Sixty years ago, the first bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio was introduced to the Italian market. Championed by Count Gaetano Marzotto, the patriarch of one of Italy’s most prominent wine families, the delicate white wine was one of the first single-variety bottlings of Pinot Grigio and featured grapes grown in Trentino-Alto Adige. His goal in making the wine was to help rejuvenate the area’s farmlands while also creating a livelihood for his family and employees.
After the wine debuted on U.S. shelves in the late 1970s, the Santa Margherita brand helped put Pinot Grigio on the radar of American wine drinkers. The wine had massive appeal and quickly became a consumer favorite. Today, Pinot Grigio is one of the world’s most popular grapes.
In 2015, the family launched its own importing and marketing arm in the U.S., called Santa Margherita USA.
“They wanted to continue to build their story in the United States and introduce the marketplace to both the renowned and the undiscovered regions of Italy, and the beauty and unique wines each of those areas can offer,” says Vincent Chiaramonte, president and CEO of Santa Margherita USA.
The name Santa Margherita is still synonymous with its iconic Pinot Grigio, but the importer—who maintains the brand’s place in American wine glasses—is forward-thinking and committed to continuing to introduce wine lovers to other regions of Italy.
“We are not just about Pinot Grigio,” says Chiaramonte. Santa Margherita remains the anchor of the importer’s portfolio, and earlier this summer, the brand unveiled a new rosé, its first product introduction in the past decade.
The company also imports 10 other wineries: The Franciacorta producer Ca’ del Bosco; Cà Maiol in Lombardy; Kettmeir in Alto Adige; Masi, a benchmark for the Amarone category; Sassoregale, in the heart of the Maremma region; Lamole di Lamole in Chianti Classico; Fattoria Sardi in northwest Tuscany; Torresella in the Veneto; Mesa in Sardinia; and Feudo Zirtari on the island of Sicily.
The family-owned company’s values harken back to Santa Margherita’s founder, Marzotto, whose respect for local agriculture was paramount.
“When he established the company in Italy in 1935, he built his dream on the foundation of his love for the land, the respect for the local agriculture alongside his desire to build a community for people,” says Chiaramonte. “We work with winery partners who believe in authenticity, heritage, quality and sustainability. They’re committed to the long term—to generations, not moments.” That dedication to families, local traditions and quality products is why Wine Enthusiast names Santa Margherita USA the Importer of the Year.