Elisabetta Foradori continues winemaking success with Azienda Ampeleia

That Elisabetta Foradori is one of Italy’s most influential winemakers is beyond question. A third-generation winemaker, she took over the winemaking on her family estate in the Trentino-Alto Adige region 30 years ago, and at different points along the way, has seriously changed the game.
In the 1980s, Trentino took a back seat to other regions, especially its neighbor the Veneto, which had become famous, or perhaps infamous, for Soave and Valpolicella.

Given its proximity to Austria, a number of the grapes grown in Trentino were of German origin. Merlot was also popular, but one of Trentino’s native sons, teroldego rotaliano, was hardly known outside of the region.

In 1985, shortly after finishing her studies, Foradori carefully isolated 15 selections of teroldego, which seemed to do more for the grape’s reputation than the creation of the denominazione di origine controllata, which established guidelines for production methods and quality, in 1971.

Beyond resurrecting and championing a varietal that had been largely dismissed, Foradori began converting to biodynamic viticulture in 2002. We hear quite a bit about ecology-minded biodynamics today, but 12 years ago there were very few such producers, especially outside of France, who took it seriously. As with teroldego production, Foradori was ahead of her time, and she went on to influence others throughout Italy.

Around the same time, Foradori embarked on another venture, Azienda Ampeleia, in the Maremma region. Surrounded by apple and chestnut trees, she was attracted to its biodiversity. Taking advantage of three distinct microclimates and numerous soil types, Foradori makes several wines using Bordeaux grapes such as merlot and cabernet franc as well as Spanish and southern French varieties.

Today, Foradori’s assistant, Marco Tait, helps her run Ampeleia. Ampeleia will be certified organic, and it is on its way toward Demeter (biodynamic) certification as well. The flagship wine, Ampeleia ($45), is primarily cabernet franc grown at altitudes of 700 to 1,900 feet. Ampeleia also has two blends: Kepos ($25) and Unlitro ($20), a liter bottle that disappears much sooner than one would think.

I remember first trying Foradori’s wines more than 20 years ago and thinking, “Wow, teroldego, huh?” Since then, I’ve always been up for trying anything that Foradori makes. The wines have not only gotten better, but in the case of Ampeleia, they have rekindled my interest in the Maremma, an area that has not excited me for many years. Hopefully her success here will be as contagious as it was in Trentino-Alto Adige.

(Pamela S. Busch, The SF examiner)

<< back