This is a 4-part series on women winemakers who are making waves in Italy not only for producing award-winning wines in a traditionally male-dominated field, but also for their visionary efforts in sustainable viticulture and investment in the cultural heritage of their territories. Let’s raise our glasses and toast to their continued success!
Meet Elisabetta Foradori of Azienda Agricola Foradori
Though Elisabetta Foradori was “born among the vines”, the celebrated winemaker admits she didn’t originally intend to pursue a career in viticulture. It was a sense of duty that initially drove her to take over the family’s estate in Trentino after her father’s unexpected passing. At 20-years-old, she enrolled into the San Michele all’Adige wine school and made her first vintage for the family’s winery in 1984.
Through dedication and hard work, passion eventually blossomed — as did success. By the 1990s, Elisabetta had become dubbed the “Queen of Teroldego” for her award-winning wines made from the eponymous red grape: a local varietal that had been previously overlooked.
An ancient grape genetically related to Pinot Noir and Syrah, Teroldego had mostly been used to make thin, commercial wines but Elisabetta saw greater potential in the grape. She gradually replaced the high-yielding clones with massale cuttings of the estate’s oldest vines and then patiently trained the new plantings to grow in the French-guyot style, a practice suited to Trentino’s cooler climate and widely adopted in the world’s most prestigious wine growing areas. She also introduced organic farming on the estate.
The Teroldego grapes flourished and the cantina Foradori began to be known for rich, complex wines that matched its dramatic Alpine setting.
Curiosity and intuition prompted Elisabetta to keep experimenting in the vineyard and she began to explore biodynamic farming in the early 2000s. The wine industry, known for its mass-market trends and point-score palates, had left the winemaker disenchanted and she sought a holistic approach to her vineyard — one which would leave behind a thriving ecosystem for her four children. In 2009, she procured the Demeter certification for biodynamic farming, which sees harvests aligned with the cycles of the moon and promotes animal husbandry to generate natural fertility.
“The journey back to Mother Earth is not an easy one,” she explains. “To work with nature, and not against it, commits us to an exciting and complex journey that involves the farmer’s spirit and routine, changing his sensitivity and refining his ability to listen.”
The Foradori estate’s wines are all made from indigenous or local grape varieties: Teroldego, Manzoni Bianco, Nosiola and Pinot Grigio. And like the land in which they are born, Foradori wines are alive. To enhance the benefits of biodynamic farming and ensure the wines’ vitality, Elisabetta introduced native yeasts, longer macerations and uses minimal amounts of sulfur dioxide to preserve the wine.
In addition to using steel, oak and cement containers for fermentation, the winery also uses Spanish clay tinajas (amphorae) to age some of the wines. According to Elisabetta, clay “gives full freedom of expression to the grapes and gives the wine the chance to reconnect to the earth.”
Over the past decade, Elisabetta’s children have joined her in the family business. Her sons have taken up the wine production while her daughter, Myrtha, has spearheaded the transformation of the family’s estate into a fully polycultural farm. Today, the Azienda Agricola Elisabetta Foradori is home to a vegetable garden and pastures for Tyrolean Grey cows that are responsible for the estate’s milk and cheese production. The family hosts a weekly market of their cheese, eggs and organic produce, as well as seasonal events for the community which include talks, music and of course, wine.
“Our aim is to develop a self-sufficient farming organism. Humans, plants, animals and minerals all have synergetic roles, so we give each one equal consideration in our day-to-day activities,” explains Elisabetta.
If you enjoy rich wines that express a vital force, complexity and sense of place, I cannot recommend Elisabetta’s wine enough. Their flavor and energy will embrace your palate and linger as long as you let them.
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