Forti del Vento
The name Forti del Vento is inspired by the amazing castles of Alto Monferrato Ovadese and the winds that blow on the hills of this area particularly suited to elaborate wines of great depth and distinction.
The estate is located in Castelletto d’Orba in the Alessandria province, in the Monferrato wine district, an area north of Liguria that forms an imaginary triangle with at the top the towns Ovada, Rocca Grimalda and Castelletto d’Orba, crossed by the A 26 highway coming from Genoa.
Marco and Tomaso are the owners, together with Manuela they are Forti del Vento: all coming from a different working and cultural back ground. Marco and Manuela are partners in life and she manages as well a family restaurant. Tomaso has a financial and banking professional background. The debut vintage goes back to 2010.
The organic vineyards consists of 7 hectares planted on hilly terrain at about 300 meters above sea level following the level lines perpendicular to the slope of the hill. In Italian it’s called “girapoggio” and is often used in the old fashioned Piemonte vineyards. It’s the ideal system to get the most of the sun and the light at different hours of the day. The grass in the rows is a great ally because it’s a natural method to combat the erosive action of the rains, promote the balance of the substances necessary to the soil, increase insects and biodiversity.
Dolcetto is the king of Ovada and Forti del Vento has worked hard to restore and recover some old terraced vineyards which have an incredible historical and viticultural value.
The other grapes grown are Cortese, Chardonnay, Barbera, Albarossa (a different variety from the famed Nebbiolo of the Langhe, known as Nebbiolo di Dronero) and the Nibiö, a historical biotype of Dolcetto grown in Alessandria province which risked to disappear due to its low productivity.
All the wines produced are deliberately declassified by the owners who don’t care much of the appellation system and protocols. Piemonte is one of the few Italian regions in which the IGT classification hasn’t been implemented, therefore Forti del Vento’s wines are labeled as just … “vino”. The yearly production is 18.000 bottles only on average.
Excellent soil is the fundamental basis necessary to reach a balanced ecosystem. Without a lively land, rich in organic humus, plants would hardly find an ideal habitat for growth. Forti del Vento firmly believes that a naturally healthy and strong vineyard needs few external interventions, in order to produce full-flavored and healthy grapes. In the vineyards:
- Mowing the grass or, seldom, working the soil row by row;
- Targeted fertilizations operations in areas where it is necessary, with the sole use of plant based organic products.
- Natural rebalancing of the soil – when needed – by alternating rows planted with cereals (oats, barley) and legumes (vetch, broad bean, clover). Overall the rows undergo green manure process only when needed (nitrogen is an excellent fertilizer present in nature).
- Constant experimentation with the aim of progressively eliminating copper and sulphur, allowing an exponential development of beneficial insects and micro-organisms.
- Use of chromatic traps for the surveillance of the flavescence vector insect that is fought only with pyrethrum.
The vineyards are located in Castelletto d’Orba, Valle Albarola and Rocca Grimalda, in the Rio Maggiore valley. The territory of Ovada is crossed by the river Orba, and Forti del Vento has vineyards on both the right and the left bank of this river. The two subzones present some peculiar differences in the terroir characteristics.
Castelletto d’Orba: The South West facing vineyards grow on clear clay soils, with outcropping marls layers, sitting at 300 meters above sea level and are trained with the Guyot system with pruning inspired by the Simonit and Sirch method, expertly transmitted by their long time friend Davide Ferrarese.
In this valley, the estate cultivates the Dolcetto Ottotori cru, on a calcareous marl plateau where the grass almost does not grow, and the crus responsible for the fruit making the Barbera (Podej) and other Dolcettos (AltoFhra, La Volpe and “299”) as well as the Nibiö named Ventipassi.
Rocca Grimalda: The North West facing vineyards grow on clayey, sometimes stony, soils, at 300 meters above sea level altitude. The Capovia (Dolcetto) cru is cultivated here and it’s the oldest estate plot planted in the 60s and early 70s with the Chardonnay varietal (An Piota). Furthermore in 2006 some vines were planted focused on the Albarossa variety.
BIODYNAMIC WINES: Forti del Vento strongly believes in ancient methods of cultivation, in maintaining the soils’ fertility through natural methods such as the green manure planted between the rows. Green manures include legumes such as vetch, clover, beans and peas; grasses such as annual ryegrass, oats, rapeseed, winter wheat and winter rye and buckwheat. Planted in November, usually the cover crop is cut in April and enhances insects and small animals activity and biodiversity.
No chemicals at all in the vineyard with just sulfur, copper and plant based biodynamic preparations sprayer according to the lunar calendar. All the main vineyards’ activities are done by hand.
Proud member of Vinnatur, Forti del Vento estate is organic certified by Valoritalia and farms completely following (uncertified) biodynamic principles and methods. Its wines in US have gained the USDA certification after the evaluation and approval of all the analyses’ results sent.
Overall the estate is part of an untamed area where nature rules and wild animals are often seen. This is the ideal place to elaborate authentic natural wines and to think “outside the box” by experimenting, year in year out, some new vinification techniques.
In the cellar, Forti del Vento wines have no added elements (no liquid tannins, proteins, sugar, colorants, etc), including no added sulfites. Basically no cellar manipulation!
Marco, Manuela and Tomaso fairly share their responsibilities in this tiny wine project. In their wines, wine lovers will find a genuine life’s philosophy and a respectful approach to produce true wines, with no added elements during the winemaking. Overall the goal is to go back to roots and allow the wine drinker to taste something real, a sort of liquid postcard of what the Ovada district can offer.
The grape origin is not entirely certain. There are those who argue that this grape is genetically from the Langhe, while there is a second party which argues that its origin has to be tracked in Liguria, where it is known with the name Ormeasco. In both cases, it is assumed that Dolcetto has arrived, in either area, during the medieval period due to commercial trades. The earliest records on “uva Dolcetto” date back to 1700 and currently this variety is used in Piedmont for the production of several monovarietal wines under the registered designation of origin DOC and DOCG system). Among these appellations, certainly Dolcetto d’Alba is the most widely known and consumes have spread beyond the confines of Piedmont in the new millennium. Dolcetto d’Alba is produced in vineyards that are part of the right bank of the Tanaro river, an area also famed for incredible quality driven local hazelnuts production.
If you know the Alba version, don’t assume that the remaining other Docetto are just the same or similar as this grape is deeply affected by the soil. Dolcetto from Ovada (here named Ovada) is completely different: the rich and dense clay soils give way to wines that are richer, darker and pretty capable to age few years. It’s firm, with good wrapping tannins along with a moderate acidity and the finish is influenced by a slightly bitterish almond note on the palate.
Under some peculiar circumstances in 2020, Steep Hill has crossed once again Forti del Vento’s path after several years. These are the wines imported:
La Volpe Dolcetto 2018: 4.000 bottles produced. Fermented and raised in stainless steel tank with fruit sourced from the south west facing Castelletto d’Orba vineyard. 1 hectare only marked by clear clay soils, with outcropping marls layers, sitting at 300 meters above sea level. The plot is trained with Guyot system with pruning inspired by the Simonit and Sirch method, expertly transmitted by their long time friend Davide Ferrarese.
299 Dolcetto 2018: 1.000 bottles produced only. Short maceration of 24 hrs. Fermented and raised in stainless steel tank with fruit sourced from another south west facing plot in the Castelletto d’Orba vineyard. 0,5 hectare only marked by clear clay soils, with outcropping marls layers, sitting at 300 meters above sea level. Guyot system. Aged in clay pot for 6 months before being released to the market.
Podej Barbera 2018: 3.000 bottles produced only. Fermented and raised in stainless steel tank with fruit sourced from another south west facing plot in the Castelletto d’Orba vineyard. 0,7 hectare only marked by clear clay soils, with outcropping marls layers, sitting at 300 meters above sea level. Guyot system. This Barbera displays intensity, power and complex layers of fruit.
In a nutshell
Forti del Vento