Canada’s top wine writers and sommeliers gathered in our nation’s capital recently for a comprehensive tasting and overview of Santa Margherita wines.
Their overall impressions and reviews are below. Click the arrow in any video to watch it.
Not so long after the rise of their Grigio’s popularity, we started to notice more and more Santa Margherita labels of various styles of Italian wines in our market. Their Prosecco, for example, is another popular, approachable, crowd-pleasing, value-priced wine.
Two vastly different wines made in different styles, from different grapes, grown in different regions, under different viticultural and vinification rules in northeast regions of Italy, performing very well in our market.
With such reliable consistency in their Pinot Grigio and Prosecco wines, vintage after vintage, Santa Margherita’s ingenious foresight and efficient response to market demands, paved the way towards even greater expansions. Specifically, Santa Margherita the brand, under the Gruppo Vinicolo banner.
Today, Santa Margherita’s portfolio includes a diverse spectrum of wines made from wineries and vineyards in five different regions in Italy including Veneto, Alto Adige, Lombardia, Toscana, and Sicilia. With such a canvas spread amongst some of Italy’s most iconic wine-growing regions, we can certainly expect to find classic styles of these wines crafted with the signature Santa Margherita quality, approachability, and value.
On a clear winter day, overlooking delightful views of downtown Ottawa and Hull, atop the posh Andaz Ottawa Copper Spirit & Sights Lounge, I had the pleasure of sampling a decent portion of the Santa Margherita portfolio alongside some of Ottawa’s brilliant sommeliers and writers. Our ‘taste tour’ over Italy began in Veneto with two Proseccos.
The first being the fresh, floral and fruity Torresella Prosecco DOC extra dry (off-dry sparkling wine) style from the “catch-all” Prosecco appellation encompassing the provinces of Treviso and Venice. Followed by the second Prosecco, a dry, crisp and refreshing Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene DOCG Brut (bone dry sparkling wine) hailing from one of Veneto’s four prestigious DOCGs solely dedicated to the production of quality Proseccos.
Our taste tour then led us to Reggio Lombardia’s esteemed Franciacorta DOCG, Italy’s first DOCG, dedicated to the exclusive production of traditional method sparkling wine, where the Ca’ del Bosco Cuvee Prestige surely left a mark on a number of us. Ca’ del Bosco is one of the earliest pioneers of Franciacorta DOCs traditional method sparkling wine production and played a key role in their elevation to DOCG status.
The Franciacorta DOCG wines set themselves apart from other prominent sparkling wine producing regions – namely Champagne – in several ways, a key one being the much longer minimum aging requirements for secondary bottle fermentation on lees. Ca’ del Bosco takes their production efforts above and beyond with their very own Metodo Ca’ del Bosco practices.
A vinification process that involves hand-harvesting highly selective (mostly) Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero grapes bunches, then immediately washing and drying them via this innovative gentle “berry spa” mechanism. The grapes are then crushed, vinified and aged for 25 months on lees with virtually zero oxygen contact and only natural gravity flows.
The end result offers a sparkling wine with less than 50 milligrams/litre of total sulfur dioxide, 135 milligrams/litre less than the maximum legal limit.
A tough act to follow, but after the third wine, our palates moved on to Alto Adige’s golden juice, the vibrant and crisp cool climate Pinot Grigio Valdadige DOC. Santa Margherita pride themselves in being the first winery to vinify pink Pinot Grigio grapes into a white wine by removing grape must from the skin contact right at the beginning of the fermentation process.
Today, it’s North America’s favourite white wine style.
We then ventured south to Toscana on our taste tour and discovered some lovely developing reds. These included a unique Sangiovese-Sangiovese Grosso “Baby Tuscan” Tenuta Sassoregale Sangiovese Maremma Toscana DOC, the rustic and traditional Santa Margherita Chianti Classico DOCG (100% Sangiovese grapes), and the modern juicy robust Lamonde di Lamonde Blue Label Chianti Classico DOCG (80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot blend).
Finally, we approached our last wine of the tasting and went full circle back to Veneto with the smooth and plummy Santa Margherita Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Superiore. It was the first time this wine was being sampled outside the winery aside from select industry partners.
Even Santa Margherita’s Brand Ambassador, Nicola Lovato, our ‘taste tour guide’ had not yet sampled it so it was quite the treat. Besides, even though it was not officially confirmed, the fact that a Ripasso exists only begs the question of when will Santa Margherita’s version of the Veronese King of red wines – Amarone della Valpolicella – be revealed?
So, it’s quite the Italian wine taste tour. Really, the only other wine that could possibly boost their stock even further up, is the appearance of a majestic Piedmontese Nebbiolo. Hat’s off to Santa Margherita for establishing a well-rounded Italian wine brand!
Jennifer MacDonald Havers
Wine Columnist, Ottawa Citizen
We spent a lovely afternoon speaking with Nicola Lovato, the brand ambassador to Canada for Santa Margherita, at the Andaz Ottawa, enjoying both the wine and the view of Parliament Hill.
Paired with a wonderful meal, we tasted through the portfolio of Santa Margherita wines, including some perennial favourites and new discoveries.
Santa Margherita is still family owned, founded in 1935, with the four grandsons now running the company. They have vineyards in five regions across Italy which help contribute to the variety of wine styles they are producing.
When many of us think of Italian sparkling, we think of Prosecco nowadays, as it is so popular, so it was a real treat to try an interesting traditional method sparkling wine Ca’del Bosco Brut Franciacorta . Made in a way to minimize outside influences – in particular oxygen – special care is taken in the making of this wine, a blend of 75% Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pino Bianco.
Grapes are washed and dried to minimize any contact the must may have with dirt or foreign materials. Instead of a traditional pump over method, tanks are moved by gravity to stir up the wine to aid in lees contact.
The wine then ages for 25 months, even longer than required for non-vintage Champagne. The result is a wine very low in sulphates, as well, a pure expression of the grapes, creamy, yet crisp and full of nutty, warm flavours, and a touch of citrus.
Another Italian wine everyone knows is Pinot Grigio. Santa Margherita is the number one Italian white wine sold in Canada and it’s easy to understand why it’s so popular. These trailblazers were the first to create this wildly popular varietal of white wine, as the grapes are actually pink, but they are pressed and then fermented without any skin contact.
This “fake” white wine is delicate and versatile in flavour, it is also influenced by apple orchards surrounding the vineyards, and you can smell the golden delicious in this lovely wine.
We tried a variety of red wines as well – Sangiovese, a great cross section of Chianti – ranging from 100% Sangiovese to blended varieties, as well an interesting Valpolicella Ripasso.
Their Ripasso is a lighter, refined style, showing great food matching possibilities. This new addition to the Santa Margherita portfolio will be coming to Ontario LCBO stores in June 2017, which is something to look forward to!
Wine Expert, CTV Morning Live
Recently a group of Ottawa-based wine writers and sommeliers had the occasion to enjoy a structured tasting of popular Italian wines in the penthouse lounge of the chic new luxury hotel Andaz, in Ottawa’s Byward Market.
Mr. Nicola Lovato of Santa Margherita winery led the tasting through a flight of three Italian sparkling wines followed by five hearty reds.
Each of the wines offered great value and quality, all ranging from $15 – $29. We enjoyed the super popular Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore, a super versatile and crowd pleasing Prosecco that’s no stranger to Canadian palates, and were treated to a traditional method Franciacorta bubbly, Ca’del Bosco Brut, which had the wine critics craving another sip especially when enjoying the charcuterie platters that the Andaz Hotel provided.
When we tasted the number one selling Italian white wine in Canada, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, and when we discovered one of the best value priced wines many of us had seen in sometime, the Sassoregale Maremma Toscana (Sangiovese) – at $14.95, it was a great reminder of the appreciation and interest that Canadians have for Italian wines, not only the expensive iconic styles such as Amarone and Super Tuscans, but the great value-priced wines that enjoy on Tuesday nights and Saturday nights alike.
We wrapped-up the tasting by enjoying three Chianti Classico wines followed by Santa Margherita’s newest product, a Ripasso from the Valpolicella region around Verona. That’s right, Santa Margherita has a Ripasso earmarked for release in LCBO Vintages this year which I predict will be a big hit as Ontario loves Ripasso and this one is a tasty expression of one of our favourite Valpolicella wines. Mark your calendars for later this year.
Wine Columnist, Ottawa Wedding Magazine
Great wine, great food and spectacular views combined to make Friday lunch hour a very enjoyable tasting event on Feb. 24th. Our team tastings provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about wine in an informal setting with other like-minded wine colleagues.
Overlooking the skyline of Ottawa from the glamorous Copper Bar on the 16th floor of the new Andaz Hyatt, we felt privileged to learn more about several of Italy’s most popular Santa Margherita wines, along with a special preview of a new product, the Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Superior, which will arrive at LCBO vintages in late June 2017.
The event kicked off with two Prosecco products, then a delightful sparkling wine, Ca’del Bosco, made in the traditional method and packaged in a decorative bottle. We munched on salumi and cheeses as we settled in to learn from Nicola Lovato, the brand ambassador for Santa Margherita, who guided us through a tasting of exciting upcoming releases for 2017.
Next, we sampled the #1 Italian white wine in Canada, their ever-popular and versatile Pinot Grigio. As we enjoyed grilled herb-encrusted lamb chops and sliced sirloin, we moved on to a Tuscan Sangiovese and three Chianti Classico products, one for every budget and appetite.
Then Nicola presented the brand new Ripasso Valpolicella, which was a big hit; elegant, mouth-watering and rich without being too heavy. It shows lots of savoury, herbal notes and a slight salinity, distinguishing it from traditional Ripasso wines. I’ll definitely be looking for it when it hits the Vintages shelves in June.
Very happy and mellow by now, we munched on chocolate truffles on a stick, making mental notes to hit the gym (one of these days soon…).
As always, our fearless team leader, Natalie, nudged us to ever-higher levels of wine knowledge and excitement, which we can share with our readers.
The charming and knowledgeable Nicola and reps from Dandurand provided a terrific tasting experience in an ideal setting for us. I’m very grateful, but now I really should get on that exercise bike. Maybe tomorrow?
Photo by Jon Steeves
Born in 1972, Nicola lives in London with his wife Valentina and Virginia, their daughter, just one year old.
After attending the Liceo Classico Gualtiero Marchesi in Padua, he moved to Trentino where he graduated in Sociology at the University of Trento. He started working as a researcher for the University and he has been appointed Regional Researcher for the Trentino’s Province by Doxa, the first statistical and opinion research company in Italy.
Due to his natural passion for food and wine, both clear expressions of a culture and the thoughts that sit within it, Nicola during his studies, has had the chance to develop his expertise and nurture his passion for the food and wine industry in various roles; ranging from Wine Specialist in a few top restaurants in Trentino, to Manager of Alberto Mazzoni Ricevimenti, the first catering company in Trento, representative of the Trento’s Province in Italy and abroad.
In November 2005 he moved to London, acting as Wine Buyer for Bedales, a Wine Bar and Wine shop based in the very popular Borough Market and attended the WSET advanced course (level 3). In the period 2006- 2008 Nicola has been appointed Consultant for Progetto Vino (part of Trentino S.p.a.) with the remit to promote, market, brand Trentino’s wine in the UK via research, networking, marketing, market liaison, organization and support of wine promotion related initiatives.
From 2007 to 2010 Nicola continued his formative experience as Wine Specialist being appointed Sales Executive for the London (downtown on premises department) for Alivini Ltd, a national importer and distributor of Italian food and fine wines. Throughout the years he acquired a great deal of experience about Italian wines in general to which he devoted himself and he started focussing in the terrific range of Santa Margherita, at the time distributed all over the UK by Alivini.
In 2010 he was appointed at Santa Margherita in his role as UK Business Development Manager, acting as Brand Ambassador for SM’s Brands (Santa Margherita, Torresella, Kettmeir, Lamole di Lamole, Ca’ del Bosco, Villa Vistarenni, Sassoregale, Terreliade and Feudo Zirtari), marketing and communication aligned with SM’s board and developing new relationship with regional distributors all over the UK.
Since January 2017, together with his role in Great Britain, Nicola started to look after the Canadian market as Brand Ambassador of all the estates of Santa Margherita Wine Group.
Editor, Ottawa Wine Journal
The one major takeaway from this whimsical tasting with Nicola Lovato was that all the wines were made seriously and methodically, regardless of price point. It is easy to rely on a name and let quality slowly erode, but that has never been the case with Santa Margherita. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
The Pinot Grigio has seemed to “level up” over the past two years. Whether that can be attributed to better winemaking practices or more disciplined picking, fruit selection and sorting, I can’t quite tell, but the wine has developed a vibrancy, brimming with more balanced acidity and losing the flabby edge I used to find while tasting some vintages.
The lineup of sparklers also showed a deft winemaking hand and close attention to detail at all price points. When the Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG first emerged on the Ontario market, I met it with skepticism. Let’s face it; we’ve all seen wine portfolios expand based on the success of a name, versus what’s in the bottle.
But what has materialized for consumers is a very serious, hugely reliable Prosecco that, at less than $20 a bottle, represents one of the best “value” sparklers available in the Canadian marketplace. The Torresella and the Ca’ del Bosco bubblies bookend the offerings, and also impress with their precision.
The reds also lined up exceptionally well, and reflected a true sense of purpose. While stylistically different, the Chiantis and the Sassorgeale shared a common theme – purity of fruit.
These incredibly food friendly wines showed no rough edges and no vegetal qualities that can often come out of Sangiovese if crops are left to run amok. They were perfectly balanced, with gorgeous high-toned acidity and fruit.
The standout of the red lineup was the Sassorgeale, which, at $16 a bottle, showed some of the best varietal expression I have experienced in a wine tasted on this side of the Atlantic. It is one of the few wines I’d contemplate buying a case of.
Overall, this was an impressive tasting, led by an individual who has a true passion for wines that are meant to be consumed with friends, family, and food rather than worshipped in a glossy publication or an auction house. They have managed to put together an ever-growing portfolio that truly has a wine for every occasion.
The Lamole di Lamole estate, at the heart of the Chianti Classico area, is a truly special place. In line with tradition, the organically managed vineyards are located on terraces at one of the highest points of the Chianti Classico region, a setting that produces grapes ripened to perfection and wines with a remarkable elegance, richness, and persistence in their aroma and flavor.
Wine & Travel Blogger
I recently attended a Santa Margherita [Gruppo Vinicolo] wine tasting, featuring wines from many of the winery’s production areas, such as the Provinces of Treviso and Venice, Valdobbiadene, and Chianti Classico.
That afternoon tasting was held at the new Andaz Hotel in the Byward Market, where guests and I had a chance to mingle, sip and sample tantalizing culinary offerings at the roof top restaurant the “Cooper Bar”. Great atmosphere, wonderful food and great wine selection.
I thought it was super; I was really impressed with all aspects of the tasting. The venue was lovely, and I was surprised at the abundance of food, wine, and the information being shared!
Nicola Lovato, the brand ambassador for Santa Margherita, guided us through a tasting of their sumptuous and delicious upcoming wine releases for 2017. His knowledge, wisdom and jovial demeanour really made the tasting an enjoyable outing.
Interesting Fact: the winery double washes all grapes in an effort to create the best possible conditions for an all-natural, organic wine.
Here are some of the wines that I liked from the generous selection that were poured:
Franciacorta Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Sparkling wine review: 90/100 This golden-hued sparkler is super light, fresh and has an attractive nose of exotic/tropical fruit, apple, fresh Meyer lemon, licorice & spearmint, with gentle toast aromas and a hint of hazelnut.
Very lively but refined mousse. Crisp flavours of yellow apple, lemon, brioche, peach, and some mineral notes. The finish is long and clean. This is a Prosecco blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco made in the typical “Champagne Méthode” (25 months on the lees). Great sipper or wonderful complement to any food.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2015 wine review: 85/100 This light, crisp, dry wine is a straw yellow color. It has clean, intense aromas of tart apple, lemon, grapefruit, and blossoms. It is a bone-dry wine and tastes predominantly of citrus (lemon and some lime zest) and grapefruit.
Balanced delightfully with fruit and acidity. The wine’s citrus/lemon finish was a medium to long. Best served with white fish, rice dishes and egg based dishes. Great wine for all occasions.
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013 wine review: 85/100 The colour is an deep ruby red. The initial fruit forward aromas are plenty sweet. Notes such as cherry, strawberry, plum, a touch of violet, vanilla, cocoa, Sangiovese spiciness and earthy flint. Soft and smooth on the palate. The tannins are round, with a dry, warm, earthy/powdery finish.
The finish is a soft, sweet cocoa. It’s a very food-friendly red; probably why it paired so nicely with the rosemary and bread crusted lamb. Will also match nicely with barbecued meat and mature cheese.
Wine & Travel Columnist, Outdoor Magazine
Founded in 1935 by Count Gaetano Marzotto, the wines of Santa Margherita have built a reputation for quality founded on its humble heritage and a determined desire to continuously improve and offer wines that are worthy of a diverse consumer palate.
What began as a single estate in the north-east of Italy, has grown to encompass five other regions, including Tuscany.
Exploring Santa Margherita
While the label is best known for its legendary Pinot Grigio (the top-selling Italian White in Canada), the family has been gradually moving into other varietals and other styles from classic Italian growing areas.
Judging from the wines presented to some of Ottawa’s sommeliers by the winery’s ambassador, Nicola Lovato, the plan is coming together quite well.
Kicking off the tasting, Nico presented three glasses of bubbles showcasing two different styles. The Torresella label expressed how well the Glera grape can transform through the Charmat method into a crisp and aromatic crowd pleaser.
While the Cuvee Prestige from Franciacorta profiled how the metodo classico can create a delicate and sumptuous treat with creamy mousse and complexity.
The Franciacorta DOC was the first to require the use of secondary fermentation in the bottle, rather than the tank method, for creating sparkling wines, but Santa Margherita has taken this a step further with their Metodo Ca’ del Bosco. Fruit from three different varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero) are caressed with loving care so vividly described as a treatment in the “berry spa”.
Once the meticulously selected grapes are sorted and chilled they go through a series of washing and drying steps before entering nitrogen filled crushers and fermentation tanks where they can gracefully transform. The resultant wines are then blended with reserve wines from the best vintages and left to mature for 25 months sur lees.
The disgorgement also takes place under an oxygen-free environment to ensure that sulfites are kept at very low levels (only 50 mg/L) and the full expression of the fruit and vinification can be realized.
The Santa Margherita reds hailed from Tuscany and Valpolicella with three originating in Chianti, one from Maremma and a Ripasso.
The Chianti offerings showcased a broad spectrum from Chianti Classico to Chianti Classico Reserva and the latter being a virtually pure sangiovese platform with just 5% Cannaiolo.
The Sangiovese Maremma Toscana DOC was dubbed the “Baby Tuscan” in the shadow of super Tuscan wines from the region and reflects the influence of growing close to the coast. It is fully sangiovese (two different clones) but with a light lift of sea breeze.
The Ripasso exhibited a more delicate style than typical wines made using the appassimento method providing a greater range to potential food pairings.
Of course, the availability of a Ripasso wine begged the question about a future Amarone offering. While Nicola made no promises, the fact that they had to make Amarone before making their Ripasso, seems to be a signal of more good things to come from Santa Margherita.
Ca’ del Bosco is the leading brand of sparkling wines that bear the name of the zone where they’re made: Franciacorta.
The enviable position has been reached thanks to the passion of Maurizio Zanella, who in the early 1970’s set out to pursue his passion and consequently played a leading role in Italy’s wine renaissance by transforming a house in the woods into cutting edge winery.
Wine Writer & Sommelier
The DOC prosecco Torresala comes from lower undulating plains.
The DOCG prosecco comes from the higher altitude hills that produce a more aromatic wine due to the diurnal variation.
Valdobbiadene is uniquely beautiful and is about to receive its designation as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Ca del Bosco sparkling spent 25 months on its lees. Gravity fed winery, that has a patented machine used for washing the grapes. They need cleanliness for the grapes. They mostly wash with citric acid and water.
Franciacorta needs a bit of acidity, so they toss Pinot Bianco (a clone of which was misidentified as Glera).
In five years, they will be considered organic.
The Pinot Grigio is from Alto Adige and is quite pretty and aromatic.
Santa Margherita was crucial to the introduction of Pinot to the global wine drinking populace, in the 1960s.
He calls Pinot Grigio a red grape pretending to be a white, because of the copperiness of the grapes when they ripen. Harvested earlier, they are different. He might also be referring to Pinot Grigio’s magic ability to perform magic tricks – spontaneously mutate.
The Maremma Toscana Sassoregale is wonderfully expressive. Lovely gushing cherry fruit, with some of the rustic
They’re fortunate enough to own one of the six clones allowed in Chianti Classico.
Lamule di Lamule is the area where SM owns their two estates.
Sangiovese needs the addition of other varietals to blend for gentleness and colour. Colorino amd Canaiolo help balance it, though Sangiovese must be the majority of the blend (85%).
The Santa Margherita Chianti Classico is 100% Sangiovese. The second, with its international varietals, is more North American and gushy on the fruit. The third stands out for its classic Chianti poise and aromatics.
The soil is mostly sandstone, marl, and schist.
He had a story about a grower in Chianti who even understood that he needed heating stones (in the same style as Chateauneuf du Pape) at the base of the vines to radiate heat to the grapes and the vines to facilitate ripening on the underside at night.
The Valpolicella Ripasso is soft, quite spicey and is a more delicate example of the style. It still has the classic aromatics of a ripasso, but it is quite racy and spice driven.
Matt Steeves asked that if they are making a Ripasso, they must be making an Amarone as well. Either as he suggests, or they are contracting that out to a series of growers involved in supplying the necessary must.
It all began with Santa Margherita, focused on the dream of one man: the founder, Gaetano Marzotto.
Santa Margherita has innovation, exploration, and creativity in its blood, and has always adapted to the changes in taste of Italian wine. We believe the strength of today’s Italian winemaking tradition is in part because of our courage to look to the future.
Incredible wines, venue, and host as we tasted some wonderful offerings with Nicola Lovata from Santa Margherita Winery.
While I knew Santa Margherita was a big player in the Italian wine industry, I wasn’t aware of the extent of their versatility and innovation. The concept of a “berry spa” to ensure there are no impurities in the wine during production was very interesting and unique.
I especially enjoyed the tier tasting of the Chianti wines – and pleasantly surprised by the Marema Toscano (100%) Sangiovese. I thought it would be a little more edgy. I think it was, but it was smooth and enjoyable, particularly with the rosemary crusted lamb.
Thanks to the staff at Andaz Hyatt for the lounge with the spectacular view and excellent food pairings.
Nicola said it was his first time to Canada. I can I hope it won’t be his last.
The Sassoregale Estate is located in the province of Grosseto, at the eastern end of the expansive plains intersected by the Ombrone River.
This is the last uncontaminated area of Italy, a place where Tuscany is still wild and seductive, with a landscape untouched by man, offering a priceless source of top quality food and wine.
Accredited Sommelier & Blogger
In February 2017, I met with Natalie MacLean and a team of wine tasters at the Cooper Rooftop at the spectacular Andaz Hyatt Hotel in Ottawa’s storied Byward Market. The hotel was recently featured in the New York Times.
Santa Margherita wines were introduced by Mr. Nicola Lovato over the course of a perfectly paired menu of Northern Italian antipasti and Tuscan mains, with striking authenticity. To know wine is a treasured skill, to have the refined skill of perfectly pairing a broad and diverse range of wines with foods having a strong aromatic and textural affinity, is genius.
As a Sommelier I enjoyed all nine wines, and particularly favoured the pairings of the Chianti Classico DOCG Blue Label 2013, the Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva 2012 and the soon to be released (in Ontario LCBO) Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2014 bottles, paired with the herb crusted Sous Vide rack of lamb and the seared beef tenderloin.
The Santa Margherita winery is producing Pinot Grigio for the Canadian market in a winery which has been independently assessed at a carbon neutral footprint. The wine is accessibly priced, aeroir influenced by apple trees surrounding the vineyards, great crowd pleasing appeal. Pinot Grigio is Canada’s #1 Italian white wine. Santa Margherita does a fine job.
As a bubbly aficionado, I most enjoyed the Cuvee Prestige Franciacorta Nonvintage by Ca’del Bosco. I learned about the prestigious terroir including 134 contributing vineyards, the vitification and the specialized vinification processes utilized to create the magnificent bubbly with nominal Sulphite content of less than 50mg per liter. With an industry norm hovering closer to the maximum legal limit of 185mg/l, this Franciacorta is not only brilliant, it’s a beacon for those looking for a high quality, low sulphite, traditional method bubbly.
This tasting left me craving a tasting of the other seven Franciacorta wines made by the famed Ca’del Bosco winery.
I enjoyed this quick introduction to the wines of Santa Margherita and becoming acquainted with the Franciacorta gem of Ca’del Bosco. I look forward to another tasting of the next releases next year and to meet the lively and entertaining Mr. Nicola Lovato and his team yet again, perhaps to experience the terroir and the wines in the mother land of Italy.
Sommelier & Blogger
I have to confess, when I previously heard the words Santa Margherita, my mind wandered to crisp sparkling Prosecco from Veneto or their trademark Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige.
At the Santa Margherita tasting I recently attended, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the winery was not resting on its laurels and was continuing to evolve and grow. Of particular interest were the wines now being produced and sold out of Tuscany.
The Chianti Classico DOCG and Chianti Classico Reserva DOCG were excellent examples of what can be produced with the Sangiovese grape from this area and on parallel with others I have tasted from this region.
They are even producing a more “International style” blend; comprised of Sangiovese (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and Merlot (10%) called Blue Label Chianti Classico DOCG – a wine that would appeal to lovers of Super Tuscan style wines.
As well, I was very impressed and excited to taste their Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Superiore which will be soon joining their line-up.
Wine Ambassador Nicola Lovato was informative and entertaining and obviously passionate about the people and wines he represents. He hinted that there are some new wines on the horizon. I know I for one will be anxiously waiting to see what is to come!
Lynn van der Linde
Certified Sommelier and Event Planner
February 24 was a damp and grey day in Ottawa, but I was transported back to the warm hillsides and fresh air of Tuscany.
There are only a few things in life that can trigger memories so vividly, you’re almost back there. One taste of Santa Marguerita’s Sangiovese and I was right back in Tuscany.
Guided by Santa Marghuerita’s brand ambassador, Nico Lovato, in the beautiful and very posh top floor restaurant of the Andaz Hotel. The tasting opened with a flight of three sparkling wines: Torresella Prosecco, Santa Marghuerita Prosecco Superiore di Valdobbiadene, and a Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta; increasing in intensity of aromas and flavor.
Without question, the Ca’del Bosco was the pièce de résistance of the three, with concentrated apricot aromas and a lovely minerality. The wine is crafted from mostly Chardonnay grapes, with both Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco added to balance the fruitiness of the Chardonnay. Twenty-five months on its lees, and an oxygen-free disgorgement (removal of the lees and sediment for a crystal clear wine) leads to pure perfection!
We then moved to the Sassoregale Sangiovese , where (as I mentioned) I was transported back to a sunnier, carefree time. A good Sangiovese – well, any good wine for that matter, will do that. A gorgeous light ruby in the glass, with cherry and black pepper notes, and a hint of saltiness, this was a perfect pairing to the antipasto selection.
Sticking with the Sangiovese family, we were then delighted by a flight of Chianti Classico, again growing in intensity: Santa Marghuerita Chianti Classico, Lamole Blue Label Chianti Classico, and Lamole Chianti Classico Riserva. Each featured Sangiovese in differing measures: the Santa Marghuerita sticking to 100% of the grape; the Blue Label opting for a more new world approach adding both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in a Meritage mix; and finally, the Riserva combining Canaiolo with Sangiovese for a very bold and focused spiciness.
The latter was by far my favourite of the three, with a more persistent lingering and old world boldness – perfect with the hearty flavors in the beef, lamb, and risotto dishes.
Finally, we were treated to a Ripasso Valpolicella – admittedly a foray for the Santa Marghuerita family. Obviously, they are attempting Amarone production, but no plans yet to release the Amarone, just the Ripasso for now.
A wonderful tease of more good things to come. Rich in stewed fruit aromas and spices, this Ripasso is one sexy glass of wine! It was a spectacular finish to the tasting experience and paired brilliantly with the rich dark chocolate truffles for dessert.
Mary Anne Van Gaal
Wine Tasting Club Leader
From a family run company, founded in the Venice region in 1935, Santa Margherita has grown into a forward thinking winemaker with wines produced in several different regions of Italy.
I like how they interpret these different regions and use the geographical nuances to produce distinctive wines while respecting the environment. They are fortunate to have vineyards both close to the sea and on hillsides, allowing them greater versatility in their grapes.
I hadn’t realized that, in 1961, they created the method of making Pino Grigio from red grapes, making it a red wine pretending to be white!
These grapes are grown in a valley by a river, surrounded by apple trees (and blossoms), which all contribute to the unique characteristics of their wine. They must be doing it right because their Pinot Grigio is the #1 selling Italian white wine in Canada.
Santa Margherita has developed some unique methods for producing their wines. They have a ‘berry spa’ which is an exclusive system for washing and drying grapes before they are used to make their Ca’del Bosco.
They also crush and disengorge the grapes with a special oxygen free machine, which avoids the need for additional sulphites to preserve the wine, making them purer and more appealing. Most wines like this have close to 185 milligrams/litre, while Ca’del Bosco has under 60!
Santa Margherita is very forward thinking in its wine production. As such, they have been working on a brand new product coming to the LCBO in July. It is a Ripasso Valpolicella and thus has two fermentations to give it more fruit and texture. They are aiming for a more elegant and versatile wine, enabling it to be paired with many foods.
Wine Blogger & Judge
The Santa Margherita Wine Estate was founded in Italy in 1935 by Count Gaetano Marzotto Jr. The estate is over 1,000 hectares of former marshland that has been cultivated into vineyards. It is located between Fossalta and Portogruaro in the province of Venice, Vento, Italy.
Nicola Lovato, their Brand Ambassador, was on hand for our private luncheon last Friday in the “room with a view”, Copper Bar of the new Andaz Hotel in downtown Ottawa.
It was immediately clear that Nicola was passionate about his brand and there was a profound willingness to share his knowledge about the commitment to quality and methodology from the team at Santa Margherita.
It was noticeable in the wines that we tasted, that the vineyards of Santa Margherita differ in terms of climate and of soil composition.
For example, protected to the North by the Pre-alps, facing the Adriatic Sea, the Eastern Veneto has mineral rich soil. The temperature is pretty constant day and night, thus the wines grown here are strong and soft, but with plenty of character.
Other vineyards have steep slopes and narrow valleys, coupled with varying temperatures between day and night, giving way to more complex, aroma powered wines. The bottom line as Nicole pointed out: “there are so many different areas for the creation of such magnificent wines”.
He invited us to close our eyes and smell the salt from the sea ….. noting that he would like to bring the vineyards to us to experience it firsthand…. but feels that “what is in the bottle is the next best thing”.
Without a doubt, the Franciacorta from Ca’del Bosco was one of my favorites of the tasting. It was so carefully crafted and such a beautiful representation of pure elegance.
Ca’ del Bosco, now stands at the cutting edge of Franciacorta sparkling wine production thanks to original, patented grape processing techniques and oxygen-free production methods. The Chianti ‘s we tried were also outstanding, especially the Chianti Classico Riserva, splendid aromatics, succulent tannins, rich flavors, simply divine.
All in all, it was a splendid afternoon sipping on some of Italy’s finest, enjoying wonderful food and great company!
Imagine yourself for a second, sitting in a comfortable chair in an edgy contemporary style penthouse lounge, overlooking the whole of the Byward Market, framed in the background by the Parliament buildings and a commanding view of the Ottawa River Valley.
And, picture yourself sipping a delicious glass of refreshing bubbly while nibbling antipasto.
Next, envisage yourself listening to a kind and knowledgeable gentleman, with an infectious smile and a charming Italian accent, telling you the story of how a once little-known grape from the banks of the Adige River on the Adriatic Sea, became one of the world’s most recognizable white wine.
Now, repeat this experience again with other white wines and then with red wines from a world-class Italian winery and pair each of them with a selection of heirloom vegetables and succulent meats — and you would never know that this heavenly scene was, in fact, a business brunch!
Indeed, on February 24, 2017, the wine writing team of Natalie MacLean.com, Natalie herself, and I were invited by Philippe Dandurand Wines to attend a structured wine tasting with Nicola Lovato, Brand Ambassador for Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo.
The tasting was held at the brand new Ottawa venue of the Cooper Bar at the top of the recently opened Andaz Hyatt Hotel in the Byward market.
Each one of these different partners would warrant a glorious review of their own for the excellence of their products and for their classy service. However, it is how they have successfully teamed up together to deliver a near perfect performance that I wish to command here.
The Dandurand wine agents were welcoming and generous with information, while being gracefully deferential to Master Lovato, who instantly gathered our attention and kept us enraptured in the story of the emergence of Santa Margherita wines.
And, throughout the luncheon, the Andaz Hotel staff kept the dance of food service going seamlessly and several of us commented on the wonderful job the kitchen staff had done in preparing an eye-pleasing savoury fare.
For my part, I fawned over the most tender lightly breaded lamb chops I had tasted in years.
Naturally, we had the opportunity to sample Santa Margherita’s signature wine from Valadige, their fragrant Pinot Grigio, which was developed in the early 1960’s by Count Gaetano Marzotto into the light and refreshing effervescent style that is so ubiquitous today and which continues to be one of Canada’s top selling wines.
We also had the pleasure of tasting four lovely bubblies: a Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry, a Santa Margherita Brut Prosecco Superiore from Valdobbiadene, and two Ca’ Del Bosco Chardonnay blends from Franciacorta — a Cuvée Prestige Brut and an Anna Maria Clementi — all of which were well-executed and refreshing fizzy aperitif wines, but this last one had the elegance and sophistication of any serious fine Champagne wine.
Well-anchored as a maker of great aromatic white wine from the Veneto, Valdobbiadene, Alto Adige and Lombardy regions of Italy, Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo has, of late, begun to make red wines by acquiring vineyards and wineries in other famous regions of Italy, namely Tuscany, Maremma, and Sicily.
We got to taste a small cross section of their recent offerings of Chianti, Valpolicella, and Sangiovese wines, which bottled under different labels, respectively, the Lamole di Lamole, Santa Margherita, and Sassorgeale. Certainly, the 2013 Chianti Classico Blue Label had all the typicity of a fine Tuscan wine, but with an added a touch of modernity.
But, perhaps my favorite of the day, was the 2014 Ripasso Valpolicella Superior, which, in my view, should feature on any self-respecting wine list.
Wine Expert, Rogers Daytime Television
Santa Margherita was a dream of Count Gaetano Marzotto back in 1935 and over time grew into the Santa Margherita Wine Group with its own wineries and vineyards in some of Italy’s most beautiful regions, from Eastern Veneto, Alto Adige, Lombardy and Tuscany to Maremma and Sicily.
They were the first company to vinify white wine from pink Pinot Grigio grapes by removing the skins from the gently pressed wine avoiding the colour transfer. This has been the world’s top-selling Pinot Grigio for more than fifty years. Distributed in 85 countries, it represents a benchmark for the varietal around the world.
Our team of wine writers had a great opportunity to enjoy a tasting of the company’s signature wines guided by their UK Business Development Manager, Nicola Lovato. He skillfully and passionately took us on a tour of Northern Italy and introduced their signature wines from Veneto, Alto Adige, Lombardy, and Tuscany. Our tasting was accompanied by a delicious, beautifully displayed lunch at Ottawa’s Copper Spirits & Sights on the top floor of Andaz Hotel in the market, with fantastic views of the city.
Lamole di Lamole Riserva Chianti Classico 2012
VINTAGES #: 280651, $28.95
This is the most beautiful expression of Chianti Classico. A complex and refined red with bright acidity and vivid aromas and flavours of black cherries and wild berries with a touch of minerality. Dry and medium in body with well integrated, velvety tannins. Smooth mouthfeel, depth and finesse. Closes in a lingering, dark chocolate–tinged finish. Perfectly matched with barbecued meats or juicy roasts. Tasted February 2017. Tania Thomas – www.taniathomas.com
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013
LCBO# 91694, $19.95
Chianti’s are usually blends of Sangiovese grapes with the small addition of Merlot and/or Cabernet Sauvignon for extra support and color. This one is a special treat as it is vinified with 100% Sangiovese grapes. Intense ruby in colour with pretty vanilla nose, it’s bursting with aromas and flavours of wild berries and that recognizable Sangiovese spiciness. Greatly balanced fruit and acidity with well integrated oak. A great match to game roasts and mature cheeses. Drink now or hold for up to six years. Tasted February 2017. Tania Thomas – www.taniathomas.com.
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2015
LCBO # 106450, $18.95
From Adige Valley stretching from the mighty Dolomites to Verona and then Venice, comes this lively Pinot Grigio, a benchmark for PG around the world. The first company to vinify white wine from pink Pinot Grigio grapes by removing the skins from the gently pressed wine avoiding the colour transfer. Bone-dry and fresh with crisp acidity and aromas and flavours of sweet apples and stone fruit. Perfect as a sipping white or paired with seafood and grilled fish. Tasted February 2017. Tania Thomas – www.taniathomas.com.
Franciacorta Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut
VINTAGES # 105353, $41.95
Delightful Franciacorta non-vintage sparkler vinified in the traditional method with 75% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco and 15% Pinot Nero grapes. The essence of Franciacorta crafted the Ca’ Del Bosco way minimizes the contact with oxygen every step of the way. From washing and drying the grapes prior to fermentation, using gravity to move the must, rather than pumping over, to oxygen-less disgorgement and bottling. This results in minimal levels of Sulphur Dioxide used and purer and longer living wine. Beautiful brioche nose from 25 months sur lies maturation, golden straw color, aromas and flavours of stewed apples and peaches with perfectly balanced acidity. Fine, persistent mousse and lingering, clean finish. Fantastic as an aperitif and a great companion to creamy cheeses. Tasted February 2017. Tania Thomas – www.taniathomas.com.”
Sommelier, Loblaws Grocery Stores
We were invited to a wonderful Italian wine tasting at the top of the Andaz Hyatt Hotel, at the Cooper Bar which just opened in the Fall of 2016 in downtown Ottawa. The view was spectacular overlooking the Byward Market and in the distance the Parliament Buildings.
The brand ambassador for the Santa Margherita Winery, Nicola Lovato, arrived from Italy to educate us and walk us through a tasting of the winery’s wonderfully crafted wines. Italy being my preferred wine region, I was eager to see what Nicola had to say about Santa Margherita.
The winery is best known for its zesty, crisp, dry, food friendly Pinot Grigio. Santa Margherita was founded in the 1930’s by Gaetano Marzotto and is situated in the foothills of Alto Adige’s Italian Alps.
We started the tasting with three crisp and vibrantly fruity Proseccos. Each of the three overflowing with flavourful aromas of yeast, baked bread, green apple, grapefruit, and citrus.
Prosecco can be served throughout a meal or it can be served as an aperitif before a meal to stimulate the appetite, commonly paired with salads and seafood. Two of the Proseccos, Valdobbiadene, and Torresella were made from the Glera grape varietal from the Veneto Region. The last Prosecco, Ca’Del Bosco, Cuvee Prestige is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero; it is produced in the Lombardy Region of Italy.
Pinot Grigio is Santa Margherita’s number one selling white wine. With its peach, apple and lemon aromas that accompany the crisp minerality alongside a tangy acidity on the palate, it is perfect as an aperitif or paired with salad, shellfish, grilled vegetables or rice dishes.
In the beautiful, scenic, rolling hills of Tuscany, we discover the Chianti Region where Sangiovese is king! Elegantly crafted, food friendly Tuscan wines made from 100% Sangiovese or blended with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon producing Super Tuscan wines. These wines are bursting with cherry, spice, oak, with a well-rounded balance of fruit and acidity.
Aging these wines for 2-3 years will only further develop their depth and character. Pair with lamb, steak, game or grilled red meats.
Santa Margherita has outdone themselves once again with their first Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore. It is produced from a blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes.
The wine goes through a second fermentation over the pomace of the Amarone for 10-15 days. It is then aged in barrel for 9 months, then bottled for another 6 months. The result is an elegant, full-bodied wine with the nuances of black cherries, aged balsamic, and stewed black fruit. Excellent with pasta and meat dishes, stews and roasts.
I ended my afternoon with this wonderfully full bodied, velvety Ripasso paired with a slightly bitter dark chocolate dessert. Heavenly!
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio
Alto Adige Trentino, Italy
Santa Margherita Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco
Veneto D.O.C.G., Italy
Franciacorta Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut Sparkling
Lombardy D.O.C.G., Italy
Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Franciacorta
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013
Tuscany D.O.C.G., Italy
Veneto D.O.C., Italy
Sassoregale Sangiovese 2014
Maremma Toscana, Tuscany D.O.C., Italy
Santa Margherita Impronta Del Fondatore Pinot Grigio 2016
Alto Adige, Trentino D.O.C., Italy
Lamole di Lamole Riserva Chianti Classico 2012
Tuscany D.O.C.G., Italy