Custoza: An Undiscovered, Underappreciated Italian Wine Region

Food & Drink

Even frequent travelers to Italy aren’t likely to have heard about the small village of Custoza and its rich wine heritage that is waiting to be discovered.

Custoza is tucked—you might even say hidden—in the municipality of Sommacampagna, in the province of Verona, in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. It has a population of less than 1000 people.

However, the quiet, rural village is only one half-hour by car from Verona, one of most popular tourist destinations in Italy. Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is best known for the spectacular operas and concerts performed in its Roman amphitheater, and for its association with the timeless story of Romeo & Juliet.

Custoza is also less than an hour from the southern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake and a popular summer playground for tourists from around the globe. At the end of a peninsula jutting into the lake is the picturesque medieval town of Sirmione.

However, in Custoza itself, apart from the house (Ossario di Custoza) that memorializes the two battles with Austria that took place during the Italian Wars of Independence, the tiny village has no real tourist attractions.

Instead, it’s an ideal destination for slow travel by bike, e-bike or horseback, a place where visitors can fully enjoy the scenic countryside and sample outstanding food and wine at their own pace.

The white wines of Custoza

Custoza, the white wine of the region, derives its name from the location where its grapes are grown in the soft, morainic hills southeast of Lake Garda. It, too, is less well known than most other Italian wines.

Evidence suggests that this wine has been produced in the area from prehistoric times. But according to Vinography, it wasn’t until the late 1700s, that the wine was identified with the name Custoza.

Bianco di Custoza, the blended white white of the region, was established as a DOC in 1971; its name more recently changed to Custoza DOC in 1971. The area includes some 1200 hectares of vineyards with a mix of local producers and wine cooperatives.

Monte del Fra: Custodians of Custoza

Monte del Fra, a three generation, family-owned winery, is one of the larger producers in the area. In 1958, the Bonomo family rented two rooms in an old 15th-century monastery as well as some land to cultivate wheat, strawberries, peaches and grapes.

The winery founder, Massimo Bonomo, produced a small quantity of wine and sold it directly on site—way before the advent of websites—advertising its availability with a small sign on the road.

However, over six decades— through the family’s hard work, passion, and commitment to the land and sustainable agriculture—it now owns vineyards in all the main denominations of Verona: including Valpolicella Classico, Lugana, Soave and Bardolino.

The winery’s vineyards are among the most extensive in Verona covering 137 hectares, which they own, and another 68 that are leased.

Monte del Fra produces about 1,500,000 bottles every year, about 60% of the production is exported to 64 different countries. Some 38 employees work at the winery including every member of the family.

Here, the experience and stability of older family members is coupled with the tech savvy, inventiveness, and energy of younger ones.

“We are an experimental cellar,” says Marica Bonomo in an interview with Forbes.com, representing the third-generation of the family. “Our goal is to learn from nature and translate the terroir into wine.”

“Being the largest vineyard owner in the area, we consider ourselves ambassadors of the high quality of Veneto wines with a strong commitment to protecting the land for successive generations,” she adds.

Cà Del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC

Cà del Magro Custoza Superiore DOC is the Monte del Fra wine that is most representative of the terroir. It has been awarded Tre Bicchieri by Gambero Rosso for 12 years in a row; in 2021, Wine Spectator rated it among the Top 100 Wines of the year.

Cultivated in a single vineyard, this elegant wine is a blend of indigenous Garganega, Trebbiano Toscana, Cortesese and Incrocio Manzoni grapes trained on the Guyot system. The vines on which the grapes are grown are more than 50 years old, sited on a morainic hill in the heart of Custoza, with soil composed of calcium, clay and gravel.

It tastes fresh and fragrant with floral aromas of chamomile and white flowers with some fruit notes. Easy to drink, it offers strong minerality without too much acidity. Although intended to be savored while young, the wine has potential for aging.

In the glass, the wine has an intense straw yellow color with shimmers of gold. The first sip cleanses the mouth; subsequent ones remind you that you’re thirsty.

The wine is versatile wine and also reasonably priced, making it perfect as an aperitivo and also for pairing with pasta, pizza, risotto or seafood at lunch or dinner. It is often served by the glass in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Visiting Monte del Fra in Custoza

Should you decide to visit this four-season, family-owned and operated winery, be prepared for a bespoke experience that goes well beyond a traditional wine tasting.

Marica’s cousin Silvia helps visitors experience picnics in the vineyards; blind and vertical wine tastings; cooking classes showcasing local recipes for handmade Tortellini di Valeggio, Amarone Risotto and Sfogliatine from Villafranca (a donut shaped pastry); and organizes events pairing wine with music, art, or yoga for small groups.

She also arranges gourmet meals in the nearby village of Vallegio sul Mincio and stays at Boffenigo Panorama & Experience, a four-star hotel and wellness center perched on a hilltop with a view of the lake.


For additional information:

(Reservations for winery visits should be made in advance)

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