One of the most important wine producers in Italy's Veneto region, Sergio Zenato, died July 11 after a long battle with leukemia. He was 73.
"Sergio had such charisma, such energy," said Leonardo LoCascio, Zenato's importer to the United States since 1980, who was at Zenato's bedside in a Verona hospital shortly before his death. "On his frequent visits to the U.S., promoting his wines, it was amazing how he could communicate with people even if he didn't speak their language. He did so much to take the wine of Veneto to the world."
Zenato founded the Zenato winery, based in San Benedetto di Lugana, near Lake Garda, in 1960. He is widely credited as having put the Lugana appellation on the wine map, with his successful range of whites, made from local grape variety Trebbiano di Lugana.
Zenato also introduced a range of traditional Veneto red wines, from grapes sourced from the nearby Valpolicella Classico region, including a Valpolicella Classico, a Superiore Ripassa, an Amarone Classico and the ever popular Amarone della Valpolicella Sergio Zenato Riserva, with its simple but distinctive "hand-written and autographed" label.
More recently, Zenato invested in almost 50 acres of vineyards in the Sant'Ambrogio commune, in the Valpolicella Classico zone. The replanted vineyards are due to go into production soon.
A funeral was held July 14 in the local church opposite the Zenato winery in San Benedetto di Lugana, attended by a large gathering of mourners, including many fellow producers. Some attendees gave testimony to his importance as a winemaker, his fun-loving yet serious-minded character and his generous involvement in local charities.
He is survived by his wife, Carla, and two children, Alberto and Nadia, both of whom have been active in the winery and will take over from where their father left off.