Wine… Women… Hold the Song

Giovanna Tiezzi of Pacina Winery

Giovanna Tiezzi of Pacina Winery (img via Facebook)

The recently celebrated International Women’s Day took on a decidedly Italian accent with “La Festa Della Donna” at Osteria in Philadelphia, a dinner honoring four of Italy’s female winemakers. From Elisabetta Foradori in Trentino to Sicily’s Arianna Occhipinti, the emergence of women taking a leading role in viticulture is noteworthy in a country long thought of as a bastion of Old World tradition. In some cases, the patrimony of legendary estates such as Bartolo Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, and Gianfranco Soldera has passed to and been stewarded by their daughters. In others, like Elisa Semino of Piedmont’s La Colombera, women work alongside fathers and/or brothers.

A common philosophy and approach to winemaking brought together the terroir-breaking representatives at the dinner. Each is committed to organic and biodynamic practices; minimal, non-intrusive techniques in the cellar; and limited production of artisanal wines, less than 4000 cases per year, relative drops in the international wine ocean. As they spoke to the assembled guests, there was an evident yet understated pride in their craft, tempered by a humility that acknowledged their reliance on and reverence for the soil in which they work.

The wines selected for the evening are distributed by The Artisan’s Cellar, a West Chester based facility, and can be ordered through the PLCB’s special order procedures.

Silvana Forte, Le Due Terre

In the eastern hills of Friuli, hard by the Slovenian border, Silvana and husband Flavio Basilicata make wine from indigenous and international grapes. No technology intervenes in their traditional methods, such as the use of natural, native yeasts to promote spontaneous fermentation.

Sacrisassi Bianco 2010, Colli Orientali DOC (PA SLO #528132, $49.19) A blend of local varietals, 70% Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano) and 30% Ribolla Gialla. Unlike many white wines, this stays with you from the intense, focused aromatics of ripe orchard fruits to its lingering aftertaste. Vigorous minerals, the typical salinity found in this area’s wines, and crisp acidity keep the medium body fresh and lively. (89-91)

Valeria Gurrieri, Vini La Favola

The husband and wife team of Valeria and Corrado preside over vineyards on Sicily’s southern coast near the town of Noto. They and the land he inherited are one, and every aspect of their winemaking, from vine to bottle, reflects a synergy absent in mass-produced wine.

Fravolato 2010, Sicilia IGT  (#527399, $21.29)  Spicy, lively, persistent, flavorful, zesty – just a few of the adjectives that describe a wine fermented in steel by select native yeasts. There’s an undeniable Sicilian earthiness at the core of red berry and cherry flavors from Nero d’Avola, and the 40% Frappato brings a refreshing acidity that tones down some of its partner’s rustic edge. For those who still hold to the idea that red wine doesn’t pair with fish, this was creatively served with pistachio crusted tuna and couscous, a nod to the Arabic influences in Sicilian cuisine.  (90-92)

Giovanna Tiezzi, Pacina

Pacina has been described as the “Godfather” of the organic farming movement in Tuscany. Situated in Castelnuovo Berardenga, on the meandering border of Chianti Classico and the Colli Senesi, Giovanna Tiezzi and husband Stefano Borsa produce wine that is not manipulated through technology, resulting in pure expressions of Sangiovese and other grapes.

La Malena 2007, Toscana IGT  (#514321, $38.59)  A 100% Syrah vinified in concrete tanks, then transferred without filtering to age in large oak casks – and it shows. The mildly leathery, herbal nose says Tuscany, but the mouth just wraps itself around layers of dense, dark fruits with subdued elements of the game, earth, and pepper you’d expect from the varietal. A “big” wine that calls for a comparable food pairing, such as bistecca alla Fiorentina. (90-92)

Summer Wolff, Cantine di Indie

She may not have an Italian name, but she does reside in the Monferrato hills of Piedmont (with fiancé Fabrizio Iuli, a master of powerful, evocative Barbera), and is the driving force behind Indie Wineries, a company that champions and imports the products of boutique wineries throughout the peninsula as well as from France, Slovenia, and California. The wine Summer poured at the dinner is her first label – and, with the positive reactions of the crowd, hopefully not her last.

Vino di Popolo 2011, Langhe DOC  (#528131, $17.19)  Woodsy scents of the Langhe hills and fruitiness from the region’s stalwart trio of Nebbiolo (50%), Barbera (30%), and Dolcetto (20%) immediately rise from the glass. This has the feel of an everyday wine, a “people’s wine”- earthy and approachable at the same time; flavorful without being overtly juicy; mildly tannic but with an acidic lift that keeps it lively and on target. Someone please pass the agnoletti stuffed with veal (sort of a Piedmontese ravioli) or tajarin (thin pasta ribbons) with a meat ragu!  (88-90)