Santa Sofia s.r.l.
Via Ca’ Dedè, San Pietro in Cariano
Tel. +39 045 7701074 P.IVA IT 00224320234


by Sissi Baratella

Historical winery of Valpolicella, Santa Sofia has 24 hectares in a particular area: Montegradella. From here comes Amarone Gioè, which is produced only in particular vintages, such as 2013, which we tasted in preview.

There is a place in Valpolicella Classica, a few kilometres from Verona, called Montegradella. It is actually a placename, but some would call it grand cru. It is located in the middle of the vineyards in the Classica area and there you find vines and olive trees. The vines are pergola Veronese, the vineyards are terraced, and the composition of the soil is mostly calcareous, white soils rich in stones more or less large. The ventilation and the temperature range are not lacking, and have contributed and made Montegradella a happy oasis for Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella, the autochthonous Veronese red grapes par excellence.
Knowing all this information, and even more, it is Luciano Begnoni, who in Montegradella has seen the house of his most important wines. Santa Sofia winery, of which Begnoni is the owner, takes care of the beauty of 24 hectares in this place. Here the wine that bears its name also on the label, Montegradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore (now out with the 2018 harvest), is the first to see the light. But such a suitable place could not fail to give life to an Amarone and it is from the best rows of Montegradella that, in the most suitable vintages, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Gioè is born. Of this special expression of territory and wine is finally ready the new vintage, the 19th in almost sixty years, since 1964. I tasted the 1998, definitely extra-ordinary, and a preview of the 2013 harvest; this is a vintage that the Begnoni family defines as “synonymous with the enocultural renaissance that we want to bring to the territory”.

To understand the meaning of “cultural renaissance” you have to take a step back (200 years) and start from the origins. Santa Sofia as a winery was founded two centuries ago, with a production of wine certified from 1811. Symbol of the company, although it has little to do with the company, is the Villa designed by Andrea Palladio in 1565. The Villa is now unusable and closed to the public, but what can be visited are the cellars below, belonging to the winery, which are the resting place of the wine in wooden barrels. The oldest part of the underground cellar is dated 1300 and was made by the friars of San Bernardino, the same who erected the chapel dedicated to Santa Sofia, hence the name of the company.

The first figure of the Begnoni family to arrive in Santa Sofia was Giancarlo Begnoni, winemaker by vocation, animated by a great passion for the wines of Valpolicella. In 1967 he took over the winery and changed the fate of the winery forever. He had immediately a great intuition about Amarone, finding in a lucky cask that rested in the cellar a different and vibrant flicker; that cask of Amarone 1964 was new sap that decided to keep separate from the rest of the production officially decreing the birth of a new wine that today we know as Amarone Gioè. Intuition of all respect especially if we think that in those years the identity of Amarone still practically did not exist and was gradually emerging. Since then, 19 times, the same magic has been accomplished. Only when the vintage allows it and the wine in the winery behaves in a certain way, Giancarlo first, today his son Luciano with the young winemaker Matteo Tommasi (enologically speaking grown by Giancarlo himself), give life to this limited edition.

Today the company produces 650 thousand bottles/ year, from 5 different doc. Luciano, after the untimely death of his sister Patrizia, always in his thoughts and remembered with great affection, has, deservedly, retired his father. Confident of the enterprise’s solid foundations, today it is all about a young, dynamic and professionally prepared team. In addition to the already mentioned Matteo, more reserved and less media involved, impossible not to mention Chiara Guardini. Chiara is entrusted with the part of communication and hospitality in the cellar, prepared and on point fully transmits the essence of Santa Sofia and Valpolicella. Soon (we hope) will be operating a new headquarters of the winery, not far from the current; the new construction will be efficient and performing both from an operational and enorgetic point of view. But Santa Sofia is not only Valpolicella Classica… the Briago project is reality. 45 hectares, of which 15 are vineyards, owned since 2015, all in Guyot, autochthonous varieties, between 320 and 440 meters above sea level in Valpantena, the other geographical mention of the name. The aim in this new estate will be to focus on vineyard practices, immersed in the woods and biodiversity, certified bio pushing up to biodynamic.

Montegradella 2018

Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella. Ages in oak barrels for 18 months. Intense ruby with dark reflections. Scent of cherry compote and lashing notes of licorice and black pepper. The mouthfeel is fresh and tapered with long and persistent astringent notes. Leaves a hint of licorice root and rhubarb. Long, it creates appetence.

Gioè 2013

Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella with appassimento. Ages in oak barrels and tonneau for 42 months, then 4 years in bottle. The nose comes with sweet and open notes. Cherry in spirit and tobacco leaves. The exceptionally fresh taste on the palate makes it very modern. Citrus on the palate and with hints of undergrowth that increase complexity. Young and very promising.