Italy

Biodynamics at Alois Lageder: voodoo or future?

Mention Rudolf Steiner’s name in a group of scientists and be prepared for a load of criticism. The Austrian born intellectual linked the spiritual world with science and was active in many fields, such as medicine, architecture, education and agriculture. His thoughts and ideas were quite provoking at the beginning of the 20th century, and even in today’s world they are viewed by some as absolute nonsense. For every research paper in favour of Steiner’s thinking, there are multiple scientific papers that prove the opposite. If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t exist?

Looking at his widespread applied theories today, you could say he was ahead of his time. His biodynamic approach to agriculture has been implemented all over the world, also in viticulture. Romanée-Conti, Nicolas Joly, LeRoy, Alvaro Palacios, Weinbach, Ostertag, Zind-Humbrecht, Pontet-Canet, Felton Road, Artadi, Grgich. All world renowned domaines that work biodynamically according to Steiner’s philosophy.

So, there must be something that works for them. But what? Together with a group of Dutch winetraders, I spent a day with Clemens Lageder at another iconic domaine that works biodynamically, Alois Lageder in Italy’s Alto Adige to find out more. (by the way, the accent is on the 2nd syllable: LaGEder)

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The Italian definition of terroir

Prior to this year’s WSET Diploma Course BeNeLux graduation in Rotterdam restaurant Fitzgerald, WineWise invited Jancis Robinson’s Walter Speller to lecture on Italy: the Italian definition of terroir. Three hours of theory and tasting with one of the most renowned Italian wine experts.

Italy is such an intriguing country when it comes to wine (ok, obviously not only in wine). Each of the twenty winemaking regions are different in soil, climate and therefore in style. Diversity is key and the numerous indigenous grapes certainly contribute to a widespread palette of wines of which we were about to sample a few.

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Italy’s most underestimated grape?

Whenever we go on a family holiday, I encourage my daughters to join me in a winery visit. Given their age, 10 & 5, obviously not to enrich their palates but to get a sense of place and feel the enthusiasm and proudness with which owners often speak about their land and products. For this reason, I always try to hook up with small-scale family owned wineries.

Last summer, the centre of Italy was our destination, so plenty of options to choose from. Tuscany would have been the obvious choice as Italy’s cultural heart and Sangiovese heartland, but the thought of queueing tourists on the autostrada Chiantigiana made us decide to turn left and head for le Marche. This region in the eastern side of Italy is still rather unknown, probably because of its famous neighbours Tuscany and Umbria. The Marche region has beautiful beaches, endless rolling hills and loads of history. It’s one of those holiday dilemma’s: once you find a lovely spot you would like to share it with the world, but at the same time wanting to keep it to yourself to leave it unspoilt.

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