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.

Tyrolean style


 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.

German oriented cuisine


Yes, Alto-Adige cuisine can be defined as the one with a serious German influence, but also with palpable Mediterranean notes.


First of all, the quality of the meals is very high everywhere, whether you go to an upscale restaurant or just stop at a small café. So useful hints, mostly about what is covered under not widely known names, mostly German:


Canederli – dumplings to be eaten with or without broth, with speck, herbs or cheese added.


Spatzle -  egg gnocchi, classic or with spinach.


Schlutzkrapfen (mezzelune) - a ravioli-like pasta with ricotta and spinach.


Speck  -  mildly smoked ham, might be eaten independently or used for classic local recipes. Panino con lo speck is what you can have before some long mountain walk.

 

Luganega is the farmer cold meat, its spicy flavors and taste make it very popular.


Mortandela, meatball shaped smoked pork salami.


Cheese is a real pearl of this region and, of course, one the things you must try. While making your choice pay attention to big four names – Lagrein, Dolomiten Konig, Stelvio, and Alta Balda.

To check Alto Adige wine map, find out more about its wine and food, get to know why Dolomites Italy (South Tyrol) red and white wine are so great, what is Lagrein grape and more in Gourmet Library  

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