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Italy: Ethica trading

Published:  23 July, 2008

Ever been frustrated with Italy and Italian wines? You know they are good and people who have invested the time to learn about them will tell you they are world class (Harpers had three such - Neil Beckett, Josie Butchart and Anastasia Edwards. They could bore for Italy on how great their wines are - sorry guys!), but unless you take time out to read Nick Belfrage's books and comb specialist wine shops, you are encumbered with images and tastes of poor Pinot Grigios and Lambruscos at the cheap end and inferior, pale examples of Chiantis and Barolos higher up.

La-Vis, Trentino's leading co-operative with 1,350 members owning 1,400 hectares (ha), producing 110,000 litres of wine a year. It is the largest producer of Chardonnay in Italy and has some high-altitude vineyards that produced base wine for spumante wines (see Cesarini Sforza below). Its brands include Ritratti, Sorni, Cru Single Estates, Classica and Storied u Vitae.

Casa Girelli, which has a team of 10 winemakers making wine in Trentino, Veneto, Tuscany, Abruzzo, Puglia and Sicily. Its brands are Canaletto, Lamura, Fontello, Virtuso and Speri.

Cesarini Sforza is one of Italy's top producers of Metado Classico Spumante the specifications of which were first introduced about a century ago. The grapes come from the Trento DOC Metado Classico production area, which is between 350 and 650 metres above sea level. Once owned by a noble family that moved to Trentino and governed the town, La-Vis bought it to gain knowledge of how to produce quality spumante.

St Andrae in the Salorno area of the South Tyrol between the Adige river and the hills of Pochi. Pinot Nero and Gewurztraminer grow well, and Lagrein is a native variety.

Cantina Valle di Cembra - the Valle di Cembra boasts some of the highest vineyards in Italy at 700-750m. The soils are on a type of granite, Perfido, and the climate is ameliorated by the Ora del Garda', a steady warming breeze that comes up from Lake Garda. Ninety per cent of grape growing in the valley is controlled by La-Vis. Interestingly, along with apples, the valley is a major producer of Mller Thurgau, one of oenology's most unwanted grape varieties. Yet they make a very good fist (or bunch) of making it - well worth seeking out.

Villa Cafaggio, a name that needs little introduction to Italianophiles. Sixty-eight hectares (40ha of 85% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) in the Conca d'Oro of Chianti Classico. South facing, 400m above sea level, this is vinous heaven. In replanting, density has been raised to 7,140 vines per hectare with fewer bunches to achieve greater concentration.

Poggie Morino, in Scansano in the Grosseto province of southern Tuscany's now famous Maremma region. An 80ha estate with south, souteast and southwest facing slopes at an altitude of 60-110m. Predominantly Sangiovese with some Syrah, and wines are aged in oak for four months. It appears that no expense is being spared on this property, which is hardly surprising if it is to compete with the SuperTuscans such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

Feudo di Santa Tresa, Sicily. Although part of Ethica this is the Girellis in partnership with a local winemaker, Massimo Maggio. This could be a thousand miles from the Poggio Morino in terms of feel and investment rather a few hundred. A run-down building with equipment that should be in a museum, the estate comprises 50ha, of which 15 are planted with 400 olive trees. It is being farmed organically and the first certified organic harvest should be 2008.


La-Vis is about the fourth largest wine producer in Italy after two other co-operatives, GIV, Cavit and the Antinori family.