In the Veronese dialect, “scaia” is a colloquialism that describes pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano that resemble the chalky limestone pebbles and rocks found in the vineyards of the region. It’s also the name of a line of wines from the Castagnedi brothers — Armando, Tiziano, Paola, and Massimo, siblings who expanded their father’s plantings in the heart of Valpolicella and in 1995 founded Tenuta Sant’Antonio, a 100-hectare-plus holding that produces a variety of wines, including Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Soave, and Recioto della Valpolicella, among others.
Scaia is a project designed to, in the words of the brothers, think about classic wines in a new way: “Scaia is not just a line of wines: it is a new way of thinking about wine, in a land where tradition has great value. From the classicism of historic wines like Soave and Valpolicella sprang the necessity to create something new, closer to our requirements as young producers.
“We began with three young Scaia wines, made only in steel barrels, in a constant search for freshness, pleasant drinking and aromatic complexity. We then added two other, more complex wines, which have not lost those characteristics, even though they are partly produced with slightly withered grapes.”
For our Scaia tasting, we lined up the 2017 Scaia Gargenega / Chardonnay and the 2016 Corvina Veneto IGT (both of which come with a suggested $13 retail price) and some bread, cheese, and charcuterie. These wines are the “youngsters” that never see wood — Scaia’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Veneto IGT are aged in oak, by the way — and are lively and fresh, perfect for a sunny afternoon, light food, and conversation. (Scaia wines are imported to the United States exclusively by Dalla Terra Winery Direct.)
We had chilled the Gargenega/Chardonnay to around 55 Fahrenheit, and the delicate citrus bouquet was stunning. Orange, honeysuckle, a touch of pineapple … nothing overbearing, but a lot to like, clean and crisp and welcoming. The supple acidity came through admirably on our first taste, and the balance impressed.
Alcohol clocks in at 12.5 percent, and residual sugar is 8.5 g/l, a combination that gives a lot of satisfaction. The Gargenega (the sixth most widely grown grape in Italy), constituting 55 percent of the grapes used, possesses its trademark almond hints as well, and the Chardonnay, at 45 percent, softens the reception. We enjoyed this wine with a Pecorino and some bread sticks, but I would not think twice about serving it with seared scallops, a pea risotto, or even poached lobster. The production of the 2017 was 100,000 bottles, so you should not have any problem procuring yours.
Next, the 2016 Corvina Veneto IGT. The grape — Corvina — is grown almost exclusively in Veneto (small amounts are farmed in Argentina), and is naturally high in acidity, so it is often blended with other red wines to create, for example, Valpolicella and Bardolino. Scaia makes no apologies about this being 100 percent Corvina, however, and the result is more than satisfying.
Ruby red in color, the Scaia Corvina offers wood smoke, cherry, blackberry, and raspberry (the latter of which softened as the wine opened) to the nose. To many, a 100 percent Corvina will be something unfamiliar, but the intriguing aromas are alone well worth the $13 price here. And your first taste will only increase the perceived value of this wine.
Tannins are smooth, and the balance will have you pouring more. We paired the wine with a cured pork sausage and pepperoni, but you might try a hamburger or bacon and tomato sandwich. Alcohol comes in at 13 percent, and 45,000 bottles were produced.
The brothers Castagnedi have a great thing going here, and I am looking forward to sampling their barrel-aged wines soon. In the meantime, another bottle of the Gargenega / Chardonnay is chilling, awaiting its pairing of a roast chicken.
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