LA GUARDIENSE, Benevento
In the post-war years, Campania was a strikingly poor agricultural region, with little infrastructure and limited access to markets. Grapes were sold to wineries in Naples and Rome, and prices were controlled by the buyers – often below the cost of production. Established in 1960, La Guardiense is an important co-op located in the region of Sannio, near the city of Benevento, created to provide a reliable market for local grower’s grapes. It began with 33 members who decided to control their own fate, to produce and sell the wine made from their grapes. Today, there are 1,000 members farming 1,500 hectares, and La Guardiense is one of the largest co-operative wineries in Italy.
Domizio Pigna is the visionary president of the organization, elected by members every 2 years. He’s been in this role for more than 20 years, and is only the 3rd president in La Guardiense’s 50-year history. Dr. Pigna is responsible for guiding the members to high-quality grape growing, and away from a volume mentality. His vision is to contribute to the social as well as economic vitality of his region, and he is credited with creating an environment in which many other wineries benefit from improved research and resources. La Guardiense continually invests in projects designed to improve the long-term quality and prospects for its’ members. These include clonal and vineyard-management research, as well as sustainable, organic and sulphur-free production methods. With a particular focus on Falanghina and Aglianico, La Guardiense has become the most respected producer of these varietals in the region. Three consecutive ‘Tre Bicchieri’ awards for their ‘Janare’ Falanghina confirm the standing.
Sparkling Falanghina is a specialty of the winery, and in 2014 an impressive new facility for the production of tank-fermented spumante was completed, one of the most technologically advanced facilities of its kind.
In his continual investment in improving quality through research and experimentation, Dr. Pigna brought the renowned winemaker and consultant Riccardo Cotarella to La Guardiense in 2010. Since then, Cotarella has directed vineyard and winemaking to help make La Guardiense one of the most highly-regarded wineries in Campania, as well as one of the top co-op wineries in Italy.
The premium range of wines is called ‘Janare’. In the Sannio region, Janare are the witch-like mythical figures of popular culture. They allude to the indomitable spirit of the women in the area and to their ability at casting evil and deadly spells on their enemies. According to the legend these witches hide their true identity during the day, and at night, after covering their bodies in a magic ointment, they fly into the air on their broomsticks. Before flying into the sky the witches would gather in a coven and recite the famous words Sott’a l’acqua, sott’a ‘r vient, sott’a la noc d’Bnvient – ‘Under the water and under the sky, under the Walnut tree of Benevento’. In this way La Guardiense pays homage to this ancient tradition of the Sannio region and in so doing hopes to keep it alive.