There are a small number of winemakers out there who defy any attempt at categorisation, apart from superlatives. Elisabetta Foradori is one. She’s the darling of the Italian biodynamic wine movement, an early convert to amphorae, and a peerless exponent of long skin maceration for white wines. But it feels clumsy to describe Foradori’s output with such limiting terms and techniques.
I’ve long been acquainted with the amphora-fermented Nosiola, a monumental wine which retains its elegance and character even after 250 days on the skins. Tasted blind, the 2012 made the top 3 out of 72, in our Decanter tasting of orange wines last year. But today I have its Fontanasanta twin Manzoni Bianco in my glass.
Manzoni Bianco may sound like a vermouth or a cocktail bar pianist, but actually it’s a 1930s cross of Riesling and Pinot Blanc, created by namesake Luigi Manzoni. Elisabetta has 3 hectares of this curiosity in her vineyards at the foothills of the Dolomites, which she ferments for a week on the skins in cement vats, before ageing in Acacia barrels for a year.
Accoring to Foradori, Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco 2014 is just at the beginning of its drinking window (she says 2-3 years are needed for it to express itself). But already there’s such finesse, focus and clarity. Freshly sliced pear, lanolin and hay dominate the nose, then there are more delicate hints of jasmine and marjoram.
The skin contact has brought depth and intensity to the table, with a hint of mountain honey providing perfect balance to the bone dry finish. Unlike so many other more rustic wines made in this style, Foradori’s Manzoni Bianco is superbly elegant, even haunting in its complexity.
Perhaps the winemaker/wine comparison is overdone, but for me Elisabetta’s slight framed but quietly commanding character is stamped indelibly on the bottle.
For the geeks, this wine has a tease of volatile acidity – you can detect a hint of nail varnish on the nose but it sits perfectly with the fruit, lifting the perfume and making the wine’s entrance a bit more dramatic.
As you can see, this wine makes me come over all poncey, just like a grown up wine critic. That’s a sure sign I should shut up and let the liquid do the talking.
Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco is available from a few stockists in the UK, for around the £20 mark.