Wine styles: Forastera gives light to medium bodied wines with fairly simple stone fruit character. In combination with its modest acidity the wines can sometimes feel bland, but when made well, the complexity of coastal minerals and subtle notes of wild herb emerge strongly. When blended, it is typically utilised alongside Biancolella, a variety used to add more intensity. Nevertheless, Forastera’s relatively neutral character, or should we say, its lack of distinguishing personality, make it a suitable candidate for the production of base wines to ultimately turn into sparkling wine. As far as I’m aware there are no attempts at traditional method sparkling wine.
Recommendations: Very few producers cultivate Forastera and so recommendations are limited. Ischia’s largest estate is Casa d’Ambra and under the current watch of Andrea d’Ambra produces high quality wines. Other good quality wines to search out are by Tommasone, Cenatiempo, Anotonio Mazzella and Pietratorcia.
Locations: Forastera is grown mainly on the island of Ischia and by implication, in the Ischia DOC appellation. It is frequently found on steep terraces, often planted between dry stone walls. Sarah d’Ambra of the island’s key winery notes “Forastera grows more on the west side of the island, where the soil is largely sandy and rich in clay. Here there is also Tufo Verde, a type of green volcanic rock, the result of the high levels of iron and magnesium present in the soil”.
Forastera varietal wines must incorporate at least 85% of the grape. Although permissible in a number of appellations in Campania, it is largely confined to Ischia and the nearby island of Procida, where some locals refer to it as ‘Uva dell’Isola’. There are a handful of vines on the mainland, notably in Campi Flegrei and on the Sorrentine peninsula.
Vineyard: Many of the Forastera vines on Ischia are quite old. In the island’s volcanic soils the roots have been able to dig deep to find much needed nutrients. In addition, the vines are able to withstand extreme conditions. Sea breezes and dry years often reduce the vine’s vegetation, resulting in a lower but more concentrated yield.
Cellar: The natural characteristics of Forastera lends itself to vinifcation in stainless steel. The primary aim for most winemakers here is to preserve primary fruit aromas. The commercial reality for Forastera means that producers generally design wines for early consumption, however, Sara d’Ambra claims “Forastera can age very well, so you can drink it also after five or six years”.
History: The first recorded reference to Forastera was in 1877 in the writings of winemaker Giuseppe di Rovasenda, the Count of Rovasenda. His published ”Saggio di Ampelografia Universale" included detailed descriptions of over 3500 grapes. As such, it is thought that Forastera arrived on the island of Ischia as late as the mid 19th century.
Ampelography: It was once thought that Forastera came from Spain. In fact, the name potentially derives from the Italian word ‘forestiero’, meaning ‘ foregin’. However, Forastera has been proven to have no genetic relationship with the Spanish grape Forastera Blanca.