Italian wine: The Custoza Grape from the Glacial Hills Near Lake Garda
- WTI Magazine #169 Nov 17, 2023
The Custoza grape is a native white grape from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy. Per the Consorzio Tutela Vino Custoza’s site, the Custoza grape is “delicate, floral and fruity aromas with slightly aromatic herbs….recognizable for its freshness”. As the wines made from this grape ages they take on riper fruit notes, with savory characteristics and spice.
You can find Custoza wines under the Bianco di Custoza DOC. Much of the territory where these grapes are grown cover 9 municipalities and overlap also with the Bardolino DOC territory. You can find many styles of Custoza including Custoza, Custoza Superiore, Custoza Riserva, Custoza Spumante and Custoza Passito. One of the requirements to be qualified to be labeled as a Bianco di Custoza DOC is to include a minimum of 70% of 3 of the following grapes: Garganega, Trebbiano, Bianca Fernanda (a native clone of Cortese), and Trebbianello (a local biotype of Tocai. It can also include up to 30% of Malvasia, Riesling, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Incrocio Manzoni.
I had read that there is such a variety of grapes in this area as the territory was originally used for livestock breeding. Merchants would stop there and used cuttings from where they originated from to barter bringing a diverse range of grapes.
What I always find unique about blends like this and the Collio Bianco DOC wines that I tried is that it shows the personality of the winemakers and producers. It allows the producers the opportunity to balance out the wines for particular grapes that struggled in difficult years by having the flexibility to include other grapes. You’ll also find a lot of complexity in wines with such blends as you’ll get many different characteristics from each of the grapes included in the blend.
The Winery – Monte del Fra
Monte del Fra is located in Sommacampagna situated about 10 miles outside Verona on glacial hills that overlook Lake Garda. It is a family owned winery established in 1958 by Massimo Bonomo, the grandfather to the 3rd generation that runs the winery today. Massimo relocated to the area due to his passion for wine and started producing wine with less than 10 acres. Today the winery has close to 500 acres across a number of appellations with focus on the Bardolino and Custoza DOC’s.
The name Monte del Fra translates to the “land of the monks”. In the 15th century Friar monks formed a monastery on the land. Some time after they leased over 60 acres to be utilized for fruit trees and vineyards. Fast forward centuries later the Bonomo took ownership of the land and continues to manage it to this day.
The Bonomo family has a strong focus on sustainable agriculture not utilizing pesticides or herbicides in their vineyards. They are SQNPI certified as well as 3R certified (which is a waste reduction and diversion certification).
I tasted the 2020 Monte del Fra Ca’Del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC, which is their single vineyard from 50 year old vines at 492 feet above sea level. This wine is a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscano, Cortese and Incrocio Manzoni. It is fermented in stainless steel on the lees. It then spends a few months in cement vats before bottling and at least 6 additional months in the bottle before release.
The 2020 Monte del Fra Ca’ Del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC was brilliant lightly straw colored. Floral, fruity aromas of stone fruit mostly with some citrus. This wine has a beautiful elegance the minute it touches the palate. Light-bodied and delicate, but full of flavor leaning more towards tropical fruit with bright acidity consistent throughout. A beautiful wine!