You may indeed call yourself lucky when your family roots lie in the Garda Lake area! It is a land blessed with a very mild micro-climate and a breathtaking landscape, from high mountain tops to gently sloping hills. Lake Garda is the largest lake in northern Italy, and a famous holiday place since Roman times. Its shores are surrounded by villages, some of small fishermen origin, others booming with today’s mass tourism. Situated on the borders between the Veneto and Lombardy regions, several large towns are within easy range, such as the ancient city of Verona. In short, this is an ideal land to grow wine. As luck will have it, two of Italy’s famous wine areas are to be found here: the (white) Lugana and the (red) Valpolicella.
The local grape variety Trebbiano di Lugana (related to the Verdicchio) perhaps lies at the base of Zenato’s success. It is a smaller grape than its better known relative Trebbiano Toscano, but its potential is far greater. Once the Zenato family had understood this fact some 40 years ago, they started improving the production process. Their family estate, Santa Cristina, lies in San Benedetto di Lugana, not far from Peschiera di Garda at the south end of the lake. The object of Zenato was to bring out a high quality wine, without concessions to its historic characteristics. The red branch, that is the Valpolicella. Once this was known abroad mainly as an easy drinkable wine, rather cheep, a success at many a university students party in the 60’s and early 70’s. Here too, the Zenato’s have strived for nothing but quality.
In Sant’Ambrogio, the heart of the Valpolicella Classico area, they own some 30 hectares of vineyards planted with Corvina and Rondinella, the classical Valpolicella grapes. Then they added some Sangiovese and gave the wine a one-year stay in Slovenian oak barrels. The result is a wonderful and pleasant Valpolicella Superiore, with the characteristic aromas of violets and almonds. Famous is their Amarone di Valpolicella, and the Riserva Sergio Zenato year after year brings out of what ranges now among Italy’s best red.
In the summer of 2008, Sergio Zenato, the great wine maker and a man full of inspiration, sadly passed away. Now it is up to his wife Carla and their children Nadia and Alberto, both since long working on the family estate, to keep up the high and unyielding quality standards their father imposed for the local historic grapes.