Chef in Town: Foss Marai, the leading winery in the production of sparkling wine and its strength

They call it <<heroic viticulture>> and Carlo Biasotto, founder of Foss Marai winery, tells it like this:

“We were children, and our parents used to order us to go and pick the grapes: that was the time to cry because we knew how hard and dangerous the work was.”

Land with a 45-degree slope, no terracing, the need to intervene by hand, limiting the use of machinery that would risk tipping over: this is why the work of winegrowers in Valdobbiadene is called <<heroic>>. The landscape is so suggestive, with hills that weave infinite shades of color, from clover green to fern green, as hard as it is for man to tame it.

It is in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene area, today a Unesco World Heritage Site, that Foss Marai wines are born. Thanks to the respect of the “disciplinary regulations of the wines of controlled and guaranteed origin Conegliano Valdobbiadene – Prosecco” aimed at the full protection of prosecco, a wine symbol of Made in Italy quality, without forcing the plants and the cultivation system.

The Biasotto family is formed by Carlo, Adriana, and their children Andrea, Cristiana, and Umberto. They continue the tradition of respect for the territory: the company’s DNA, founded in 1986.

It is an agricultural model where the secret is know-how, craftsmanship, precision, and care with which complex selective and productive processes are managed. These processes are often long because they are based on manual labor and therefore expensive: any compromise would ruin the outcome’s quality.

In the use of autochthonous and indigenous yeasts of prosecco, especially the DOCG territory lies their strong point.

An accurate selection is done by the external state of grapes, called <<pruina>>. It is a wax that covers the berries. There is a multitude of types, and thanks to the collaboration with the University of Piacenza, a selection of yeasts suitable for alcoholic fermentation has been made: both for base wines, the result of the primary transformation from must to wine, and for fermentation in autoclaves. These yeasts guarantee the uniqueness, typicality, and variety of the grape, and the original aroma is maintained, which would be lost if commercial yeasts were used, giving prevalence to fermentation aromas rather than varietal ones.

Mother yeasts are kept in small chemical vials. Every three/four months the brown part must be renewed, and a small portion of yeast (the white part) is taken, then re-inoculated in a new vial; at a temperature of 35/37 degrees Celsius, growth waited for a week until the yeast colony is in good health. Then the vial is placed in the refrigerator for storage and monitored.

The meticulousness of the process is necessary to make sure there are no bacteria because it is predominant to maintain freshness and vivacity. The pride of Foss Marai, in this step, are the innovative technological tools used: from machines with an infrared laser to “enzymatic” implements for the examination of alcohol and sugar.

While other producers use commercial yeasts, mostly selected by multinationals, often from the Netherlands, Foss Marai has been selecting and working with its yeasts for 20 years, producing 20,000 bottles per day, for a total of about 2 million per year. The result is a particular and unique timbre. In years that are not particularly favorable, it is possible, thanks to the 30 indigenous yeasts, to give the same results as in happier vintages, with the same aromas and scents, reducing to a minimum the gap between one harvest and the next.

Many reflections arise knowing the history of this family, which has put the love for its territory before everything else, which has made life itself become <<work>>. Jean Giono, a French writer, born into a family of Piedmontese origin, would sum up the thought in a sentence, taken from his essay <<Letter to the peasants on poverty and peace>>, written in 1938:

“One cannot know what the work of the peasant is: whether it is plowing, sowing, mowing, or whether it is at the same time eating and drinking fresh food, having children and breathing freely, for all these things are intimately united, and when he does one thing he completes the other. It is all work, and nothing is work in the social sense of the word. It is his life.”

Chef in Town- a food and beverage column curated by

Intl Editor Francesca Romana Riggio

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