There’s expertise, there’s old school, and then there’s Le Ragose. For five decades now this small, family-run winery in Negrar has developed its reputation as something of a jewel, a bastion of quality over quantity and benchmark for conscientious and loving winemaking.
In 1969 an oenologist called Arnaldo Galli (who 20 years before had graduated from the celebrated wine college in Conegliano, in the heartland of Prosecco), and his wife Marta, purchased a promising but abandoned piece of land in Negrar, the highly-rated valley in Valpolicella Classica, an estate called Le Ragose.
Much of the region had been left to destitution in those decades, as some winemakers chased more fertile land and greater yields to maximise profits. Galli, however, was a real wine lover, and a believer in excellence, and he had assessed that his new land had more potential than anyone had given it credit.
The first thing he noticed was the relative altitude of the vines. At around 300m above sea level they are at the highest point in Negrar, which has one crucial advantage in particular. The valleys of Valpolicella are often subject to periods of dense fog, which the vines of Le Ragose avoid by being above them, allowing greater humidity control and sun exposure than further down the slope. The other aspect that appealed to him was the soil – always a plus in Negrar, the Le Ragose site had particular qualities of its own, such as the presence of mineral-rich tufa. The third advantage he had was his wife: Marta Galli was one of the crucial people in reviving the reputation of Valpolicella as a region, winning a ‘Winemaker of the Year’ award in 1990, her work earning her the nickname ‘La Signora del Vino’, and all starting from a time when women winemakers were all too rare.
The winery is now run the second generation, Arnaldo and Marta’s sons Marco and Paolo, trained respectively in wine agriculture and business. The family belief in the sites, in the value of quality winemaking, in the primacy of traditions and the value of trusting the vines has never wavered. Today, they may sometimes be hard to find, but Le Ragose, great innovators and guardians of tradition, are well worthy of the effort.