to an international destination open to all. It was designed to be a multifaceted event with Oslavia at its center. An Orange Symposium was held with many speakers bringing together wine experts, published authors and journalists as well as a cinema director. Its rich program included a screening of the documentary “Call it Amber” and a guided tour of the Orange Benches by a naturalist and history expert.

United Friends with Different Visions

Oslavia and its producers are credited for bringing fine wine produced with Ribolla Gialla to prominence. Not only did they recognize the land as an ideal terroir for this grape, but they were inspired by their ancestors’ winemaking techniques.

In the late 1990s two pioneers, Joško Gravner and Stanko Radikon started to experiment with techniques such as fermentation on the skins for longer periods using only native yeasts, no use of sulfites during the winemaking process and aging in large amphoras. Several other producers started experimenting in the same area, each with their own strong personalities and their own styles and determination. However, they all agree on a couple of key elements: The Oslavia terroir is the finest expression of Ribolla Gialla answering diligently to each producer’s way of thinking. So, they let nature do what it does best with as little intervention as possible in the winemaking process.

Today there are 7 producers in Oslavia that make up the Ribolla of Oslavia Producers’ Association (APRO). The association was founded in 2010 founded from a desire to protect the territory, its land, and its people. Their symbol is the “orange grape” and their goal is to continually invest in the people and land they live in.


Fiegl’s mission is to tell a story about the Oslavia territory using wine as the means of expression and to continuously invest in the cultivation of their vines to improve their quality. Founded by three brothers Alessio, Giuseppe and Rinaldo, the winery represents two generations of Fiegl’s. The new generation of sons, Martin, Robert e Matej, have completed their oenology studies and bring new passion, enthusiasm, and innovation to the family business. Their approach to viticulture is to create the least environmental impact possible with respect for the vine’s natural abilities. Vineyards are maintained with eco-friendly products, complete grass cover between rows and manual harvesting techniques.

Foundation year: 1782

Ownership: Famiglia Fiegl

Total annual production in bottles: 220,000

Hectares of vineyard: 40

Key varieties: Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Merlot

Address: Località Lenzuolo Bianco 1, Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone: +39 0481 547103

Web site:



Joško Gravner is a third-generation winemaker, Slovene by heritage. The family first started bottling wine in 1973. Shortly afterward, Joško, then in his early twenties, took over. In 2014 he was joined by his daughter Mateja. In the 1990’s Gravner pioneered a return to ancient winemaking in large amphoras buried underground. All their seeding, pruning and harvest are done biodynamically according to the moon phases.

Foundation year: 1905

Ownership: Gravner Francesco

Total annual production in bottles: 18,000- 35,000

Hectares of vineyard: 18 (15 productive; 2,8 planted in 2021)

Key varieties: Ribolla Gialla (90% surface) Pignolo (7% surface)

Address: Az. Agr. Gravner , Loc. Lenzuolo bianco 9 – Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone: +39 0481 30882

Web site:


Il Carpino

Founded in 1987 by Franco Sosol who transformed his father-in-law Silvio’s small bulk wine operation into today’s estate. Originally an automobile repairman Franco picked up winemaking in his spare time from watching Silvio. Now he is joined by his wife Anna and children Naike and Manuel. Over the years they have grown their estate to include 40 acres of vineyards. They produce only white wines.

Foundation year: 1987

Ownership: Family Sosol

Total annual production in bottles: 40,000 – 50,000

Hectares of vineyard: 18

Key varieties: Ribolla gialla, Malvasia, Pinot grigio (vis Uvae), Friulano (exordium), Sauvignon e Chardonnay

Address: Il Carpino, loc Sovenza 14/a, – Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone: +39 340 8320020

Web site:


La Castellanda

Named after a hill in Oslavia, La Castellanda was founded in 1985 by Giorgio e Nicolò Bensa who decided to develop their father Giuseppe’s bulk wine production and dedicate themselves fully to winemaking. Since 2009 Nicolò’s sons Matteo and Stefano have joined the team. They practice complete vineyard grassing to promote biodiversity.

Foundation year: 1985

Ownership: Bensa Giorgio e Nicolò

Total annual production in bottles: 20,000–25,000

Hectares of vineyard: 9

Key varieties: Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, Pinot Grigio

Address: Località Oslavia, 1 – Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone : 0481-33670

web site :

email :

Dario Princic

Dario started his winery in 1993. Before that, he sold his grapes to local wineries. Since 1988 he hasn’t used any chemicals in his vineyards, he started to only use natural fertilizers (cow and horse manure) and copper and sulfur for the spray treatments. In 1999 he started to experiment the maceration of grapes in part of the production, the year after he decided to do it in the whole production. Now the winery is over 10 hectares, all his vineyards are southeast exposure.

Foundation year:   1993

Ownership: Princic Dario

Total annual production in bottles:  35,000-40,000

Hectares of vineyard: 12 ha

Key varieties: Chardonnay-Sauvignon-Pinot Bianco-Pinot Grigio- Ribolla Gialla-

Tocai -Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon

Address Via Ossario 15/A – Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone +39 0481532730



The Primisic family winemaking dates back to Carlo Primosic, who, at the end of the 19th century, supplied wine merchants from the southern Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the 1950’s they began their own private sales and in 1964 Carlos’s son Silvan was the first to bottle their wine which gained Italian and international recognition after only a few years. The Collio Consortium was founded in 1967, of which Silvan was one of the first members. It is not by coincidence the “Number One” bottle from the Consortium is from the Primosic cellars. Today his two children Marko and Boris run the winery, maintaining the focus on the native and traditional varieties of the area, and striving for a style that favors clear, precise fruit aromas, intense flavors and overall balance.

Foundation year: 1956

Ownership: Famiglia Primosic

Total annual production in bottles: 210,000

Hectares of vineyard: 32

Key varieties: Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, Pinot Grigio

Contact: Marko Primosic

Address: Località Madonnina di Oslavia, 3 – Oslavia 34170 Gorizia

Phone: +39 0481 535153

web site:



In 1980 Stanko Radikon bottled his first vintage from vines planted by his grandfather. In 1995 he was one of the first winemakers in the region to start macerating his Ribolla on the skins just like his grandfather did. Through experimentation maceration times increased as did and the types of wines macerated on the skins. Today all their wines are macerated for 3 months with the least human intervention possible and with the maximum respect for the soils and nature. After Stanko’s passing in 2016, the winery is run now by his wife Suzana and their children Saša and Ivana.

Foundation year: 1980

Ownership: Radikon’s family

Total annual production in bottle: about 70,000

Hectares of vineyard: about 20

Key varieties: Ribolla; Tocai Friulano, Merlot, Pignolo

Contact: Luisa

Name of the winery: Radikon

Address: Località Tre Buchi 4 – 34170 Gorizia – Italy

Phone: +39048132804

Web site:


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