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16 Ottobre 2006

Matt Kramer’s Making Sense of Italian Wine - 2006

Discovering Italy’s Greatest Wines and Best Values Teroldego

Region: Trentino (northeast Italy); in the Campo rotaliano plain about twenty miles north of the city of Trento.

Grape: 100 percent Teroldego (red)


The Tradition: Teroldego reveals just why, and how, Italy has so many grape varieties. Like Moses washed up in the bulrushes, teroldego is found only in one spot: a large, flat, very gravelly river bottom plain near the Adige River in northern Italy called Campo Rotaliano.
The question. A la Moses, is: How did teroldego get there? You teroldego is distinctively different from any other red wine grape, yet it does taste like some similar, known-to-be-indigenous varieties such as lagrein. Genetic research reveals that teroldego is indeed related to lagrein (grown to the north, along the Adige River), as well as Marzemino (grown south around lake Garda) and Syrah who knows?). all of these, and probably yet other varieties, combined to create a wholly new grape that came to be christened Teroldego.
Even the origin of Teroldego’s name are open to dispute. Some way it drives from the German teer or tar, which flavour the wine (appetizingly ) evokes. Others submit that it comes from its traditional trellising technique, involving wires or telle. Nobody really knows.
What is known is this: Teroldego likes low fields. This I a key fact because when teroldego is pruned for low yields (fewer clusters per vine), what results is a memorable, lush, intense red wine with few tannins and a real come.-hither quality with scents of berries, tar, black and wild cherries along with whiffs of herbs allies to a lush, dense texture. But when it is a not low yielding, Teroldego is just another enjoyable Italian red of indeterminate quality.

How It’s Changed: Far too long: Teroldego supplied a local market content to quaff a pleasingly soft red wine. Such Teroldego were certainly better than other red wines in the zone, hence the historical local acclaim. But when you taste such specimens you know in a sniff and a sip why they were “local.” (not every wine, however appealingly quirky or unique, justifies a world audience.)
Then along came the strong-willed, high-minded, ambitious Elisabetta Foradori. While still in her twenties, she single-handedly transformed her family winery, now called Azienda Agricola Elisabetta Foradori, not just into the best producer in the district but into a world ambassador for the previously unrecognized-unrealized, really-greatness of Teroldego.

Noteworthy producers (The Traditionalists/The Modernists): Relatively few Teroldegos are exported to America, in part because there isn’t that much produced: about 375,000 cases from fewer than a thousand acres of vines. That’s the production of just one good-size Napa Valley winery.
Reasonably good Teroldego con be had from Zeni. A good part of the area’s production gets sluiced into the local winegrowers’ cooperative, Cantina Rotaliana. The results are ho-hum. Diego Bolognani, a small produce, offers a good one.
But really, only one Teroldego producer matters: Elisabetta Foradori. Happily,
Her wines are amply distributed. Foradori’s regular Teroldego is always a good buy. It’ pure, dense, and oak-free, an exemplar of the variety. Foradori’s signature wine is called Granato. It’s richer, lusher, more intense, and sees some time in small oak barrels. It also rewards as much as ten years worth of cellaring, where the regular bottling is good to go upon release. Granato is, natch, more expensive – but worth it.

What Do The Locals Eat With This Wine? Trentino cuisine is a mixture of Venetian, Lombard and Hapsburg (Austrian) tastes. One sees, surprisingly to the unprepared, a lot fo strudels, as well as dumplings. Mushrooms abound as well. Not least is polenta (cornmeal mush), which is a staple. With a wine like Teroldego, the locals would certainly choose game such as pleasant or venison, or a stuffed chicken, or more luxuriously, a capon. Teroldego is a perfect foil for steak, turkey, braised meats of any kind, or just a good, simple pork chop.

One Man’s Taste – Whose Wine Would I Buy? Obviously it’s Foradori. There’s really no competition. And if your interest (and wallet) is sufficient, do seek out Foradori’s signature wine called Granato.

Worth Searching For? Absolutely worth an effort.

Similar Wines From The Same Neighborhood: Lagrein from further north in the Alto Adige region.


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