A Commitment to Italy’s Indigenous Grape Varieties

The wines of Veneto’s Davide Vignato.

Davide Vignato, owner and winemaker of the Veneto winery that bears his name, is so committed to his locality that almost all his wine is made from only two indigenous grape varieties. Vignato is the third generation of his family to make wine in the small community of Gambellara (population about 3,500), which is located about an hour’s drive west from Venice. Gambellara is a designated appellation (Denominazione di Origine Controllata, or DOC) in its own right, with a little more than 20 producers and a total vineyard area of about 200 hectares – of which Vignato cultivates 23 hectares.

The two local grape varieties that make up nearly all his production are both white: garganega, which is well known as the main grape of Soave wines, and the little-known durella. The only other wine Vignato makes under his own name is a merlot. If this variety seems completely out of character—it’s neither white nor local—he explains that when his grandfather got tired of drinking nothing but white wine, he planted a hectare of merlot in 1950.



Davide Vignato also grows other varieties, but he sells the grapes to other producers, including glera grapes for the production of prosecco. Selling these grapes, he says, enables him “to follow his dreams” with the wines he himself makes. Moreover, he wants to increase his production from the current 40,000 cases of wine to 60,000.

This is not a matter of increasing production at the expense of quality. Vignato has a hand in his wine from vine to bottle—indeed, beyond bottle, as he travels widely to represent his wines. His attention to vines and the land led him to adopt organic viticulture for all his vineyards, making him the first producer in DOC Gambellara to achieve this. All his vines grow in volcanic soils, and his aim as a winemaker is to “transfer the soil and grapes to my wine.” Vignato says the volcanic soils, which include some spectacular black basalt columns, give his wines some “extra saltiness and minerality.”




These wines deliver great purity of flavour and excellent fruit-acid balance. Davide Vignato Cuvée dei Vignato Sparkling 2018 is made from the durella variety, whose high acidity suits it perfectly for sparkling wine. Here the vibrant acidity is paired with bright citrus flavours for a taut but friendly texture. His El Gian Garganega 2020 is a lovely, fresh wine with white fruit and citrus flavours and zesty acidity, while the Col Moenia Garganega 2021 shows more depth of fruit and structure while retaining freshness and vibrancy.



Davide Vignato 1950 Merlot 2019 fits perfectly into the winery’s stylistic framework. This is a gorgeous merlot that’s a million miles from the simple, fruity, often jammy offerings that go by that name. Here’s an elegant, finely structured merlot with nuanced red fruit flavours and carefully calibrated acidity. Little wonder that Vignato proudly pours it, even though merlot sits outside his focus on the local.

Also made from merlot is one of Vignato’s sweet wines, Davide Vignato Ca’ Ronchi Passito.  The grapes are dried on trays for three months so that they shrivel as they lose water, thus concentrating the flavours and sugars. The wine is aged 12 months in barrels, and the result is intense red fruit and caramel flavours, a good level of sweetness, and lovely fresh acid.





Davide Vignato’s wines are a reminder of the treasures to be found in many of Italy’s tiny appellations. Too often they languish in the shadow of the classic wines of Italy, such as chianti, barolo, and amarone, but once they are exposed to the light, their qualities become clear. Only a fifth of Vignato’s wines are sold in Italy, with most going to markets in the United States, Canada, and the rest of Europe. They clearly resonate with many wine-lovers.



Wines from Davide Vignato

Davide Vignato Cuvee dei Vignato Sparkling 2018

Davide Vignato El Gian Garganega 2020

Davide Vignato Col Moenia Garganega 2021

Davide Vignato 1950 Merlot 2019

Davide Vignato Ca’ Ronchi Passito 2018