Visionary Vintner

16 Feb 2021
4 min read
Located in Val d’Illasi, the furthest valley northeast of Verona, Dal Forno Romano is a family-run vineyard that has been producing quality Italian wine since 1983.

Sprawled across 65 acres, the Dal Forno Romano estate is home to traditional indigenous varieties of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta and Croatina vines. With an idyllic position on the slopes rising towards the mountains of the Lessinian plateau, the loose and alluvial soils give rise to the finest grapes. Using long-standing methods paired with modern techniques, including meticulous pruning and careful harvesting, the Dal Forno family ensures that their grapes and resultant wines are of the highest quality.

Timeless in character and modern in distinction, the unique Dal Forno Romano wines – which include the region’s famed Valpolicella and Amarone blends – have received numerous awards for their excellence over the years, including top honors from Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and the International Wine Report, among others.

The product of a challenging past, the estate has preserved through trials and tribulations to get where it is today. Owned by the Dal Forno family for more than four generations, Luigi Dal Forno – grandfather of the winery’s founder Romano – played an essential role in the property’s history by reconciling it after was divided between various family members.

Back in 1983, with nine acres of vines at the time, a 23-year-old Romano decided to try his hand at winemaking. Albeit with little knowledge and no experience, and against his father’s advice, he was tenaciously determined to produce fine wine. From sourcing empty bottles from local restaurants to going door-to-door to sell his wines, the Dal Forno Romano label grew from strength to strength from a very humble beginning.

After his maestro Giuseppe Quintarelli showed him the ropes, the young and determined Romano promised himself that only death or a serious illness would stop him on his quest to produce wine that sparked emotion and respected its territory, and 37 years later, the Dal Forno vintages more than live up to this oath.

Interview with Marco Dal Forno

Where does the passion for winemaking stem from and how do you remain inspired day-to-day to produce top quality wines? 

It is not easy to maintain high standards especially when the weather conditions are not the best, but for us, there are no options other than quality. Every day when we wake up, we have a question in our mind: what can we do in order to raise the quality of our wines today? The most difficult thing to accept is the loss of 2-3 days of production before harvesting due to the hail, as has happened in some vintages.

What are some of the winery’s core production principles?

No compromise; continuous research; respect for the environment; respect for people and absolute meticulousness.

Tell us more about your wines? 

Our Valpolicella and Amarone are made with 100% dried grapes. For the Valpolicella, we dry the grapes for 25–30 days, for the Amarone we dry for 70-80 days. Obviously, we use the grapes that come from the best Cru for the Amarone and the rest for the Valpolicella. But even though the Valpolicella is our entry-level wine, the standards of the grape selection are the same as those for the Amarone. For both wines, we use 70% of Corvina Corvinone and Rondinella, for the rest of the 25% we use Croatina and Oseleta.

What makes your area ideal for the growth of wine grapes and how does this give them their unique characteristics?

Honestly, I do not know what makes our area ideal for the growth of wine grapes. I think that there are several aspects that come together and result in the final quality. The north-south position of the valley and the continuous ventilation help to maintain the vines in good health. The soil that is alluvial gives a specific characteristic to the wine, but one factor that is essential for me is the passion with which we work and the continuous research we put in to understand the need of the vines. Working to try and have the least impact possible, and studying the impact that every single action has on the environment are also very important facets.

Tell us more about the winery’s growth and production process in general?

We believe that the wine is born in the vineyard rather than in the cellar. We spend six to seven hundred hours per hectare doing handwork only in the period from April to August – that is a huge amount of time.

Since my father started these winemaking activities in 1983, he focused only on quality rather than quantity. And today it is still the same. We think that if you produce high-quality grape bunches, it will be easier to produce high-quality wine, and that’s why we work so hard in the summer. Once we have prepared the grapes in the best way possible, it is time to harvest in September.

We call our harvest a “chirurgical harvest” because we remove every single grape that is damaged, even the ones that have minute imperfections. We want to collect only the bunches of grapes that are perfect because we want to leave them in the dry room for 25 days for the Valpolicella and 70-80 days for the Amarone without any issues. After this period, before the bunches are crushed, we re-inspect every single bunch of grapes and remove by hand the grapes that developed botrytis during this time.

The alcoholic fermentation normally lasts 15-20 days and then we put the wine into the new barrels for 24-36 months. After this time, we bottle the wine, and we leave it in the bottles for 48-60 months before the release of the vintages.

What is the winery looking to achieve in the future in terms of winemaking?

In the near future, I would like to have the vineyards completely integrated with the natural environment, this is my personal dream. I do not know if I’ll be able to achieve this goal, but I’m working on it.

How do you hope your wines will impact people?

I would like our wines to give emotions and unique experiences to people who drink them.

Can guests visit the winery and do tastings and/or cellar tours?

We welcome people by appointment only for the tour and tasting.

To find out more about the winery, visit Dal Forno Romano’s website.