“The last name Ferrari is like the last name Smith, it’s one of the most common surnames in Italy” Anna Bertolini, press officer for Ferrari Trento, said when I asked about the name the wine company shares with one of the world’s most famous car brands. It’s an overlap that became even more relevant in 2021 when Ferrari Trento was named the official toast of the F1.
In 1902, inspired by the champagne method, Giulio Ferrari began making the sparkling wine that would launch the Ferrari Trento brand and lead to the development of the Trento DOC appellation. With rigorous requirements around allowing a wine to be labelled as Trento DOC, including limits on grape yield, restrictions around vine planting and cultivation and a minimum time on lees, the method Ferrari brought to Trento – after years training in Champagne – aimed to cultivate sparkling wines of the highest quality. It was this that Bruno Lunelli recognised in 1952 when Ferrari decided to sell up. A local wine shop owner, Lunelli saw a chance to take an iconic brand and bottle to the next level; and that he did. At the time he purchased the company it was making around 9,000 bottles a year. Now, they number around 7 million.
And yet, mention the name Ferrari and it’s likely people will immediately conjure up images of glossy red cars. Which may have remained the case with those who aren’t enamoured with high quality sparkling wines, until 2021, that is. It’s the ultimate marketing opportunity; your bottle used in an iconic spray that has dominated the podium of one of the world’s biggest sports since 1967 when, on a whim, Dan Gurney showered the crowd with a bottle of champagne after winning 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a move that has taken Ferrari Trento from a wine appreciated by connoisseurs and responsible for the development of an entire appellation, to a worldwide, household name.
Take, for example, my brother. While not exactly immune to good wine – he worked in wine marketing and developed a discerning palate while working behind the bar at one of Auckland’s best restaurants – it’s not often he gets excited by a brand or house I’m visiting. But when I told him I was heading to the home of Ferrari Trento his response was almost instant: “Is it as good as it’s made out to be on the podium?”
Dan Gurney showered the crowd with a bottle of champagne after winning 24 Hours of Le Mans
Although it’s not exactly the glitz and glamour of the heights of motorsport that anyone would be thinking of when standing at the home of Ferrari Trento. Hidden at the foot of The Dolomites, Villa Margon is an astounding sixteenth century home that sits proudly among some of the Ferrari Trento vineyards. Sequestered in rolling hills capped off by dominating, craggy peaks synonymous with the mountain range, Villa Margon is like a time capsule. Camilla Lunelli, granddaughter of Bruno Lunelli and communications director at Ferrari Trento, explained that because the villa sits quite literally at the end of the road, and is hidden entirely from view in the town below, it was kept safe from looting throughout the various wars that have taken place in the centuries since it was built. This has allowed the house to remain entirely protected, full of its original furniture and impeccably preserved frescoes that Lunelli tells us haven’t had a lick of paint added to them in the subsequent 500 years.
It’s the perfect place to learn about the Ferrari Trento brand. While Villa Margon well predates this impressive sparkling wine, it emphasises the significance of good winemaking to this area in its presence in many of the scenes that line the walls of the villa (including a room where each individual fresco depicts one of the 12 months of the year, with three of them being dedicated to the winemaking process). After an initial tasting of some of the house’s key bottles, including the Ferrari Maximum blanc de blancs (crisp and well-balanced with initial floral notes countered by a balancing, almost biscuity finish), the Ferrari Maximum rosé (rich with notes of red berries and an almost savoury undertone), and the Ferrari Maximum demi-sec (a surprisingly nutty and well-balanced wine with hints of sweetness that manages to avoid the cloying nature of many demi-secs), we ascended a steep incline in the woods behind the villa. Slowly sweating out the earlier glasses of bubbly and woefully inappropriately dressed for that level of exertion, I couldn’t help but wonder what on earth could warrant a hike after such indulgence. That is, until we emerged out of the trees into a vineyard that seemed crafted from stereotypical viticultural fantasies.
Mopping sweat from my brow, I took in the scene in front of me; swathes of vines meandered up the incline, stopping suddenly as they met the looming limestone peak above. In the opposite direction, virid hills seemed to rise out of the earth in every direction, the trees interrupted only for a smattering of houses or more cultivated patches of vines. It was like something from another world, breathtaking both in the fact that the climb had rendered me a little lacking in breath, but also that it seemed to catch in my throat with every new scene I saw.
It was also full of bugs, something that had me incessantly swatting but that is a crucial indicator of the sustainable nature of the vineyard. Biodiversity is key for growing grapes, as it encourages healthy vines but also contributes to the surrounding areas. Monocultures can often have a knock-on effect, disadvantageous to other natural areas around them. Meanwhile, a thriving ecosystem such as the one we were stood in, where vines were interrupted by clusters of trees, a beehive buzzed with life at the edge of the land and bugs hopped happily between bunches of grapes (and, occasionally, onto my arm), suggests not only positive management, but also delicious wine.
Lunelli tells us they haven't had a lick of paint added to them in the past 500 years
That was well and truly confirmed half an hour later as we stood in the frigid cellar at the Ferrari Trento winery, just a short drive downhill from Villa Margon. Cyril Brun, the house’s chef de caves (head winemaker), poured us all a glass from one of the steel tanks. The cloudy, dark fuchsia liquid was made up of crushed pinot noir grapes that had been fermenting for a few days, the very beginning of the winemaking process. Its flavour profile was significantly different from what it will be when it’s eventually bottled and left on the lees, but it was a good indication of what’s to come. “We don’t want what you’re drinking now to taste anything like what you’ve drunk from the bottle,” Brun told us. “If it does, then we’ve done something wrong.” And he’s right, it doesn’t. But it tasted like a distillation of what we had seen of the grapes earlier amongst the vines; vibrant, flavourful, and ripe with a sense of place.
It’s this I was thinking about early the next morning as we wove our way through miles of vines and clusters of apple orchards on our way out of Trento. Our destination was decidedly different to the pastoral peace of the previous day; swapping hushed winds for ear-splitting engines and trading in rolling pastures for crowded patches of burning hot tarmac. And yet, at least until 2025, this is as much the home of Ferrari Trento as those impossibly beautiful vineyards hidden among The Dolomites.
As the official toast of the F1, Ferrari Trento doesn’t just appear on the podiums. It flows freely in The Paddock Club, the most in-demand space at any race, where guests and revellers mingle with drivers and team members, have access to pit walks and get prime-time views of the racetrack itself. This was our destination for qualifying day at Monza Grand Prix, a venue that would be a dream for some people but came shrouded in mystique for me, someone more concerned with what was being served in the glasses than what was taking place on the track.
It didn’t take long, though, to get involved in the ear-splitting antics occurring at break-neck speed in front of us. Glass of Ferrari Trento in hand, I found myself getting more invested in the various contenders. I, too, was cheering when Carlos Sainz came in first, taking pole position for the following day, with fellow teammate Charles Le Clerc coming in third. The atmosphere was electric; Ferrari red smoke filled the race track and the chanting was so loud it shook the ground. I texted my brother a quick photo of the action below, accompanied by the message “it definitely tastes as good as you would think.”
I made sure to grab a bottle of Ferrari Trento at duty free when I flew from Milan Linate bright and early the following day. That afternoon, back in London, I sat on my couch and watched the Monza final, a frosty glass of the Trentodoc in my hand. As Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz ascended the podium and cracked open their bottles of Ferrari Trento, spraying themselves, their teammates and the crowd below, I considered the stark contrast between this side of the brand and the peace we had found among the vines in Trento. I suppose that’s the magic of a good sparkling wine: it can be steeped in history and start its life in bucolic splendour, but it is also the bottle we reach for when it comes to rambunctious celebration, whether that’s in front of the world, or in the privacy of your living room