Custoza DOC: How Well Do You Know This Venetian White Wine?

With numerous designated wine denominations in the Veneto, Custoza DOC tends to be overshadowed by its counterparts in the northern Italian region. In numbers, there are 14 DOCGs and 30 DOCs in the region which show how good the territory and its climatic conditions are for viniculture.

Custoza is actually a small historical hamlet of roughly a thousand inhabitants. It is located in the southeast of Lago di Garda, the largest lake in Italy. Looking towards the east you can see Verona while towards the north you can see the imposing view of the Monte Baldo mountain range. Located in the municipality of Sommacampagna, it is a land of panoramic scenery and a richness of cultural heritage. Historically, it was well-known for the fierce battles that ensued between the Italian and Austrian armies in the 19th century for the Risorgimento, the Italian unification which is memorialized with the Ossuary of Custoza, a 40-meter white marble tower standing on the peak of Colli Belvedere. Around it is the prevalently green territory of Custoza where vineyards and woods dominate the landscape. For its lack of big tourist attractions that draw hordes of people in comparison to its large neighboring towns, Custoza is actually a haven for people who love nature where you can do physical activities such as soft trekking, e-biking or horseback riding following the splendid itineraries of the Terre del Custoza (Lands of Custoza) while exploring the soft landscape.

History of Wine Production in Custoza

Wine production in Custoza actually goes back thousands of years ago. The first signs of the domestication of the vine in the current production area of the Custoza DOC are documented by the discovery of Vitis Silvestris seeds from the pile-dwelling period in the Pacengo and Peschiera areas, while the first evidence of vine cultivation dates back to ancient Roman times. From the 9th century and then throughout the Middle Ages, there was an abundant documentation on the cultivation of vines in the area between Pastrengo and Sommacampagna in particular. By the 20th century, the area of Custoza has proven its great capacity for viticulture because of this, it was included among the best winegrowing areas in the western portion of the province of Verona in a 1939 study conducted by the Experimental Station of Viticulture and Oenology of Conegliano.

Custoza DOC

Custoza DOC is one of the first white wines that obtained a Controlled Designation of Origin in Italy (DOC) in 1971. It has four types of wines in its designation: Custoza Riserva, Custoza Superiore, Custoza Spumante and Custoza Passito.

The peculiarity of the Custoza DOC lies in the harmonic blend of different white autochthonous grape varieties which contribute to its particularly expressive and balanced personality. This is obtained from at least 70% of the three local grapes: Garganega, Trebbianello and Bianca Fernanca (a local clone of Cortese) while the remaining 30% can be filled up by other varieties like Malvasia, Riesling Italico or Riesling Renano, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Incrocio Manzoni.

The blend of the three protagonist grapes complement each other which also enrich the wine with more complexity. The Garganega contributes the delicate fruit and fruity aromas, the Bianca Fernanda gives more floral characteristics and elegance while the Trebbianello provides the characteristic color and structure. The resulting blend is an excellent harmony of qualities from various grape profiles intertwined with territorial and microclimatic significance with a recognizable freshness and easiness in its drinkability. 

Custoza DOC wines are characteristically fresh with delicate floral and fruity aromas reminiscent of crispy white and yellow fruits, sometimes with fresh aromatic herbs and spices. In the palate it can be distinctly sapid with a notable note of green almonds in the end. Over time, it has a potential for ageing well as the mineral characteristics that were obtained from the morainic soils they were cultivated in emerge and evolve.

Custoza DOC, which has earned its designation 50 years ago is now embraced by 72 wine cellars, 480 winegrowers and 110 bottling companies in 1,400 hectares of vineyards and an average annual production of 11 million bottles.

Territory and Climate

The designations allows its production in nine municipalities in the southeast area of the lake namely Sommacampagna, Villafranca di Verona, Valeggio sul Mincio, Peschieri del Garda, Castelnuovo Veronese, Sona, Bussolengo, Pastrengo and Lazise. The area is located in the southwest of the Garda morainic amphitheatre which is a series of elongated soft hills at an altitude of 50 to 100 meters asl. These hills are made up of deposits left by the glaciers that occurred during the Pleistocene geological period thereby consisting mainly of clay and sand which are found to be particularly good for the cultivation of white grapes. This mixture of soils guarantees good drainage avoiding the problem of water stagnation. The predominantly calcareous composition of the soil gives the grapes the mineral component and characterizes the wines with their marked sapidity.

The climatic condition in the area is substantially constant and homogeneous characterized by hot and dry summers and relatively cold winters which is mitigated by the proximity to the lake. A unique kind of microclimate is attained that is favorable to the growth of the vines. In addition to this, there is an abundant presence of cypress and olive trees that underline its excellent conditions. The slopes of the hills receive sufficient heating while the lower nocturnal temperature are optimal conditions for the ideal full ripening of the grapes which take out the aromatic characteristics of the berries to the maximum as well as its acidity level.

Food and Wine in Custoza

Food and wine is another important aspect that Custoza is known for. The small town has its share of wineries which are increasingly run by enthusiastic and passionate people and they are open for wine tourism, as well as rural tourism which is, in addition to the traditional wine tastings, they also hold tastings in picnics and in the vineyards, yoga classes, art sessions and sensory experiences.

It is a must for gastronomy enthusiasts to also taste the local specialties like: the typical Custoza broccoli, a Slow Food presidium, to which Custoza’s restaurants dedicate exclusive dinners in winter; Garda DOP extra virgin olive oil; Villafranca puff pastries, Sona veal cheeks braised in Custoza, grilled chicken from Santa Lucia ai Monti, tastas├ál rice and a thousand exquisite local cheeses. The most famous, and is also a perfect match for the Custoza DOC, is the tortellino of Valeggio sul Mincio, a specialty nicknamed Nodo d’Amore, coming from the locality of the same name which hosts, once a year, the Festa del Nodo d’amore, a panoramic open-air dinner on the Visconti bridge (which I will dedicate a separate article to).

Consorzio di Tutela del Custoza

A year after receiving the denomination in 1971, the Consorzio di Tutela del Custoza was born. It is a consortium of the wineries that safeguards and promotes the heritage of the winegrowing area. It continues to the path of protection of the designation of origin that was received half a century ago, always driven by the principles of sustainability and territorial identity. The share of representation of the Consortium with respect to the total denomination is around 90%. By virtue of this representativeness, the Consortium has obtained recognition of the erga omnes function on the denomination. The president is Roberta Bricolo , flanked by the vice presidents Marica Bonomo and Luca Oliosi.

Consorzio di Tutela del Custoza

Address: Villa Venier, Via Bassa 14, 37066 Sommacampagna (VR), Italy
Tel: +39 045 5545857

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