Conversation With IWBS – Maria Sabrina Tedeschi

With almost 400 years of winemaking history, how do you uphold the same legacy?  

Tedeschi boasts strong ties with the Valpolicella area that go back almost four centuries. Since 1630 Tedeschi has believed in the considerable potential of its wine production and has reinterpreted it in a modern key,  always striving to create a wine that can best express the characteristics of this magnificent area. Tedeschi produces powerful, elegant wines with great personality and a strong typical character. Today Tedeschi is one of the leading companies in the Valpolicella and contributes to the knowledge of the wines of the province of Verona throughout the world.  A passion passed down through generations, today Renzo, the innovative father, runs the estate together with his children Antonietta, Sabrina and Riccardo, thus confirming that family is the key element of their success. They continue together the interpretation of terroir that their ancestors began long ago. The Tedeschi family firmly believes that each harvest can only unfold its potential if you listen to the different needs and respect the disposition and the rhythm of the land. The peculiarities of the growing season thus become an integral part of the produced wine. 

A forward-thinking style by nature, since the early 60s, when Lorenzo Tedeschi had the fortunate idea of vinifying the grapes from the Monte Olmi vineyard separately, thus creating one of the very first single-vineyard wines in Valpolicella. Today Monte Olmi is the symbol of the estate and its territory. 

What are the challenges you have faced with winemaking and how you overcome them? 

The last twenty years have seen continuous investments in the vineyards and the wine cellar to obtain increasingly harmonious and elegant wines. 

In 1995 a modern drying loft was built in Pedemonte to control the humidity of the environment as well as regulate ventilation. In this way, we are able to ensure the integrity of the grapes during the entire drying period. The entire vinification area has also been renovated and expanded so that is possible to optimize the fermentation process during the harvest, which also includes the careful selection of the grape varieties from the various plots. 

New Slavonian oak barrels were purchased with a capacity ranging from 1000 to 5000 liters that allow for a better ageing process. Regarding the Viticulture aspect: as is the case for all great wines, including Amarone despite the fact that the wine is the result of a “technique”, the condition of the grapes is fundamental.  It is essential that the grapes be perfectly healthy and ripe at harvest.  It cannot be expected that the grapes will reach an ideal condition through the drying process. In order to obtain a good level of tannins and phenolic richness, the grapes must be in ideal condition from the start. In order to achieve this, guyot has proven to be the ideal training system as it allows the grapes to mature well for the following reasons:

  • Lower production of bunches per vine, yet still allowing for a greater planting density.  
  • Greater quantity of polyphenols on the skins using guyot, in comparison to pergola, since the grapes grow closer to the soil.
  • Being a vertical training system, guyot allows for greater sun exposure, consequently leading to a better maturation of the grapes.

With lower production yields per vine and being vertical, the foliage per bunch is greater allowing for a greater photosynthetic effect.Many sustain that the pergola training system produces bunches which automatically lend themselves better to the drying process because the berries are more spread out.  However, this is not our belief. Bunches in which the grapes are more spread out are obtained when the vine is well balanced and this balance is reached by containing the vegetative vigor of the vine, whilst avoiding the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers.  During the first few years of growth, the grapes obtained by the guyot training system cannot be utilized in the production of Amarone.  In fact, in order to attain a natural equilibrium of the vine, it is necessary to allow younger vines to grow grapes in excess followed by a drastic thinning out (minimum of 50%).  Therefore, we prefer to not dry the grapes from these young vines which have not yet found a balance.   Working in this way, it is possible to obtain grapes of higher quality after 5 years.  By using guyot, we have still been able to obtain bunches in which the grapes are well-spaced and are surely of superior quality in comparison to those rendered from the pergola.  

What is the oldest wine you have tasted from the cellar?

Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1964, and some Recioto della Valpolicella Capitel Fontana of 70′ years…a great experience, because behind a wine you have some memories of your life

Tedeschi wines can be found globally, what kind of cuisine do you think is the most easy to pair them with? 

Tedeschi produces mainly red wines, some lighter some full bodied, all complex for their range… mediterranean cuisine, red meat and game, but also chinese, thai cuisine and indian cuisine, when not too spicy (medium spicy is fine). Our wines have lively acidity, so our wines can be perfectly paired with fat food (pork beef meat and game too). 

What is your advice to young professionals seeking knowledge in this field? 

I think it is important to meet producers to know better a territory, to learn through wine tasting schools, to taste wines: the experience with wines is the most important thing. Italian wines have a lot of appellations, a lot of varieties. Professionals can learn and remember better if they have the opportunity to taste them!

What are your favourite grape varieties? 

Corvina because is a gentle variety that produce a very easy drinkable wine (i.e. Valpolicella) and able to dry for a very long time for getting then a very powerful wine like Amarone…same grape different wines…the terroir of course where corvina grows is fundamental for getting the best wines… it is the reason why my family selects grapes only from hill area for getting more complex and rich wines.

What do you think about Indian wines and India as wine producing nation? 

I’ve had the opportunity to try only few wines, I’m not an expertise. For my small experience I’ve preferred red wines. But I need more knowledge about it for saying something more. 

Who is your source of inspiration? 

My father Lorenzo is my teacher….he transmitted the genes of enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and stimuli together with a passion for vines and winemaking knowledge. Stimuli whose intensity is hard to determine since you could never reconstruct all those sensations we unconsciously experienced and took in through living with a vine-dresser father who introduced us to nature, the land, the culture of vines and wines. With his tireless activity and unstoppable pressing forward he taught us the importance of living every moment of the present intensely while looking towards the future….and a  lot of work went in to try to get closer to perfection. The examples set by my dad and the stimuli he set in place help me and my brothers in carrying on new investments, trying new approaches and new vinification processes  year after year.I took the Bachelors in Food 

Technology in the Agronomic University of Milan when the President of Food Industry department was Corrado Cantarelli, my tutor, who encourage me to accept a six months experience in France at Burgundy Oenology University with Michele Feuillat. Both Cantarelli and Feuillat were two luminaries in food and wine industry and the experience and knowledge they transmitted to me was fundamental in my academic growth.

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