Many Italian producers are moving towards sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture practices, but the panorama of who is doing what is still very fragmented and dispersed. That is one reason that I found the group I Dolomitici so refreshing.
At Vinitaly in 2012, I met the owner of Azienda Agricola Vilar di Spagnolli Luigi. He was fascinating to talk to and the only person I have ever encountered at the event who looked like he had just come in from the farm, with dirt still under his fingernails. He was from the Trentino region in Northern Italy.
We spoke for a long time about his winemaking philosophy and the group that he is part of, I Dolomitici. They are 11 producers united by friendship, solidarity, and a common vision of agriculture in the Trentino. Their desire is to promote the region’s diversity and originality with respect for nature and ethical concerns. I Liberi Viticoltori Trentini is composed of the following wineries: Castel Noarna, Cesconi, Dalzocchio, Elisabetta Foradori, Eugenio Rosi, Fanti, Francesco Poli, Gino Pedrotti, Maso Furli, Molino dei Lessi and Vilar.
They are all either organically certified or moving in that direction. Additionally, most of them are also looking to become biodynamic in the near future. They mostly harvest by hand and make sure that their soils are as healthy as possible by companion planting other crops in their vineyards. They believe in an integrated system of agriculture and do not believe in the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other chemical products. They feel the old fashioned ways that grapes were traditionally grown in their region keep the vineyards in their own natural balance.
In the group, Dalzocchio was certified organic since 2001 while Foradori has been biodynamic since 2002. Castel Noarna, Gino Pedrottti, Vilar, Francesco Poli and Cesconi are organic and are all moving toward biodynamic viticulture. Maso Furli and Molino dei Lessi are also organic and awaiting certification, while Fanti is moving in the same direction. Eugenio Rosi also believes in these practices and only uses ambient yeast in his wines.
These 11 producers also produced a wine together called Ciso, made from an indigenous grape variety that only grows in a small plot of land that the group collectively farms - just 727 plants that grow on their own rootstocks in a 100-year-old vineyard. In between the rows of vines are corn, tobacco, wheat, squash and beans.
The grape variety is called Lambrusco a Foglia Fastagliata. The first bottle of this wine was released in 2010. The name Ciso comes from the name of the farmer who gave them the vines to cultivate together. In 2010, they only made 3000 bottles and 150 magnums of this wine. While getting a bottle of the wine may be complicated, the philosophy of the group is quite easy to understand.
They look to make wines that are authentic and express the Trentino terroir where the grapes grow; they harvest mature grapes that are able to transmit a sense of what the particular vintage was like; they look to vinify the wine in such a way that the wine expresses specifics of the vintage; and they want to produce a healthy wine that is both an expression of the terroir in Trentino, the grape variety, the vintage and the winemakers’ philosophy.
The group tries to use as few sulfites as possible as they want the wines to be as healthy as it can be. Of course, the amount they use will depend on the vintage and the grape variety.
A number of the producers make a wine using the Nosiola grape that is indigenous to Trentino. This is a white grape that can be used to make still or sweet wine or a passito. Vino Santo made from Nosiola is a big tradition in this region.
Spagnolli told me that Nosiola is an aromatic and acidic grape filled with fruit and floral aromas and flavors. This grape ripens in mid to late October. Nosiola is susceptible to humidity. While this can be a disaster for a still white wine, it is perfect for drying the grapes used in a passito-style dessert wine, also made in the area. The name Nosiola is said to come from the Italian word for hazelnut, Nocciola.
A number of producers in the group make wines using Nosiola including:
- Vilàr, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola, 2012
- Cesconi, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola, 2011
- Gino Pedrotti, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola 2012
- Castel Noarna, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Nosiola 2011
- Foradori, Fontanasanta – Nosiola Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2011
- Giuseppe Fanti, Nosiola Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2011
- Francesco Poli, Trentino DOC Vino Santo, 2001
Definitely a wine to try, Nosiola pairs well with a variety of foods and can also be used as an aperitif.