Imagine her vineyard, the fresh aroma about her land, the dramatic adjunct of the Dolomite Mountains… it is a reminder of a story I once read of the history of winemaking. First and foremost, vineyards and their wine proved to be a high-yielding and stable investment. But they were also retreats. Around the time of the Crusades, the Catholic Church would send its brightest minds to create, write, or sculpt–affording a man the perspective of a new place and the disruption of time. Whether you believe that it is the “newness” of change that inspires or the actual difference of the place, I believe the vineyard remains as more than just a relic to admire. I believe that it expands time, space and energy for its winemaker, seeping into every second, into every cell, swelling. You are reminded as a winemaker that you have only so many harvests in your life, 30…40, maybe, and yet, those few years distill even further into longer bouts of existence!
I am a great admirer of Elisabetta Foradori, a winemaker in the Dolomite Mountains of Trentino, Italy. I’ve never met Signora, toured her vineyard, or tasted her wines and before I continue with reasons for you to believe that my research is unversed or my voice off-topic I will begin with my only affirmation: she makes my soul smile. I cannot recall how I was introduced to her, but every moment thereafter is quite clear. Her life reads as a direct reflection of her environment and, in this way, I believe that she has found a way to live that is so serenely, so fully human. Her once impoverished soils are now teeming with microbes, opulent. The bland, sterile wines that once detailed her cellar now hardly engage the light with such deeply concentrated colors. And the techniques she wields have trued the direction of her community’s winemaking with the clairvoyance of sustainability and affluence. Signora calls her life in the vineyards a renaissance. Undoubtedly, I have learned more about my standard of living from wine than from any other cut of cloth—and I don’t even make the stuff, yet!
I want from Georgia the same indulgence that I gather from Trentino’s story. It may be a credit to my youth, but I want a renaissance.
Last summer I returned home to Atlanta, glowing from an internship on a vineyard in Tuscany. It was a brilliant illustration for the lessons and books I scoured on enology throughout college. Within days I was tasting my way through the north Georgia wine country. Forgive me my abruptness, but the result was fuzzy teeth, a sour stomach, and no plan to ever return! That is, until my sister’s birthday celebration bribed me back to the area a year later. This round of flights not only surprised me—I was encouraged! Within a year, something had changed and I am so curious on what that “something” could be…
My first visit included a red flight, white flight, and a sweet flight from 3 vineyards. Vintages fluctuated. Varieties included Norton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Viognier, Malbec, Touriga… Styles included barrel and non-barrel fermentations, sparkling wine, rosés, long-macerations, carbonic macerations… I wrongly assumed that the diversity present in the wineries would carry over to the glass. Each wine—no matter the estate, vintage, variety, filtration—maintained to a large degree this wretched, dank must on the nose and palate. I was never able to anchor it down as earthy, salty, sour, cheesy… It was not entirely volatile, but aeration did help.
Then, as I said, a year passed and so did this quality. This difference was remarkable, and it inspired me to move to Blue Ridge, GA. I am not well-versed on the history of winegrowing in Georgia, but what an exciting moment to be a part of it! I want this new story to be as richly and indulgently “Georgian” as Zac Brown Band or peach cobbler. And, in less whimsical terms, I want for Georgia wine to be characterized by its quality, sustainability, and prosperity.
As I begin this conversation, allow me to admit my insecurities and prejudices about Georgia wine:
The wine is strenuously manipulated in the winery.
The vineyard does not adequately play to Georgia’s climate or terrain—thus necessitating excess manipulation in the winery.
Squandered marketing. Planting varieties that people recognize by name like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon play to new taster’s ignorance and do nothing to engage them, teach, provoke, inspire. I enjoyed the story of Signora Foradori’s mourning: Years wasted on making bland wine from international varieties (such as Chardonnay or Cabernets) could have been better served on making wine from local, native varieties… think of the nuances between wines, vintages, and estates… think of the patriotism of making something purely, historically, Georgian.