- Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
Ampeleia is one of the stars of the Tuscan coast.....At their best, the Ampeleia wines are among the most pure, transparent expressions of the coast readers will find. Elisabetta Foradori and her team are doing important work here. Ampeleia is a young estate. There is every reason to believe the best is yet to come."
—Antonio Galloni, September 2014
Ampeleia was born in 2002 from the collaboration of Elisabetta Foradori and a two friends. They saw the huge potential of this particular area of the Maremma, the Colline Metallifere, mineral-rich hills that have been mined since Etruscan times. Not the coastal lowlands one usually associates with the Maremma, the Colline Metallifere are located more inland, at altitude. For example, Ampeleia's vineyards just outside the hamlet of Roccatederighi reach 600m. This part of the Maremma has never been home to intensive agriculture, and it has some of the lowest population density in all of Italy. In fact, the Colline Metallifere are a national park and also a UNESCO Global Geopark site.
Marco Tait has been at the helm of Ampeleia since the very beginning. He's originally from Trentino, where his father was the agronomist at Foradori. As a kid, he remembers doing after-school vineyard tasks and playing hide-and-seek in the cellar. After enology school and working for some larger, more conventional wine operations in the North, he came to Ampeleia, initially skeptical about the power of biodynamics. But Ampeleia is a special place, and its unspoiled nature and inherent biodiversity allowed biodynamics to take root much more quickly than in places that are more anthropized. All activities at Ampeleia had been converted to biodynamics as of the 2009 vintage.
It's hard to put into words just how attuned to Ampeleia Marco is. He's a young guy, but he already has twenty vintages under his belt at Ampeleia. He knows its every corner and, seemingly, its every whisper. He is simply trying to give the land a little "information and intention" through biodynamics. This is no small thing, as Ampeleia's vineyards are diverse and spread out--120 hectares of land, but only 35 planted to vines. The rest is woods, olives, the vegetable garden, and pasture for Ampeleia's animals. There is a wide variety of altitudes, exposures, soil types (both mother rock and soil consistency). As such, Marco has identified 54 unique vineyard parcels, all vinified separately. The harvest is also quite drawn out, starting at the end of August for the initial picks for the rosato and the bianco, and going to the first part of October for the Cabernet Franc. Accompanying Marco on this journey is the excellent team he has assembled: the "People of Ampeleia" ... Lucia, Valentina, two Simonas, Francesco. Yes, domestic sales, logistics, office manager, hospitality manager, export sales, but also always working together in the vineyards and cellars, meeting with Marco, tasting, discussing, planning, making decisions as a cohesive unit.
Over the years, the People of Ampeleia have listened to the land and understood its strong suits: Cabernet Franc and Alicante Nero, a distinctly Tuscan biotype of Grenache. They've singled out vineyards whose wines continually expressed something so unique that it made more sense to highlight them rather than blend them. Thus began the "monovarietale" single-vineyard series, with Alicante Nero, Carignano, and Cabernet Franc. Soon, two more micro Cabernet Franc parcels will be released, making Ampeleia the first estate in Italy to boast four labels of what is becoming their signature grape variety.
Like the best wineries of the world, things at Ampeleia are in constant but gentle movement. Watch this space!
To view their excellent website, click here.