Manuela Zardo and Hellmuth Zwecker
Our passion for Italian wine was engendered by our work in cultural tourism in Italy and the books we published on Italian cooking and culinary culture. When we travelled in different regions looking for the best and most interesting restaurants, the high quality winery owners were a very fruitful source of information. Visits to the wineries for tastings and communal feasts sometimes led to deep friendships with people who soon infected us with their passion for wine.
We started to look for a suitable location to grow our very own, personal wine, and in 2000 we found it in the region of Orvieto. We were immediately fascinated by the discreet charm and unspoilt rusticity of the village called Sugano. In spring 2005, we entrusted the planting of our vines to the agronomist Federico Curtaz. Before, he prepared the soil for the celebrated wines of Angelo Gaja in Piemont, today we we benefit from his experience. As a consequence, the vines on our volcanic soil are growing fabulously, also thanks to the optimal alignment towards the sun and the excellent aeration 450 meters above sea level due to breezes from the Umbrian mountains.
Since July 2009, our winemaking has been supervised and overseen by the oenologist Dr. Paolo Peira. After the conferral of his doctorate in Rome, he further specialised at the universities of Alba and Bordeaux, among others, where he now teaches Italian Winemaking, a subject that is also of interest for the French wine scene these days. In 2007 he was nominated for the Premio Luigi Veronelli for the category of best winemaker of the year. He is wholeheartedly assisted by our son Leon, who has joined our winemaking team after having finished his training at winemaking schools in Silberberg/Steiermark and in Krems, and after having worked in South Tyrol, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, California and New Zealand.
This location has been the site for great red wines in the past, in times of the Papal States, before the local farmers started to grow the white Orvieto Classico up here in addition to down in the valley. One of the reasons we know this is a letter the papal bottigliere, or cupbearer, Sante Lancerio wrote to the nephew of Pope Paul III Farnese, cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza:
"Tali vini sono, per la maggior parte, rossi, et è perfettissimo vino si per il verno, quanto per la state. Sucano è un castelletto distante da Orvieto due miglia… Tali vini sono odoriferi, bellissimi e polputi… Di questo vino S. S.(= Sua Santità, i.e. Paul III.) beveva volentieri, massime quando era in Orvieto. Il capitano Jeronimo Benincasa faceva buona provvisione e lo faceva portare a Roma et in viaggio."
One does not need to know much Italian to understand that a member of the pope’s entourage is singing a song of praise to this divine drink favoured by His Holiness. Currently, this "Castelletto Sucano" that inspired the name of our red wine is the small hamlet of Sugano, just outside of which our winery Madonna del Latte is situated.
Thanks to the loving care of our farmer Aldo – who grew up on the estate and is happy to be able to take an active part in it again –, the vines have been rewarding us with magnificently healthy and mature grapes since 2006. The young wine is produced from its juices in our modern fermentation cellar. After its alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, it matures in small wooden barrels. They are kept in an ideal surrounding at a constant temperature and optimal humidity in an old tuff cave under our house, a common thing here in the heart of antique Etruria.
A friend of ours described our Sucàno as follows:
"The main component in this noble cuvée is Cabernet Franc. It ripened for 14 months in barriques and casks. The densely coloured, but also brilliant red wine has a subtle yet complex nose with hints of black cherries, coffee beans, cocoa powder, combined with spicy notes of pepper, laurel and sage.
Its taste is harmonious, elegant and complex, with soft, rounded, silky tannin and a long finish. The slightly piquant and chocolaty taste, the scent of berries and figs, and the deliciously integrated sweetness of the fruits are reminiscent of great Bordeaux. Its body is round, full and makes this beautiful dark wine incredibly pleasant to the taste.
Such a well-structured, but fine and elegant wine can only be produced from perfect, fully mature grapes. The optimally integrated tannins allow the wine to be drunk early, but also promise a very good aging potential. Every sip reveals a new nuance of unique quality to the connoisseur!"
In our opinion, Sucàno goes together very well with Italian pasta dishes with savoury meat sauces, escargot, parma ham, smoked sausages or tartar, bistecca fiorentina, wild boar – preferably prepared according to a Tuscan renaissance recipe with chocolate –, lamb provençale, dove, pheasant, or a flavourful stuffed duck. Among the cheeses, we would particularly recommend Pecorino Romano, Gruyère or Parmesan. Even combinations with chocolate desserts are worth trying. And if one feels like it – why not drink it on its own, with good friends, or while reading a captivating book?
Apart from that, in spring 2007 we have planted close to a hectare of noble grape variety Viognier, from which we produce a very special white wine that fits perfectly with seafood and all sorts of fish dishes as well as with Asian cuisine.
The most celebrated Viognier that is revered until this very day hails from the Condrieu community within the Rhône valley. The Romans had first introduced this variety at the Emperor Marc Aureius command to immediately begin cultivation of this favourite grape of his. In recent history, even within the Condrieu region itself, this type had almost vanished entirely. In 1970 there were just about 14 hectares left. Fortunately, at present day, this plant brimming with character is enjoying increasing popularity. The worldwide acreage of this distinctive variety is approx. 8000 hectares. It can be found in Southern France, Italy, wine-growing regions overseas and even in Austria and Germany.
There are two very diverse styles of Viognier that have been distinguished with respect to their growing region. Most commonly, many winemakers still prefer to look to abundant, creamy Rhône wines as their role model. Others like us prefer a racy, slender winemaking style, which brings forth a pleasant acidity in addition to fine aromas of exotic fruit, and delicate herbal hints.
Our volcanic soil yields a subtle mineral component as the harmonious distributions of elements predict a long, lingering, sensory impression. This creates a clear sensation on the palate that doesn’t surface with too much heaviness. This all follows just a few sips. With this varietal selection, we have once again set our focus on ones indulging in its consumption.
Our wine for everyday, the Castelletto di Sucàno, is produced from the very Cabernet grapes our top wine, Sucàno, is made from. Thankfully, because of it’s maturation in the absence of wooden barrels, it is rather uncomplicated and youthful in taste as well as in price and is enjoyed best at a young age. The Castelletto is distinguished in colour by its dense red quality and its fragrance is reminiscent of black cherries, blackberries and black currant. Our variety is full bodied and displays a refreshingly fruity acidity.
Both our Rosé and Rosario are entirely produced from our Cabernet grapes as well. The Rosé is a fruity but yet spicy, light and fresh wine, a good companion to any light dish. The Rosario is a fantastically sparkling Rosé brut (driest category, max. residual sweetness of 15 gram per litre, natural second fermentation following the Charmant-Method, no addition of carbon dioxide), displays the fruitiness of Cabernet, which is dominated by black currant and paired with a very elegant fragrance of rose wood. In reference to our winery’s name, we have chosen to appropriately name it Rosario = rosary. Rosario is a common name for young southern Italians, who are good at fascinating with their Mediterranean charm and "sparkling" charisma. Its fine perlage and tender tannins provide structure and length in a way that would make a comparison with the great sparkling wines from the Champagne region appropriate. It works perfectly as an aperitif, a base for cocktails, an accompanying drink with poultry (such as quail or duck breast), and of course, as a present to those in your good favour!
Vittorio Capovilla, “The undisputed number one among Italy’s distillers” according to the World Spirits Academy, distilled the grappa from our Sucàno pomace. His modern water bath distillery is located in the historic cellars of Villa Dolfin near the village Bassano del Grappa. Following the requirement of using only healthy pomace, it produces a mild-aromatic grappa, which is re-diluted drop wise using the unique water of the Italian Alps.
The last harvest of our fresh Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva again achieved the sensational acidity value of 0.18%, a sign of the highest quality (the rate to be defined Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva is 0.80%). It will complement any kitchen with its marked fruity taste and fragrance suggesting raw artichokes. Both being characteristics typical of only the highest quality Tuscan-Umbrian oils.
Unfortunately, thus far we are only producing small quantities of the oil (additional trees have been planted) and we apologize in the case of this product possibly being sold out.
We would like our products forever to remain handcrafted niche specialties available to only a few epicures. This can be guaranteed by a (relatively small) maximum amount of approx 20.000 bottles produced annually, which is dependant upon each unique harvest scenario. On another note, we are certain that the convivial and pleasure-loving Etruscans, the ancient civilization indigenous to the region,would have loved the wines produced from our Madonna del Latte.
For information and winery visits, feel free to contact us.
Azienda Vitivinicola Madonna del Latte