Elisabetta Foradori is making the greatest Teroldego in the world. This arcane varietal with it’s fresh berry, Alpine underbrush and pretty floral qualities reaches its greatest heights in her vineyards and cellars. Elisabetta took over the family estate upon the untimely death of her father back in the 80’s when she was just a teenager. Though born among the vines, this was a major change for her and she started questioning everything about the way they had been making wine to that point. The Trentino-Alto Adige wine growing culture, like the rest of Italy, had become very industrial by then with an emphasis on quantity over quality and and all of the industrial farming and winemaking practices that went along with it. That meant lots of machines and chemicals producing huge amounts of dull, anemic wines. It also meant no genetic diversity amongst the vines with the highest yielding clone of Teroldego being propagated almost exclusively.
Elisabetta began studying this ancient varietal and has been working to restore Teroldego to it’s former glory ever since by finding and selecting old clones and effectively “rebuilding” the vine. It also meant a sea change in farming practices with a slow conversion to organic and finally certified biodynamic (Demeter). Elisabetta’s approach balances technique with her philosophy of healthy farming and winemaking. The results are astounding. When I first tasted these wines about 20 years ago I thought they were great but the Foradori wines of today are an entirely different animal altogether in my opinion. Even better wines but transformed into something much more complex and soulful. She’s gone from making big wines, aged in small barrel and sold through a major Italian importer to using amphorae for some wines and partnering with Louis/Dressner for distribution here in the US.
Of the four Teroldego Elisabetta bottles here, these are not only the two rarest and most sought after but fascinating study in terroir. Both the Morei and Sgarzon vineyards lie in the relatively flat Campo Rotaliano, an alluvial plain between the towns of Mezzocorona and Mezzolombardo about a twenty minute drive from the regional capital of Trento. Unlike the whites grown here on the steep stony slopes of the Dolomites, Teroldego thrives in this sort of soil. The Morei, meaning dark in dialect, is full of stones and produces a dark, structured Teroldego while the sandy Sgarzon site gives a lacier textured wine with deceptive power. Both are fermented and aged in terra cotta amphorae with 8 months of skin contact which really helps define the two wines and amplify their distinctiveness.
Like the rest of Italy, 2014 was a challenging vintage with a cool, rainy summer which required diligent vineyard work to produce great wine and a drastic reduction in yield necessary to maintain quality. The results are outstanding with good producers, sketchy everywhere else. These are the best I've tasted since the 2010's and having tasted both against the 2013's very recently I'm thrilled to be getting my tiny allocation. The Sgarzon is always the prettiest and easiest to like of the two and the Morei a little more brooding and closed and these are exactly that. The Sgarzon is all raspberries, smoke, spice and mineral with a refreshing quality on the palate and long, easy finish while the Morei is more savory with dark fruit, herbs and mineral with a much more brooding personality. One thing they both have in in common is an extraordinary complexity and expressiveness for such young wines. These will age but are a joy to drink now. Very difficult to source and never much available at retail.