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Santa Venere

Although I describe what I am looking for is very expressive and authentic wines from each region, what I am really looking for are great farmers who are dedicated to producing the best fruit possible each year.  Winemaking with such fruit then has an advantage in that with minimal intervention winemaking, very expressive wines can result and have aromas and flavors that are a unique experience with each wine.

Santa Venere was another fun discovery from my research on individual wine regions along with my focus on native grape varietals.  The winery is on the eastern side of Calabria, in the Cirò area, where the main native white grape is the almost generically named "Greco" (but which is genetically different from Greco di Tufo in Campania) and the main native red grape is Gaglioppo.  I had also tasted at some other wineries in the area and had experienced what I jokingly call the "internationalization" of native varietals into dumbed down shadows of themselves made to appeal to "mainstream" wine drinkers.  But, when visiting the Santa Venere estate, I experienced fully expressive and high quality fruit in each wine I tasted.

Getting there was also part of the fun as I was bumping along rough dirt roads up into the hills above the town of Cirò which is on the coast of the Ionian Sea.  I'm still amazed in all of my adventures into remote agricultural regions that I haven't yet had some serious mishap with one of my rental cars but I did eventually arrive at the spectacular hilltop setting of the Santa Venere estate that is around 1,500 feet above the coast line that is only a few miles away.  Grape vines are also known to love harsh environments and the Calabrian scrub land terrain along with its ancient sands in the vineyards was an indication of what could be some very expressive wines.

Adding to the quality of the wines was the decision made in the late 1990s to convert the entire estate to organic farming.  Given its remote location the estate has probably always been effectively farmed organically but the property has been certified as organic since 1999.  The family heritage of the property is also impressive as the same family has owned the land since the year 1600.  Giuseppe Scala is the current head of the family managing the estate and its modern form was created by his father Federico in 1960 with the start of winemaking instead of selling the grapes each year.  My initial selections include their Greco Bianco, the Gaglioppo Rosso, and the very interesting and rare Marsigliana Nera which is a red but which has qualities that pairs well with almost everything from fish to white meat and to red meat.


Very healthy clusters of Greco




The road into the estate


The team managing the estate

The Wines

Greco Bianco 2021, Cirò DOC (OC, NF)



Gaglioppo Rosso 2020, Cirò DOC (OC, NF)


This is 100% Gaglioppo and aromas include blackberries, dark cherries, dark plums, and dark chocolate.  Flavors include blackberries, boysenberries, dark cherries, ripe strawberries, red peaches, and hints of pomegranate and raspberries. There is a medium to full body, perfect balance and acidity, and a somewhat lush full and refreshing finish.


Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, short ribs, beef stew, roast veal and veal chops, lamb chops, roast pork and pork chops, wild boar, duck, grilled chicken, salmon, tuna, anchovies, calamari, seafood pasta, Asian beef, pork, and chicken dishes, Indian Tandoori dishes and paneer dishes, Mexican beef and pork dishes, chile verde, enchiladas, grilled sausages, pasta with meat sauces, charcuterie, and medium, rich, and creamy cheeses.

“Speziale” Marsigliana Nera 2021 (OC, NF)


Aromas include dark cherries, dark plums, blackberries, boysenberries, blueberries, and hints of dark chocolate and dark cocoa.  Flavors include blackberries, red plums, boysenberries, and hints of nectarine and raspberries.  There is a medium to full body but with a sense of lightness across the palate, good balance and acidity, and a long full finish.


Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, short ribs, beef stew, veal chops, veal stew, rack of lamb, pork chops and tenderloin, pork shoulder, wild boar, venison, elk, duck, duck confit, cassoulet, grilled chicken, shrimp, calamari, salmon, tuna, clams, mussels, paella, tapas, Asian beef, pork, and chicken dishes, lamb curries, Tandoori dishes, Mexican beef and  pork dishes, tamales, chile verde, baked pasta dishes and pasta with meat sauce, charcuterie, and mild, medium, and hard cheeses.

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