Wine Travels: Alto Adige
Wine regions, what to taste, where to go
It is known well that the mentality of a person is determined by the topography of the area he lives in. The people from plains are more often generous and carefree, while unemotional Highlanders are often closed and harsh. The regions of Alto-Adige and Trentino are a great place to test this theory.
PART I: ALTO ADIGE
Alto Adige is a region directly adjacent to the Dolomites, the slopes over there begin almost immediately from the banks of the river having highways winding among them. On the other hand, Trentino is more of a southern region and comparatively vast plains met there rather often. So in the meaning of topography, they can be called different.
At the beginning of 20 century, both Trentino and Alto Adige were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they were ceded to the Italian kingdom in 1919. Trentino was basically closer to the Italian tradition, but Sud Tyrol still keeps traces of Austrian influence.
These factors – topological, political and traditional – still have a huge influence on this region winemaking industries.
Alto Adige is one of the smallest in Italy and at the same time, it definitely is a highest one: while the region provides only 0.7% of Italian wine, 85% of its 5,300 hectares vineyards are located above 1000 meters above sea level.
The traditions of this region are so distinctive that they allow to single out it as an independent unit on the wine list of Italy. In 1975, a consortium of Alto Adige wines was founded, the independent promotion of South Tyrolean wines has begun. With all the diversity of styles of Alto Adige wines, they are fairly uniform in terms of quality. 98% of them falls under the category of DOC. This high figure is often associated with the "Nordic" mentality of the Tyrolese. As someone notes – people of Alto-Adige are highlanders, proud and stoic people, with a clearly defined German cultural tradition.
Alto Adige is primarily a producer of white wines. White varieties occupy 59% of the vineyards and continue to expand. At 10% each, there are four varieties: Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder) and Chardonnay.
The last two varieties are the recognized source for the most elegant white wines of the region. Among Chardonnays - at the heights difficult to reach - there is the iconic Lowengang biodynamic cuvee from Alois Lageder, among elegant Pinot Biancos J. Hofstatter Weissburgunder may be considered as a model. While Chardonnay and Weissburgunder are undisputable style favorites, Pinot Grigio still remains the most popular wine of Alto Adige. It is difficult to explain why this light and - in most Italian versions - plain wine has become so popular, but things happen.
Among red varieties, Lagrein is getting more and more notable. It gives extractive, velvety and full-bodied wines and it is successfully used in blends as well – Lagrein enhances the color and adds to wine body well. The pink version of the Lagreine is known as Kretzer, along with its father is becoming more popular also.
In the international varietal range Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) is especially encouraging here. The best sample will be found in Franz Haas and Elena Walch wineries, to name a few.