When it comes to biodynamic wines, there are enough false idols out there to make you think you’re being duped, yet in that same vein, there are also many who deliver exactly what their winemakers preach. And when that happens, there is no greater tasting pleasure. Such is the case with Elisabetta Foradori’s 2009 Teroldego from the foothills of the Italian Dolomites.
Elisabetta Foradori gravitated to biodynamic farming in 2000 in the northern reaches of Trentino-Alto Adige, the northeast corner of Italy. While many in her region aim to make the most commercially sound wines possible, often over-cropping and overcharging for what’s in the bottle, Elisabetta has taken pride in reviving ancient grape varietals native to the region. Over the years, she’s become the poster child for the Teroldego grape, and her advocacy for it has inspired her peers to follow suit. However, in spite of her enthusiasm for the grape, which some say is genetically linked to Syrah, she has been refused the right to put the DOC Teroldego Rotaliano on her labels. As she sees it, the quality she has been able to achieve by farming biodynamically, lowering yields by half of what are permitted in the appellation, and aging in neutral oak botti has elevated the standards well beyond DOC regulations, which is consequently ruffling feathers. Instead, she has sought the lesser IGT Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Teroldego appellation and is all the happier for it. But this is only scratching the surface of her artistry. In other bottlings, she has played with amphorae aging like the Ancients and is part of a consortium of other like-minded growers where experimentation is encouraged.
But what are words when there are taste buds? When the bottle was handed to me to taste, the only advice I got was to decant the 2009 bottling for an hour before serving. No sales pitch, no background story, no editorials—just a light mention that the grapes were biodynamically farmed. Hmm, I thought. We’ll see.
In Europe, the biodynamic movement took root in the early 1920s, as the development of synthetic chemicals became increasingly more enticing to farmers. While Rudolf Steiner, the godfather of biodynamics and anthroposophy, based his theories on ancient farming principles, the movement has been criticized for attracting a surplus of new-age gurus who have their heads in the clouds more than in the vineyards. One taste of a great biodynamic wine is all it takes to throw those criticisms out the window. Well-farmed grapes and a well-made wine can be transcendent.
And so, while cooking a few weeks ago, I lifted the bottle off the wine rack. A sudden shiver raced up my spine. I must be cold, I rationalized. I closed the window. As I poured the bottle to make sure the bottle was ok, the wine practically jumped out of the glass. Yes, jumped out of the glass. It could have been a low-pressure system, but there was something about it that made me feel like this was a genie eager to get out of the bottle. I dipped my nose into the glass. It was tightly wound and not giving up much, but I could still detect prominent notes of crushed stone, roses, violets, lavender, rosemary…and each sip revealed the depth of this seductive yet unquestionably wild beast, securely bound by fine tannins.
When I gave the glass a gentle swirl to aerate it a bit, the wine whirled out of the glass as artfully as Greg Louganis off the high dive before it splashed onto the floor. Let me assure you that I’ve swirled quite a few wine glasses in my day, and this was a first, yet it reconfirmed that the genie inside really did need some time to breathe. Without much ado, I double-decanted the bottle carefully to avoid further accidents, letting it sit for a good half an hour while dinner cooked.
The dinner menu was a simple staple for us at home: grilled lamb sausages, caramelized onions, and steamed broccoli. Nothing too involved or complicated but definitely delicious. When it was ready, we finally sat down ready to listen to what this genie in the bottle had to say. As we sniffed, we were graced with an entirely new experience. There was something sanguine about the wine, brooding and meaty, while oozing aromas of black olive, sage, and raspberries. The tannins had smoothed out, the texture of the wine was fine and elegant, and the finish long and inviting. And even still after a half an hour, Elisabetta’s Teroldego was just beginning to speak…a great indicator of a wine well-suited for aging.
When one considers the care with which the grapes were grown, the thoughtful, non-interventionist approach with which it was made, and the astounding quality in the bottle, it would be easy to expect a high price tag. But no, the 2009 Foradori Teroldego costs a mere $23.95 per bottle. It’s a small price to pay for personality, artistry, and a memorable tasting experience. All you have to do is release the genie!