Elisabetta Foradori: Daring Authenticity in the Dolomites

As far as Elisabetta Foradori was concerned, the backroom of the tiny wine bar in Piacenza could have been the stage in front an international audience of wine connoisseurs in Rome or New York. She speaks with authenticity no matter who is listening or tasting. And not surprisingly, her wines do, too.

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We first tasted Foradori Fontanasanta Nosiola Vigneti Dei Dolomiti IGT 2013…soft straw color, fresh and clean but with delicate complexity. It has structure but isn’t heavy (12,5% alcohol)

The native variety, Nosiola, was historically used to make Vino Santo Trentino, a sweet wine made by grapes that have “noble rot” and have been dried before fermenting. Elisabetta puts the grapes instead into large, clay amphorae with their skins for eight months to make a dry white. Despite the long skin contact, it is not an “orange wine”. (I learned from another natural winegrower that after 3-4 months, the skins actually pull color back out of the wine.)
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When I was at Foradori earlier in the fall during the harvest, the amphorae were still open. She lifted one of the white canvas cloths…
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Thrust her arm down in the fermenting grapes and mixed them around. They do their own thing. “In school they taught us that the grapes would never ferment without added yeasts, but mine do,” she said laughing.

Next at the tasting, Elisabetta presented another amphora wine made the same way: 8 months on the skins with no added yeasts. Foradori Teroldego Morei Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2013. It is a single vineyard cru from the some of the oldest vines in her Campo Rotiliano vineyards. The vineyard is in rocky, alluvial soil, where a river once ran leaving lots of minerals behind.
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In Elisabetta’s words, “The wine is immediate.” It speaks to you directly without the intermediary of wood. It is crisp and fresh from the minerality of the soil, full of dark fruit, complex but not heavy, with an elegant earthiness from the grape variety and the place. Fascinating. Read earlier post.

As she served the next two wines, Foradori Granato Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2011 and 2006, she said, “Granato is the wine that secured the estate. Without it, I wouldn’t have gotten to the amphora wines.” She chose her best grapes, fermented them in large open wood “tini“…
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Then, aged the wine in wood barrels. It is rounder and richer than the amphorae wines. Both 2006 and 2011 were also warmer vintages, but the wines are still not overly heavy or fruity. They are elegant but characteristically Teroldego with crisp minerality to balance out the dark fruit.

In 1984, when Elisabetta first bottled it, she had just graduated at 19 from the San Michele dell’Adige School of Enology. Her mother had kept the estate going for seven years after her father’s early death.

The Teroldego grape variety was grown and sold in bulk for making coop wine, but she believed she could make elegant Teroldego at an international standard to compete with the Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots that were all the rage. Granato proved that she was right.

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To do that with the native Teroldego variety, she had to bring back clones of the variety that were diverse, not just chosen for producing lots of grapes for coop wine. After doing a “massale selection”, going through and making clippings of vines in her vineyards, she registered 15 new clones.

Over the next thirty years, she moved deeper and deeper into authenticity, moving first to organic methods then to biodynamic. These are some of the few, old vines that she still has in “pergola” instead of “guyot” training.
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During my visit this fall, she showed me her enormous compost where squash and pumpkins were sprouting spontaneously…IMG_2382

And I found a big one to sit on.
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Visiting Elisabetta or tasting her wines is an adventure. She never stops imagining, creating and experiencing. She is a serious and thoughtful person with a great sense of humor. Watch video..

Her wines can be found on wine searcher. for $15-30.

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