The Innovation that Drives Casale del Giglio’s Passion for Wine


The Innovation that Drives Casale del Giglio’s Passion for Wine

07 November 2018

Casale del Giglio was founded by the passions of a father but continues to find success thanks to the innovations of a son.

A lineage of dreams

There is that oft-shared dream, you know the one, of one day, owning a vineyard somewhere in the countryside. You do your research, write down your plan and tuck it away until the moment is right. But the realities of growing healthy vines and making great wine begin to wrap around your dream, smothering it. It is no easy task. However, for the Santarelli family, making wine was a long-held dream. One that was passed down through the generations. More a destiny than a dream.

Passions of a father

collegio food, wine & spirit Collegio Food, Wine & Spirits, the Original Santarelli Wine Shop in Rome. Photo ©?Livia Mucchi

Dino Santarelli purchased an empty estate of land in the Agro Pontino Valley in 1967 after becoming fascinated with its potential. Situated 50 kilometres south of Rome and halfway to the sea, the patch of countryside had great exposure and an easy route to market. Dino came from a family of wine and olive oil merchants and had successfully built a wine bottling and importing company. He was sure that he could get into the business of growing and making wine. He was right.

Innovations of a son

casale del giglio Paolo and Antonio, Casale del Giglio, Lazio

However, it would be another two decades before vines truly took root in his ground. In 1985, Dino’s son, Antonio was a sprightly twenty-five-year-old who had grown up escaping Rome to motorbike at the family’s estate. For Antonio, Casale del Giglio had simply been a countryside paradise, but when he joined the family wine business, he saw the land in a new light. Winemaking, while a large part of the culture in many other regions of Italy, continued to be a small part of Lazio; a few communities, such as Frascati, made a popular local wine. Although Rome is the capital of the country, its surrounding countryside did not attract much attention for wine. Antonio, like his father, saw this as potential. He hired a young enologist, Paolo Tiefenthaler from Trentino, and the two twenty-something year-olds crafted a risky plan in pursuit of the best vines.

Research, research, research

Casale del Giglio Casale del Giglio, Lazio

Antonio knew that they would need to rely on data and science to make the best wine. Without the centuries of tradition that dictated winemaking in the rest of Italy, there was no knowledge to draw on. So, Antonio and Paolo enlisted the help of Italy’s best wine science academics to design a research experiment that would hopefully yield at least one vine variety that could make good wine from their terroir. Then the two set out to explore three other famous wine regions: Bordeaux, California, and Australia. They specifically chose these areas for their coastal environment; the Agro Pontino valley has a maritime climate and they wanted to ensure they leveraged that to its fullest potential. In 1987, the duo planted over 60 different varieties. They tested and tasted each variety of grape and within a year Antonio and Paolo had struck wine; the soils lend themselves well to the cultivation of Syrah, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon, Viognier and Petit Manseng.

Continued innovation for continued success

Building on the success of this research, Antonio has continuously rooted the development of Casale del Giglio in science-backed innovation. Paolo is still the lead enologist and the two have become renown over the past 23 years for pioneering viticulture in Lazio. Their innovative approach has extended to planting native vine varieties and testing them for quality. Now, alongside their international varieties, Casale del Giglio grows Bellone, Biancolella and Cesanese, native vines from Lazio and Campania, bringing them a new awareness and introducing their flavours to a broader audience. Sometimes you just need a little innovation to power your dreams.
Visit Casale del Giglio for yourself with a Grand Wine Tour! Explore the Roman countryside in all its Autumn glory, discover the ancient ruins dug at the foot of the vineyards and taste a wide selection of award-winning wines.