Ancient Traditions Meet Modern Sustainability at Santa Margherita Wines
Sustainability. Carbon footprint. These are terms that we hear often these days. But what do they mean when it comes to making wine? Italy’s Santa Margherita Wines is a pioneer and world leader in the field of sustainable wine production. They recently hosted their first Sustainable Retreat at the Drake Devonshire Hotel Resort in Prince Edward County. Drake Devonshire was chosen as the ideal spot for the retreat because of their own efforts at reducing their carbon footprint. Along with a small group of wine media, I was privileged to attend and learn much more about this fascinating topic.
History of Santa Margherita Wines
The story of Santa Margherita is a love story. It is the story of a man and his family, a story of passion and commitment, a story of innovative viticulture and social responsibility. Count Gaetano Marzotto was a man of vision and a pioneer in sustainability. He purchased a region in the sunny Venetian countryside where grapes had been cultivated as far back as Roman times. Inspired by the location and its history, he named it after his beloved wife, Margherita. This was before agriculture had been mechanized, so he was ambitious and forward-thinking, too. He employed many people in that area, and because he brought jobs and increased prosperity to the region, King Emmanuel II honoured him with the title of Count. Considering that earning a title is much more significant than simply inheriting it, this was an early sign of recognition for his dedication to social responsibility in his community.
Sustainable Practices at Santa Margherita
At the Sustainable Retreat, we attended a presentation by Santa Margherita’s Export Director, Giacomo Marzotto, who gave a very informative talk about the history of Santa Margherita and their sustainable practices. He is the great-grandson of the founder, Count Gaetano Marzotto. We learned a great deal, seated comfortably with a glass of Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut, in the Drake’s gorgeous Glass Room.
From the beginning, Santa Margherita has always been passionately committed to the goals of preserving the environment, social responsibility, environmental sustainability and, of course, maintaining respect for their Italian heritage. These goals are manifested in several ways, in the vineyards and throughout the organization. Here’s what we learned:
• They use computerized, in-ground irrigation systems which reduce water evaporation and runoff, thereby boosting energy efficiency.
• They practise organic land management that contributes to long-term environmental health. In the Veneto region, 90 percent of their grapes are hand-harvested. That reduces the use of mechanical grape harvesting. They will soon qualify for Global Organic Certification.
• Energy use is derived from 100 percent renewable sources. The winery in Portogruaro, for example, has 6,500 square feet of solar panels, making it completely self-powered. Ten percent of the overall production of Pinot Grigio (1.5 million bottles) is certified carbon-neutral. You can see a special label on the Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio bottle to verify this.
• They are vegan-friendly, having ceased the use of animal by-products years ago. During wine filtration, only vegan-friendly bentonite clay is used, along with yeast- and vegetable-derived products. They work only with vegan supplies to consistently maintain these standards throughout the production process.
• An eco-friendly approach to winemaking is used, using natural products and growing processes that protect the health and well-being of the vineyards. One example is the use of copper and sulfur in their growing practices and compost made from pruned vegetation to feed the soil at the production centre in Chianti Classico.
• Inspired by the “Zero Kilometer” philosophy, with its beneficial effects on our environment and society, Santa Margherita limits their environmental impact by reducing their carbon footprint. They avoid using products derived from fossil-fuel carbon whenever possible, reducing or eliminating long transportation routes, and keeping their operations and production local to the vineyards. Giacomo stressed that transportation is the primary source of carbon emissions. The Italian Slow Food movement recognizes that producing agricultural products within local facilities creates less stress and impact on the physical environment, benefits the immediate community with economic and societal advantages, and respectfully allows for preserving regional traditions.
• Their grapes are strategically grown in estate vineyards that surround the winery. We were impressed to learn that instead of sourcing wine bottles from outside companies, Santa Margherita produces their own bottles. Up to 65 percent of their green glass is made of recycled material. Their glass production facility shares power resources due to its proximity. This reduces pollutants related to storage and transportation emissions.
After Giacomo’s presentation, we heard a concise presentation by Carbonzero Canada, who explained how they would assess the carbon footprint of this event. Using wine as an example, we learned how product distribution contributes significantly to carbon emissions. First, there is the transportation to an Italian port. Next, transport to a Canadian port — from there, delivery to the warehouse storage facility and then to retail storage and distribution.
We tasted five wonderful Santa Margherita wine products before wrapping up the afternoon session.
Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut
A delightful sparkling wine made from 100 percent Glera grapes, with a fresh, fruity bouquet of apples and peach blossoms. Prosecco is an excellent aperitif that pairs well with white fish, soft cheeses or custard tarts. Excellent value for this low price point. You would be wise to stock up on this for the upcoming holiday season.
Dry 11% • LCBO# VINTAGES# 19024 • $23.95
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio Valdadige DOC 2022
From Italy’s beautiful Adige River Valley region in the mountainous northeast, this is the gold standard for Pinot Grigio and a consistent best seller at LCBO Vintages. It is dry, refreshing and aromatic, giving lifted aromas and flavours of Golden Delicious apples, quince and yellow pear. It is a perfect match for shellfish, seafood pasta, shrimp risotto or white meats and can also play the role of aperitif. It has achieved carbon-neutral certification, as indicated on the label.
Dry 12.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 106450 • $22.95 – $20.95 til Oct. 8th
Santa Margherita Rosé Tre Venezie IGT 2022
This beautiful salmon pink Rosé is a tribute to the founder, Count Gaetano Marzotto’s beloved Venetian Region. It is crafted from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes. I’m a big Rosé aficionado, and this elegant wine showcases the many reasons why I love it. It’s crisp and dry with mouthwatering acidity. Delicate aromas and floral notes, along with fresh pear, herbal hints and a touch of pink pepper on the palate, are a sensual delight. Vinification in stainless steel tanks, not oak, optimizes the delicate flavours of the wine. The gorgeous colours add visual impact. The mouthwatering acidity makes Santa Margherita Rosé pair well with many foods, such as classic Caesar and Niçoise salads, pasta and risotto dishes, grilled meats, seafood, and soft cheeses.
Dry 12.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 25752 • $17.95
Santa Margherita Cabernet Sauvignon Veneto IGT 2020
An elegant Cab Sauv made in the Old World style, i.e., lighter in body than the New World style. It shows the typical blackcurrant and herbal notes but with a lighter body and mouthfeel, making it even more versatile than usual in a Cab. It has refined, soft tannins and a lovely persistent, aromatic finish. Food pairings include red meats, such as game or prime roast beef, mushroom soup or risotto, as well as hot and spicy dishes and mature cheeses. Because it is lighter-bodied, you can also chill it slightly and serve it at 13C with salmon. This wine offers excellent value at this price.
Dry 13% • LCBO VINTAGES# 13620 • $19.95
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico DOCG 2020
This vibrant, velvety Chianti is crafted from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes grown in Santa Margherita’s vineyards in Tuscany. It has subtle fruity and spicy aromas, with a gorgeous fruity palate giving notes of dark cherry, plum, baking spice, dried herbs and cedar, with soft tannins and appetizing peppery notes on the long finish. As we head into fall and change our cuisine to heartier meat dishes, this will be a great pairing for pot roast or Spaghetti Bolognese, as well as steak. Worth remembering, too, as a terrific gift wine.
Dry 13.5% • LCBO VINTAGES# 91694 • $23.95
Santa Margherita’s Sustainable Retreat provided us with a unique opportunity to do a deep dive into the world of sustainable wine production. It gave us a chance to learn in-depth about these fabulous wines and to get acquainted with new wine colleagues, too. The Drake Devonshire offered a fantastic setting, with gracious hospitality, funky art all around us and the natural beauty of Lake Ontario. We learned a lot, made new friends and created wonderful memories to last a lifetime!