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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 included 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.  On a subsequent order from the winery, I've also now added the very rare and fascinating Guardavalle, which is a white grape with an almost mind boggling combination of aromas and flavors.


Very healthy clusters of Greco




The road into the estate


The team managing the estate

The Wines

Greco Bianco 2021, Cirò DOC (OC, NF)


Aromas include white flowers, honeysuckle, jasmine, white grapefruit, pineapple, green apple, and star fruit.  Flavors include white grapefruit, green apple, pear, mild pineapple, and kiwi.  There is a medium to full body, perfect balance and acidity, and a long lush medium finish.


Food pairings would include sole, crab, scallops, shrimp, halibut, branzino, swordfish, calamari, clams, seafood soups, pasta, and salads, veal, pork, chicken, creamy pasta dishes with “white” meats, Asian seafood, pork, chicken, vegetable, and noodle dishes, Thai dishes with lemongrass or appetizers such as spring rolls, yellow curries, Mexican seafood, pork, and chicken dishes, enchiladas, tamales, tacos, chile verde, green salads, and mild, medium, and creamy cheeses.


“Vescovado” Guardavalle 2022, Calabria IGT (OC, NF)


Guardavalle is a very rare white grape from eastern Calabria and and Vescovado is the name of the hillside vineyard parcel on the estate where it is grown.   Aromas include honeysuckle, gardenia, citrus blossoms, Meyer Lemon, pineapple, and star fruit.  Flavors include pear, green apple, white grapefruit, honeydew melon, white peaches, and kiwi.  There is a medium body, perfect balance and acidity, and a long medium to full refreshing finish.


Food pairings would include shrimp, scallops, swordfish, tuna, calamari, seafood pasta and salads, paella, veal, pork, chicken, grilled sausages, pasta with light tomato sauces, Asian pork, chicken, and seafood dishes, Asian vegetable salads, green salads, mild, medium, and creamy cheeses.

Gaglioppo Rosso 2021, Cirò DOC (OC, NF)


This is 100% Gaglioppo and aromas include dark cherries, dark plums, blackberries, and strawberries.  Flavors include blackberries, dark cherries, boysenberries, and blueberries.  There is a medium body, perfect balance and acidity, and a long medium to full finish.


Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, New York Steak, short ribs, veal chops, rack of lamb, pork chops and tenderloin, wild boar, chicken, duck, venison, salmon, shrimp, clams, mussels, paella, pasta with light tomato sauces, Asian pork and chicken dishes, lamb curries, Mexican beef, pork, and  chicken dishes, beef and pork enchiladas, charcuterie, and medium to rich cheeses.

“Speziale” Marsigliana Nera 2022, Calabria IGT (OC, NF)


Marsigliana Nera is a very rare red grape from eastern Calabria and the cuvee name, Speziale, has somewhat mystical connotations of being a magic potion in the local dialect.  Aromas include black cherries, blackberries, boysenberries, and red peaches.  Flavors include dark cherries, dark plums, boysenberries, and hints of raspberries.  There is medium body, perfect balance and acidity, and a long medium to full finish.


Food pairings would include Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, short ribs, beef stew, rack of lamb, veal chops, pork chops, tenderloin, and shoulder, duck, elk, wild boar, pasta with meat sauce, baked pasta dishes, salmon, swordfish, tuna, clams, jambalaya, Asian beef and pork dishes, lamb curries, Tandoori dishes, Mexican beef, pork, and chicken dishes, tamales, carne asada, alambres, tapas, charcuterie, medium, hard, and blue cheeses.

ciro bianco back.jpg
ciro rosso back.jpg
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