Casale del Giglio’s island wine


Casale del Giglio’s island wine

15 March 2021

In the province of Latina, in the Agro Pontino area, Casale del Giglio has stood since 1967 as the first winery to have identified and developed the winemaking potential of this area.

Its founder, Dino Santarelli, showed his predisposition for investigation and varietal experimentation from the beginning and, maintaining this inclination in searching for new interests and goals, about a decade ago, the winery started an ambitious project that involved the island of Ponza.

 In the archipelago of the Pontine Islands, Ponza is the largest of the group. This almost entirely hilly land, with peaks reaching 280 m in altitude, has long been dedicated to winegrowing. Since the Roman times, vineyards have flourished here, growing and bearing fruit. Since then and until present, moments of great bounty alternated with periods of total abandonment of the lands. In fact, in the 1930s, agriculture was one of the main activities in the island – of the total 700 hectares, almost 300 were cultivated, of which about 100 were covered by vineyards – but with the explosion of tourism, migration has increased.

Today, we are witnessing a real agricultural renaissance, especially among young people. Casale del Giglio is one of the leading figures of this revival and, of the 5 hectares currently cultivated in Ponza, 2 are owned by the Winery. In 2012, as suggested by Antonio Santarelli, Paolo Tiefenthaler with the important collaboration of local islanders Tommaso Tartaglione and Gino Scotti, old Biancolella vineyards, whose genetic heritage was jealously guarded by local elders, began to be identified and recovered. Biancolella is a widespread variety throughout the Campania coast, particularly in Ischia, and was brought to Ponza in the mid-1700s, when the Bourbons reigned over the Kingdom of Naples. However, recent DNA analyses seem to distinguish between the Ponza variety and the one from Ischia; thus, latest findings hypothesize an introduction from Magna Graecia, perhaps by the Saracen pirates who roamed in those waters and along these coasts.

Biancolella, an island grape

At the end of the Cenozoic era, during the Tertiary, the islands of Zannone, Ponza and Palmarola emerged from an immense underwater magmatic source with numerous eruptive vents. This brought to the rise of volcanic territory partly covered with white, yellow and green tuffs that derived from new and more recent eruptions. The last ones, about one million and two hundred thousand years ago, covered Mount Guardia, the highest peak in Ponza, with a trachyte dome that is tens of meters thick.

The volcanic soil, rich in mineral salts, and the sea significantly contribute to the growth of Biancolella, whose cultivation in Lazio is authorized exclusively on the Pontine Islands. One of the characteristics of this variety is its strong adaptability to a very windy climate, an uncontaminated and ideal habitat that ensures a healthy environment. Furthermore, the absence of humidity contributes to obtaining healthy grapes, thus making organic cultivation possible. From a morphological point of view, the dry-stone wall terraces offer a biodiversity of insects and plants that are essential for balance in the vineyard.

Casale del Giglio’s Biancolella wine is called Faro della Guardia, as the vineyards are located on a small plateau that is towered by the majestic Faro della Guardia, built in 1886 above a rock overlooking the sea, at 112 m. asl. Traditionally, the vinification of white grapes on the island involved contact of the skins with the must during fermentation. This still partly occurs for about 3-4 days, followed by the soft pressing of the whole grapes and spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts at a temperature of 20°C. The wine then refines for about 7-8 months, before bottling.

Faro della Guardia is a pale-yellow wine with slightly greenish reflections; the very intense aroma recalls yellow fruit (peach and apricot), complemented by floral notes of hawthorn. The mouth has excellent minerality and great flavor, an expression of the "volcanic-calcareous" territory from where it was born. The long and persistent aftertaste has fruity and citrus notes. Due to its remarkable structure and fruit integrity, Biancolella IGP Faro della Guardia can age for several years in the bottle.

Through this “project” of reviving Biancolella, Casale del Giglio intends to preserve the culture and the bond of the locals to the land by creating wines that are the fruit of a unique and inimitable terroir.