Truth & Terroir at Hofstaetter
Martin Foradori of Hofstaetter
On the final leg of his North American tour, Martin Foradori of Hofstaetter (his accent more German than Italian, he joked) spent an afternoon tasting us through his recent vintages. Home to six estates, each occupied by different members of the Foradori family, Hofstaetter is the only private winery in Alto Adige with properties on both side of the Adige valley. “You don’t often see estate or vineyard names on [Adige] labels,” said Martin, whose maternal grandfather was the first in Alto Adige to produce vineyard specific bottlings. With half of the estates located on the east slopes of the valley and half on the west, Hofstaetter is home to 50ha of vineyards, which is huge for Alto Adige. “70% of the vineyard surface area [in Alto Adige] is managed by co-ops,” said Martin, emphasizing that co-ops use only “fantasy names” for their wines, instead of identifying a wine’s origins by its parcel.
Practicing a “Burgundian Philosophy”, Martin favors geographic names on his labels over the typical chateau classifications of Bordeaux. So much so, that as the vice-president of his local consorzio Martin is trying to convince his colleagues to focus more on vineyard sites and less on individual wineries.
With so many varietals in Alto Adige, and a great number of different micro-climates that vary from hillside to hillside on each side of the valley, the region holds great potential that has yet to be fully recognized. “Many vineyards plant varietals for quantity and not because they do well in the soil,” he said. “Now, the key wine is Riesling. Everyone is planting it, but,” he explained it’s not the vineyard manager of the winery who’s planting, but rather the accountant, who sees the grape’s yields or statistics.
With warmer sites on the west side of the valley, and cooler sites on the east, Martin said, “I plant certain varietals on different sides,” favoring Pinot Noir to the east and Gewurztraminer to the west. Planted to the “Kolbenhof” estate, which is one of the oldest estates in Tramin, Hofstaetter’s Gewurztraminer is the first in Alto Adige to be named after a vineyard. “The wines are so fresh and crisp,” said Martin, due to the warm days and nights cooled by the ‘Ora’, or winds that descend from the mountains.
In 1941 when Martin’s paternal grandfather purchased the property from the Barth von Barthenau family, he found Pinot planted to the ‘Vigna S. Urbano’ parcel, which is the best and oldest with current plantings from 1942. In fact, it was Ludwig Barth von Barthenau who planted the first Pinot to his property 160 years ago. “Mazon is the number one area for Pinot Noir in northern Italy…[and] the best wines are always from the oldest vines,” he added.
Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano
In 2003 Martin planted “Cereseto Superiore” to white varietals, a south-facing plot with clay soils mixed with gravel at 770m. “My dream was to do 100% Riesling, but with fat, rich clay and high altitudes, Riesling can be tricky.” Instead, he planted Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. “I’m still trying to figure out what does best. Either it’ll become a cuvee of all three or I will keep just one varietal. I’m waiting for the vines to age to decide.”
Rebuilding a part of the cellar last year, Martin added cement tanks with 100% temperature control. “In a cellar there are no miracles,” he said. “The vineyard is important.” That said, Martin prefers cement because it “doesn’t react to temperature change as fast as stainless steel”; it’s half the price and doesn’t possess the “electro-static” properties of stainless steel. The slight conical shape of his tanks enable a softer vinification, with less pumping down because the “hat” of skins and pips naturally collapses and circulates with the juice.
This month, we are delighted to welcome six wines from Hofstaetter, which are each in a class of their own. Yielding less than 1% of all of Italy’s wines, Alto Adige’s northern position, its hillside vineyards and mountain climate produces crisp wines that separate the region from the rest of the country. This coupled with Martin’s pledge to making vineyard specific wines, makes Hofstaetter an unrivaled producer who’s committed to truth and terroir.
Hofstaetter Alto Adige Pinot Grigio 2013: 100% hillside fruit. 2013 was a cool year that led to a stretched harvest, yielding a wine that’s “very fresh with higher acid than usual,” said Martin. With aromas of apple fruit, stony minerality and pear, the 2013 is very fresh indeed with a silky mouth-feel and a light white pepper spice that lingers.
Hofstaetter Alto Adige Pinot Blanco 2013: “This is a varietal that I love,” said Martin, “but in the past it wasn’t on wine lists. It’s an underestimated wine varietal that sits in the shadow of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. “ Grown at 300-400m, the Pinot Blanco is lean and taut with great crushed-stone aromas. Here the notes are subtle, with a touch of core fruit and acidity that balances.
Hofstaetter Alto Adige Lagrein 2012: “Lagrein needs a lot of sun and sandy soil,” said Martin. Generally quite tannic, the risk with Lagrein, he added, is to over-extract. And so Martin opts to finish the wine without skin contact, leaving the juice for maybe a week on its skins. “I want this wine soft and drinkable.” With fresh dark fruits accompanied by savory notes, the Lagrein offers high acid, a touch of iron and light and peppery tannins.
Hofstaetter Alto Adige “Mezcan” Pinot Nero 2012: “My little Pinot Noir,” said Martin. These are the winemaker’s youngest vines that are fermented in stainless steel, yielding savory aromas on a bed of purple flowers. With bright but gentle acidity, the cherry fruit is fresh and light, yielding an integrated wine that’s silky with a light spice on the finish.
Hofstaetter “Kolbenhof” Gewurztraminer 2012: “Thanks to the acidity, we have freshness,” said Martin, suggesting that we pair the “Kolbenhof” Gewurztraminer with lobster, scampi and pasta. Lushly floral with lychee and light fresh ginger notes, the acidity tips the scale on the RS leaving spice to linger long into the finish.
Hofstaetter “Barthenau” Vigna S. Urbno Pinot Nero 2010: “My dad spent a lifetime making this Pinot Noir,” said Martin. Harvested from two parcels, one with clay and gravel, the other with 80cm of earth atop rock, the “Barthenau” PN spent 12 months in small oak barrels, 50% new and 50% of second-use. The nose is stunning, with purple flowers and bright red fruit. The goal is to get as close as possible to Burgundy, he added. And “Barthenau” is not far from this mark. With high acid and a mid-palate tannin-grip, the 2010 is breathtaking and will only improve with age.