Italian vintner likens wine to men who improve with age

Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:25am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Elisabetta Fagiuoli's elegant appearance, grey-hair and bright brown eyes, conceal a steely firm commitment to ancient methods of cultivating grapes and a belief that women traditionally make the wine.

When she was growing up in Custozza, not far from Verona, Italy, women made wines because it was a home affair.

"There were only women taking care of their men. They were asking their vines what they wanted, what they needed, in order to thank them for the grapes they got," she explained as she poured a glass of her Tradizionale, a white wine made from 100 percent Vernaccia di San Gimignano, an ancient variety believed to have been cultivated by the Etruscans, the Romans and the Knights Templar.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano was the first of Italy's wine regions to win the coveted DOCG, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantitam,the highest category of Italian wine.

Her Vernaccia di San Gimignano wines carry the prestigious designation.

The first thing she reveals about her vineyards on 494 acres and her winery, Sono Montenidoli, on top of a Tuscan hill between Florence and Siena is how it was once under the sea. As a result, the soil is filled with marine fossils rich in carbonates and perfectly suited to full-bodied, long-lived whites.

She and her husband, Sergio, bought the land in the 1960s. Her family had been making wines in Custozza since the 17th century, so it was only natural that she looked at the vines and started making wine -- but in the old way.

"Fads come and go, but culture remains," she said at the Vino 2010 gathering of winemakers in New York.   Continued...