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In the 1960's, Erica and Peter Max Suter, a Swiss couple, bought an abandoned farm just outside the town of Roccatederighi in central Tuscany, with the idea to turn it into a rural estate with woods and pastures. They bred sheep and pigeons, and planted a vineyard; soon the Meleta winery was known for its wine and products (in Italian, 'Meleto' is an apple orchard; the winery was named after the orchard on its land.) It was at that time that Cabernet Franc and Merlot were introduced to the area.
Ampeleia, however, was born in 2002 from the collaboration and friendship between Elisabetta Foradori, Thomas Widmann, and Giovanni Podini; they saw in Ampeleia a place where they could not only develop an agricultural project but also fulfill a common vision relating to shared values and experiences. (In 2009, Thomas' intense political commitment in his homeland compelled him to forsake his involvement in Ampeleia.) The project aspires to represent the inherent diversity and huge potential of this particular area of Maremma. The estate results from the purchase of different plots of land, located far apart and on different altitude levels, with the precise aim of creating a great variability in altitude, soil type and microclimatic conditions; each vineyard has a distinctive identity that is enhanced by the uniqueness of the surrounding environment. Hence, variety is the keystone and soul of Ampeleia. In fact, variety represents the project’s constant quality, both physically and symbolically, and is harmoniously expressed in its wines that taste of the diverse and varied land of the area around Roccatederighi. Originating from the Near East, many of the grape varieties that have been planted in Ampeleia are common in Mediterranean farmlands. In past times, vineyards were not planted with just one grape variety but many types of grapes were present and they were all harvested at the same time; the vineyards at Ampeleia reflect this tradition.
The Three Altitudes:
Ampeleia di Sopra: 70 hectares, 15 under vine; this is the largest land unit of the estate. Placed between 450 and 600 metres above sea level, it is mainly planted with Cabernet Franc. The landscape here is dominated by chestnut groves.
Ampeleia di Mezzo: 35 hectares, 10 under vine. This is the land of Sangiovese. Divided into small plots that range from 250 to 350 metres above sea level, the vineyards, surrounded by cork oak woods and Mediterranean scrubland, are planted with Carignan, Grenache and Alicante Bouschet.
Ampeleia di Sotto: 15 hectares, 10 under vine. This section of the estate includes the plots closest to the sea, and are the most distinctly Mediterranean in character. The vineyards, found around 200 metres above sea level, are planted with traditional Mediterranean grape varieties, mainly Grenache.
"Once again, I was deeply impressed with the wines I tasted from Ampeleia. These gorgeous Maremma reds deserve much more love. Over the last few years, Ampeleia has emerged as one of the most exciting properties on the Tuscan coast. Proprietress Elisabetta Foradori and her team prove they can also make great wines in Tuscany, not just Trentino. My only regret is I rarely see these wines in the market, which is a real shame. Readers who can find any of these wines should not hesitate." -Antonio Galloni, from In a Tuscan State of Mind, Vinousmedia.com, Aug 2013