Forastera: The Forgotten Grape of Ischia

Posted by Keith Wallace

Introduction to Forastera

In the world of wine, certain grapes dominate the conversation. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir often steal the spotlight. Yet, hidden in the shadow of these giants are lesser-known varietals that hold their own unique charm and history. One such grape is Forastera, a rare varietal native to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy. This article explores the history, characteristics, and future of Forastera, shedding light on why it deserves recognition among wine enthusiasts.

Historical Roots

Forastera has a long and storied history on the island of Ischia. The grape, believed to have arrived with Greek settlers around 700 BC, adapted well to the island’s volcanic soils and Mediterranean climate. Over centuries, Forastera became a staple in local winemaking, prized for its resilience and unique flavor profile.

Characteristics of Forastera

Forastera grapes produce wines that are light, crisp, and aromatic. The wine typically showcases notes of green apple, citrus, and herbs, with a refreshing acidity that makes it an excellent pairing for seafood and Mediterranean dishes. Its relatively low alcohol content further enhances its appeal as a summer wine.

Challenges and Revival

Despite its rich history, Forastera faced a decline in the 20th century as international varietals gained popularity. Many vineyards replaced Forastera with more commercially viable grapes, leading to its near extinction. However, a handful of dedicated vintners on Ischia are working to revive Forastera, recognizing its cultural and oenological value.

Future Prospects

The future of Forastera looks promising, thanks to the efforts of these passionate winemakers. By preserving ancient vineyards and employing modern winemaking techniques, they are not only safeguarding a piece of history but also introducing Forastera to a new generation of wine lovers. As global interest in indigenous varietals grows, Forastera is poised to reclaim its place in the world of wine.

Culinary Pairings

Forastera’s light and crisp profile makes it an excellent companion to a variety of dishes. Its high acidity complements seafood, especially shellfish and white fish, while its herbal notes enhance Mediterranean fare like pasta with pesto, grilled vegetables, and caprese salad. For those looking to explore more, pairing Forastera with sushi or lightly spiced Asian cuisine can offer delightful surprises.

Tasting Notes from Local Winemakers

Local winemakers on Ischia share a deep connection with Forastera, each bringing their unique touch to its production. Many describe Forastera wines as having a vibrant minerality, a testament to the island’s volcanic soil. Winemakers often note the grape’s versatility, producing both still and sparkling wines that capture the essence of Ischia’s terroir. Tasting notes frequently highlight the wine’s bright acidity, with subtle hints of salinity that evoke the island’s maritime influence.

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