Sanguineto: Dora Forsoni’s Message in a Bottle

Dora Forsoni’s Sanguineto wines speak to me in Biblical terms. The message is: “Hold fast to what is good.” With rare tenacity and determination, she makes irresistible [glossary_exclude]Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG[/glossary_exclude] and [glossary_exclude]Rosso di Montepulciano DOC[/glossary_exclude] in a historic part of Tuscany where the earliest documentation of winemaking goes back to the year 789 and where the Etruscans made wine even before then.
(credit: Google Maps)

She has remained committed to farming despite the tempting tax breaks for “agriturismi” that have transformed many farms in the area into mere tourist meccas. And she has hewed to natural winemaking where most wineries, large and small, have succumbed to making industrial wines for the “international palate”, often adding international grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Her mission in life has been to pass down the strong tradition of grape growing and wine making that her father, Federico Fosoni, taught her. In 1963, he went into debt to buy the farm, Poderi Sanguineto I & II. (A podere is a farm.) He was primarily raising livestock, but he also planted Sangiovese, Mammolo and Canaiolo vines to make wine for himself.

The youngest of nine children, Dora began working side by side with her father at the age of 18 in 1968. Her tiny, slim frame belies a ferocious capacity to do everything he taught her with alacrity, including hunting and butchering animals. I first heard about her and her wines when I saw Senza Trucco, a documentary film about four extraordinary women making natural wines: Dora, Elisabetta Foradori, Nicoletta Bocca and Arianna Occhipinti. In the opening scene, Dora is taking an ax to a deer that she has brought in from the hunt.

In terms of winemaking, she learned the backbreaking work of planting and tending the vines manually, with a shovel and a hoe. (I took the photo below just after the harvest.) She learned to allow the plants to find their own healthy, equilibrium, without cutting back the tops or the leafy foliage. She learned to do the fall pruning only in December after all the sap had returned to the roots. She learned to allow the grapes to ferment in traditional cement vats with only their own yeasts and according to their own time and rhythm, with no temperature controls. She learned to let the wine rest and age in large, oak barrels.

In 1983, at her father’s death, Dora took over management of the farm and continued his practice of making some wine for herself and selling the rest of the grapes in bulk. In 1986, she met her partner, Patrizia Castiglioni, who came to live on the farm and manage the administrative side of things.

Then, ten years later in 1996, they found an old, unmarked bottle of Federico’s wine. It tasted so good that decided to act on their dream of bottling their own wines. In 1997, they began bottling and in 2001, put their first wines on the market.

On the day of my visit in mid-October, Patrizia showed me around the farm, now 50 hectares (125 acres) with only about 10% planted in vines. The rest is in grain, sunflowers, open fields and woodlands.

The vineyards are at about 300 meters altitude on a north-east facing slope above the Val di Chiana. Their proximity to three lakes (Montepulciano, Chiusi and Trasimeno) mitigates both cold and heat. The soil is red, ancient layers going back to the Pleistocene era of clay, stones and marine sediment.

We went into the downstairs of the spare farmhouse to taste.

Dora’s two signature wines are [glossary_exclude]Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG[/glossary_exclude] and [glossary_exclude]Rosso di Montepulciano DOC[/glossary_exclude]
Her [glossary_exclude]Vino Nobile[/glossary_exclude] is made primarily (70%) from Prugnolo Gentile, one specific kind of Sangiovese out of 110 different types, that has traditionally been used for [glossary_exclude]Vino Nobile[/glossary_exclude], and the rest (30%) from two local, traditional varieties, Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo. The wine is a brilliant ruby red. Aged two years in wood, it is rich, complex, robust and intense, but not heavy. Its fresh acidity and noble tannins clean the palate and make you want to drink another glass. Perfect with game, meat or aged cheese.

The [glossary_exclude]Rosso[/glossary_exclude] has a similar mix of grapes but is aged only one year in wood. It is also a complex and intense wine, but more delicate, the kind of wine that goes with just about everything from pasta to meat or vegetables on the grill or stews and soups.

As we were finishing, Dora came in from the vineyard. After a quick sip of wine she asked with eyes twinkling if I wanted to come with her to hear the wine fermenting. I followed her into the cellar and stood in the semi-darkness listening to the wine “singing”: blip, bloop, blip, blip, blop. Dora was filled with the wonder and excitement of a child on Christmas morning. A whole year of being with her vines day after day had culminated here in the “song” of her grapes becoming wine.

As we went from the fermentation tanks to the aging cellar, she explained that the grapes go through a tumultuous fermentation at first and then, a softer one which “cleans” the wine. She allows the wine as much time as it needs. The spent yeasts naturally fall to the bottom. (She does no filtering or clarification.) Then, the wine is moved into these large, old oak barrels, and it decides in its own time when it is ready to go through malolactic fermentation.

The sun was setting as I walked to my car carrying precious bottles that I had bought to take home. This proud rooster was marking his own path across the yard, leaving a large gaggle of geese, ducks and hens behind. He seemed to symbolize the fortitude needed to “hold fast to what is good”.

Sanguineto makes only about 40,000 bottles of wine, some of which is a Bianco Toscano and some a Rosato. Finding any of these wines is difficult but well worth the search. They sell for somewhere in the range of about $20-35 in the US, an incredible value. They can be found on Wine Searcher. Or ask your favorite wine shop to try to order it.

Via Sanguineto, 2/4
Acquaviva di Montepulciano (SI)
Tel: (+39) 0578 767782

October 30, 2018
Copyright Uncorked In Italy

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Tags: Doro Forsoni, Italian natural wine, Italian organic wine, Italian wine, Italy, natural Italian wine, organic, Organic Italian WIne, organic wine, Red wine, Sanguineto, Senza Trucco, Tuscany, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
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  1. Love those wines! Great couple and great estate.

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