Category Archives: the production side

The most civilized thing

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

In winter vines are like this, bare and empty

These words of Hemingway were perfect to describe wine as a final product, with all the meanings that it carries. The idea of “greatest perfection” and “great range of enjoyment” is clear to everyone. The role wine had in the civilization of the world is big, and it is underlined in a book by Tom Standage, which I’m going to read soon [if you are too lazy, you can find a synthesis here].

But the idea of my blog was to stick to a specific territorial context, and it is in this context that, on the way, I discovered that it’s the result of processes that change from person to person, from country to country. As a friend told me today, “behind a simple glass of wine there are stories, visions of the world” and these lives intersect each other in systems, groups tied up by common projects (think of I Dolomitici) or just to harvest, that make possible that “greatest perfection”.

Another wintry sight of Piana Rotaliana

Especially in systems like Trentino region, where most production is led in a cooperative way, everything related to wine has important ripercussions on the society, which strongly depend from it. From here to a higher level is but a short step: cooperation is a reality in many fields, from banks to houses to fruit market…

Now it's small, but after a sunny summer it will become a red, full Teroldego bunch...

As for wine production, the growers who give their grapes to the wine cooperatives are about 8.000, with 8.100 hectars of vineyards, over the 90% of the whole Trentino’s production. This system is very good if you think that winegrowers are not left alone to face the market, but they can count on a strong structure, and during a crisis, like last year, that has meant that even if the cooperative didn’t sell enough, the winegrowers have received a noteworthy remuneration. On the other hand this huge, strict structure doesn’t consider a priority to change the wrong agricultural practices, even if they claim that they respect the environment and so on. While talking to private winegrowers has clearly emerged the need for an overall change, which is impossible as long as the 90% of winegrowers shield theirselves with the wine cooperatives…

Three weeks later the grapes are bigger and bigger

Another thing that aroused my curiosity was the relation between wine, a old, mature product -as an economics professor would say- and creativity. Winemaking  is often a process built with a high level of creativity (think for example of the varieties of vines, the different blend you can make then in the wine cellar and so on). But the way designer (from Eoos to Mendini) and artists (I’ve seen Chia’s example) conceive different ideas of approaching the world of wine is always different and interesting. And it is always amazing finding that something is changing also in this region, thanks to South Tyrol which is always a step ahead of Trentino!

Vineyards in the early summer, ready to hold growing bunches

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Grape harvest

Just a few images to dive into the most cheerful, frantic and scented days of the year: the grape harvest! All relatives take part in this thing, especially children, who reach better and with less effort the bunches… Depending on the width of the vineyards the grape harvest can last up to a week. In the last years it has begun always later, quite in October. In a cooperative system, grapes are carried to the wine-cooperative, which determines its gradation; the higher it is, the most successful is the result.

(In)visible people

During my excursions in the world of wine I’ve talked with many people, some of them ended up in the articles of my blog, some of them have just given me some advice or infomation. I’ve concentrated myself on the production side, and in the production side I’ve talked about the leader figures (for example here and here) or about the organitations on the whole (for example here and here). But in the process of wine growing there are many other “invisible” people, whose contribute to the final result is necessary and precious.

How does the world of wine really work?  Three key figures, three different stories.

THE FARMER

There are people who own vineyards, but not always these people are the ones who cultivate it. Especially in other systems, where winegrowing is not the principal activity of a family: they delegate everything concerning the relationship with the vineyards. The farmers who look after every step of winegrowing are usually people without higher education, but they have an extremely deep know-how due to dedication and habit. These people deal with treatments, pruning and so on until the grape harvest.

THE CONSULTANT

In Trentino Region there’s an institution that highly influences and helps the life of wine growers: Istituto Agrario of San Michele.  Their consultants are in charge of divulging information, new techniques and so on to the wine growers, often by going personally to the vineyards. This service is essential because the farmers or the wine producers have not always the necessary skills.

THE OENOLOGIST

Every year grapes grow, at the end of September begins the harvest and then all the issue goes to the wine cellar: the process of  winemaking is really complex and for the time being  it’s hard for me to explain every step. But where there’s a complexity there’s always also a solution, in this case a specialized person who takes care and makes decisions in that field: the oenologist. He usually is a graduate chemist which is employed by wineries in order to “create the wine”. [Of course there’s a big polemic about who really makes the wine, whether the farmer or the oenologist…] The oenologist has to control the fermentation, chose the blends and to sum up he holds the crucial responsibility of the success of the wine.

Gruppo Mezzacorona

In the middle of Piana Rotaliana there’s a big building surrounded by hills and meadows which comes as a surprise in such an area: it is Cittadella del Vino, the head office and main winery of Mezzocorona Group, the biggest wine-group in Trentino and in Italy.

This group is formed by several other wineries, and now comprehends a lot of different brands, among which the most important are Mezzacorona, Rotari, Castel Firmian. The first association of producers goes back to 1904, and in over a hundred years the group has become bigger and bigger: it counts 1.500 members and its production comes from 2.600 hectars only in Trentino and South Tyrol. A big part of the production, nowadays, comes also from Sicily (Feudo Arancio – 1.000 hectars) and Tuscany (Castello di Querceto).

The horizon of this big group isn’t certainly local: 72% of the sales are abroad, in 50 different contries.

The success of this group has been awarded by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, which has proclaimed it as the “European Winery of the Year 2009”:

Mezzacorona is one of Italy’s biggest co-operative wineries, operating on a uniquely Italian model: pooling resources, fruit and farming to keep costs down and to provide stability in times of crisis. By combining tradition and state-of-the-art technologies, the group crafts modern value wines of immense popularity in the U.S., whose prices have stayed low, despite the economic crunch. For the group’s commitment to value, producing a long list of “Best Buys” in a wide range of quality products, Mezzacorona is Wine Enthusiast’s European Winery of the Year.

Gruppo Mezzacorona is the Italian leader in 5 varieties of wine: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Teroldego, Lagrein and Gewürztraminer.

Self production

In Piana Rotaliana, as well in quite all Trentino region, most part of the grapes production is absorbed by the wine cooperatives, that turn it into wine. The role these cooperatives have is very important, because they give certainty and uniformity to the wine growers. In a certain sense, however, these wine cooperatives limit the wine growers’ freedom with rules and restrictions.

One of them is the prohibition of the self production, or, better said, the prohibition of selling self-producted wine.

The opinions are contrasting: from a certain point of view this thing is considered necessary because of the structure of the cooperative itself , but  from the point of view of the ones who would like to introduce new agricultural practices this prohibition implies the fact that the wine growers’ aim is to produce as much as possible for the wine cooperative, without care for the conditions of the soil (even though wine cooperatives impose some production codes).

The indipendency of the wine growers, which would imply a higher consciousness and responsability in wine production is in trade-off with the need for the social structure assured by the wine cooperatives.

Elisabetta Foradori

Elisabetta Foradori is one of the most famous wine producers of Trentino region. Her story seems the typical story of the daughter of a wine grower who holds the reins of the winery after her father’s death. But things are not so easy. The story of Elisabetta Foradori is a great story of change, research work, passion, bravery.

I met her on a rainy day of April, but clouds and cold didn’t take out the fascination of the work in the vinery: a man was repairing something in the yard and I couldn’t help thinking how that yard can be in a ferment during the grape-harvest.

The exceptionality of the land pulled away from the Noce river, a native vine which had to be re-discovered, a vinery inherited maybe too soon… Elisabetta Foradori studied at Istituto Agrario San Michele and then, helped by her mother Gabriella, began to run the family winery in the ’80s. Her first aim was to make the most of Teroldego vine, which wasn’t exteemed as it is nowwadays. Elisabetta Foradori concentrated on this vine and she was one of the first ones who did it. The first evidence of Teroldego in Piana Rotaliana dates back to 1383, but during the centuries many things changed, for example in 1700-1800 one of the most important economic activities was the cultivation of silkworms, with the consequent put aside of wine production.

In 1984, when Elisabetta Foradori began to work in her own winery, her efforts were all aimed at the selection of varieties of Teroldego. The following step was to let public know the wine and to work on oenologic process, i.e. work in the wine cellar in order to reach a special wine. These efforts were awarded by 3 bicchieri (an important award given by Gambero Rosso guide), and it was a period, as she told me, “in which receiving a 3bicchieri could still change your life“.

Foradori became a world-famous name of quality; it was a really interesting situation -economically- and change could be dangerous. But in 2000-2001 Elisabetta Foradori decided to change the whole system of her vineyard; she understood that all the efforts made in order to re-discover Teroldego vine needed a new approach to the whole growing/production process: she took up the Stainerian theory.

These last 10 years have been crucial because the biodynamic approach isn’t easy, there aren’t rules to follow but it’s based on the observation of nature, on the integration of the relations that are in the vineyard. “It’s a method that lets me take life in the agricultural practices“.

Not using pesticides and the like is not easy, but it’s more difficult when you are surrounded by wine growers who spray every kind of poison in the air… In this extent the role of the wine cooperatives could be determining because they could impose strict rules but they don’t do it (while in South Tyrol it happens, for example in Tramin wine cooperative).

The risk of such a radical repositioning was not being understood by the consumers. “Fortunately it didn’t happen, there’s a movement which moves from the bottom and which asks exactly the product we do“.

Foradori produces 3 different wines: Foradori (Teroldego DOC, a production of 130,000 bottles per year, vine grown in Mezzolombardo), Granato (100% Teroldego with a different aging, 40,000 bottles per year) and Myrto (a blend of Sauvignon and Incrocio Manzoni, 20,000 bottles per year). The wines are better and better every year and that’s the most important answer to the question whether the choice of changing the production system was right.

Foradori winery is formed by 8 people (between the work in the vineyards and in the office): it is a small  group that exports in 30 countries. The wine is certainly a prestigious one, and thanks to it Teroldego is well-known in Italy and abroad.

FORADORI
Via Damiano Chiesa, 1
38017 Mezzolombardo (TN)
info@elisabettaforadori.com
www.elisabettaforadori.com/

I Dolomitici

In a situation where the biggest part of the production is caught by wine cooperatives, for private producers becomes difficult to introduce changes on a large-scale, for example in the safeguard of biodiversity.

11 wine producers, tied up by friendship and by a common vision, have created a consortium: “I Dolomitici”. The purpose is to allow the authentic expression of the territory, through a shared production ethic.

The idea is to create an ideal wine box (which usually comprehends 12 bottles). The 12th bottle should be the wine coming from a vineyard that they “saved”. It was Dolomitici’s first action: they adopted the vineyard (called Enantio, but the native vine is called Lambrusca, which is different from the more famous Emilia Romagna wine), worked on it and now they’re waiting for the results. Because the first gift you need in wine production is patience.

Here is their manifesto, and a blog that follows their adventures.

The 11 wine producers are:  Castel Noarna [Noarna di Nogaredo], Cesconi [Pressano] Dalzocchio [Rovereto] Elisabetta Foradori [Mezzolombardo] Eugenio Rosi Viticoltore Artigiano [Calliano] Francesco Poli  [Santa Massenza] Gino Pedrotti [Lago di Cavedine] Maso Furli [Pressano] Molino dei Lessi [Maso Rosabel – Lavis] Vignaiolo Fanti [Pressano] Vilar [Villa Lagarina]