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The Mother of Teroldego

Posted: Aug 1, 2008 11:01am ET

I guess sometimes it doesn't matter if people don't know what grapes you use in a wine, as long as it is a great one. The thought occurred to me earlier this week when Elisabetta Foradori came for dinner at my house, and we tasted some of her "top-of-the-charts" wines ­: 1997 and 1991 Granato. I should say "drank" instead of "tasted" because it was with dinner and the wines were so, so good.

Have you heard of Teroldego? Have you ever drunk one?

Granato is Elisabetta's flagship red. It's 100 percent Teroldego, the popular grape grown under the shadow of the Dolomite Mountains in Trentino. Most of the grapes are fermented by massive cooperatives that pay the small grape growers based on quantity, not quality. The wines are simple and fruity, if drinkable at all.

Elisabetta is sort of an anamoly in the area. In her 50 or so acres of vineyards, she keeps her grape yields to a minimum. The vineyard near her winery is kept like a rose garden. Every vine seems to be in perfect condition. So Granato is always a wonderful bottle to drink.

I love the balance and polish that Granato has. I don't want to sound sexist, but they really do have a beautiful, feminine touch to them. They are subtle and refined yet firm and structured. I know you have heard the cliché so many times, but Granato really does reflect the power and beauty of its winemaker. Elisabetta is a single mother of four who climbs mountains and helicopter snow skies in a her spare time. Most of the time, anyway, she is working in her vineyards and cellar when she is not being a mom.

Anyway, I found my last bottle of the amazing 1997 Granato in my cellar, and a friend brought a bottle of the great 1991 from his. Meanwhile, Elisabetta brought a bottle of the soon-to-be-released 2006 Granato. I haven't tasted the latter yet officially for the magazine.

Here are my tasting notes:

1991 Granato: Dried red fruit, tar, tarmac, minerals and cold. Medium-bodied, with a super freshness. Long and amazing. This must be one of the best 1991s ever. This was fermented in a large wooden vat with no technology, but what a wine. Real stuff. 93, non-blind

1997 Granato: This smells of dark berries and black truffles. Full and chewy yet caressing and pretty. This is so fresh and long. Minerally and powerful. Balanced and beautiful. Only getting better. 97 points, non-blind.

2006 Granato: This is a super-refined and beautiful wine. Best after 2007. Of outstanding quality.

It was a fun dinner with lots of good wine and conversation. Elisabetta also brought the 2005 vintage of her Tuscan wine, Ampeleia. It shows lots of berry, cherry and Cabernet Franc character. It's medium-bodied, with lovely fruit. Silky and very pretty. It's of outstanding quality. It's primarily Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a dash of Southern Rhône varietals such as Grenache and Mouvedere. Look out for it.

Sam Chen
The Golden State —  August 1, 2008 4:55pm ET
James,I met Elisabetta here in San Francisco at a trade tasting in May this year and tasted her 2004 Granato as well as the 1997 in Magnum and they were some of the best wines at the tasting. She is the foremost expert in Teroldego and I thought I heard she did her Ph D. Thesis on that subject.(I may be wrong...)I am glad that you are mentioning her wines in your blog. Cheers!
Robert Horvath
August 1, 2008 8:08pm ET
James,This is off subject but, I just read the article on 2006 Chianti Classico and I was wondering if the article is going to contain the 2006 Fontodi Chianti Classico. I have read other articles that say it was still in barrel and was hoping that it will be reviewed in this article upon release of the newest magazine.
Kenneth Kahn
Los Angeles —  August 2, 2008 3:39am ET
James, Paraphrasing talk radio, I'm a multi-year subscriber and 1st time poster. Thanks for your hard work, and recent tastings of Teroldego, Lagrein and Alto Adige whites. Two questions, also off-topic, have been on my mind for a while, one about a well-known grape in an underpublicized area: 1) Can we expect a tasting report of Valtellina wines soon? (My wife and I visited the area in 2005 because we like the fragrant nebbiolos, and we had a great experience at Sandro Fay's vineyards), and 2) I aspire to drinking Giacomo Conterno Barolos, especially Monfortino Riserva. What is/are the reason(s) that you haven't reviewed Monfortino for '90, '93, '95, '98 and '99? Also, same question for their Cascina Francia Barolo for '95, '98 and '99? Thanks much.
Jo Cooke
Tuscany —  August 2, 2008 5:18am ET

James asked me to answer your question.

I recently spent a day scouring wine shops in the Barolo region for wines from producers who, for one reason or another, are reluctant to submit their wines for review.

You'd be surprised how hard rare wines such as these are to track down, even in their local area.

But I hope we will be able to fill some of these gaps soon.

As for Valtellina, I'm planning for James to taste a selection between now and the end of the year. I like the Nebs from this area too and, although I've yet to visit the region, I know they are produced in a stunning landscape.

Thanks for your post.

Jo Cooke

Tasting Coordinator

Wine Spectator - European Bureau
Kenneth Kahn
Los Angeles —  August 2, 2008 2:17pm ET
Jo and James, Thanks for your quick response. I get your drift re availability. How about this: a tasting in L.A. or S.F. where many Giacomo Conterno and Giuseppe Mascarello barolos are available nearby, and for fewer Euros than in Italy? (I'd be glad to help with the leftovers; lol.) Of course, you've got to factor in the airfare.Jo, The Valtellina IS gorgeous, the food is great, and the people are gracious, like Elena Fay, Sandro Fay's daughter and marketing manager. It's also not far from Milan, which was the enjoyable trade-off with my wife. Keep up the good work.
Jim Mccusker
Okemos, MI —  August 2, 2008 2:30pm ET
James - My wife and I shared a bottle of Granato at Hostaria del Bricco in the St. Niccolo region of Florence a couple of months ago. Unfortunately I can't seem to recall the vintage - I think it was 2004 but I'm not sure - but it was a joy to drink. While in Florence we were able to try a few other less-than-well-known northern Italian reds, among them the 2002 Ronchi di Cialla schioppettino, the 1996 Le Vigne di Zamo pignolo, a marzemino from Marco Donati, and Emilio Bulfon's picolit neri (2007?). I had no idea that part of Italy was making such interesting reds - it was great fun!
Filippo Recchi
Florence, Italy —  August 4, 2008 8:36am ET
I recently had a bottle of Granato (the current release I guess, I think it was 04?) at Buca dell' Orafo in Florence. I was with a very good friend of mine from Seattle, who's into wine just as much as I am.

It was clearly very young, and probably too early to drink, but anyway we both agreed that it was very polished, very elegant (I agree with the "feminine" descriptor) and well crafted, but also very "international" in style, i.e. we would have found it very hard to distinguish it in a blind tasting among "modern" wines made with Bordeaux grapes.

We enjoyed the bottle with dinner, but we couldn't pick up any significant specificity (unlike Sforzatos from Valtellina, which IMHO have a lot to say about where they come from).

Ralph Michels
The Netherlands —  August 12, 2008 1:01pm ET
2006 Granato: This is a super-refined and beautiful wine. Best after 2007

Are you sure with "best after 2007"? ;-)

best, Ralph
James Suckling
 —  August 12, 2008 1:29pm ET
Oops...Here is the full note.

2006 Granato: This is super refined and beautiful with light milk chocolate, vanilla and blackberries. Full yet elegant and silky. So balanced. Such beauty. Long and beautiful. Best after 2009. Of outstanding quality.
Bill Granato
December 26, 2008 6:33pm ET
James,What food do you recommend for pairing with the Granato?
James Suckling
 —  December 27, 2008 10:41am ET
I love game and hard cheeses. Decant the wine a good hour or two in advance. It needs to breath.

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