Alto Adige III: Other Grapes and the Producers

Completing the story of Trentino-Alto Adige’s revived success with red wines.

Market pressures have pushed many Trentino-Alto Adige growers to try their hands at international varieties, as well as their indigenous grapes, and they are making an abundance of varietal Cabernet, Merlot, and Pinot nero, as well as a goodly number of blends of those grapes with each other and indigenous varieties. Most of those are, to my palate, up to international commercial standards and in fact in many cases indistinguishable from more famous versions of the same sorts of wine. This is, I suppose, praise of a sort, if you come to wine seeking the same sort of consistent taste you find in Pepsi Cola or Bud Lite.

Pinot nero is the one international variety that seems thus far to have really made a place for itself here by producing distinctive wine. Pinot nero as a variety has probably broken more winemakers’ hearts and bank accounts than any other. While its best products are marvelous, in most places it just doesn’t deliver. It shares an intense site-sensitivity with this area’s indigenous varieties – of which it may well be a distant ancestor. On the high, cool hillsides of Alto Adige it has found a microclimate and a set of soils that suit it, and it has started to make very interesting, almost-Burgundian style wines, with a fine combination of delicacy of flavor and structural strength.

Wolfgang Raifer

Wolfgang Raifer’s experience and comments represent the sort of learning curve I heard expressed by many growers: “Our Pinot nero is largely unwooded. We had a bad experience with Pinot nero and new wood, so now we don’t use it very much – but that’s our vineyards and our grapes. Eight years ago, we started replanting our Pinot nero vineyards with largely French clones, and we focused very strongly on field and cellar care: now we’re getting somewhere.”

Some Key Producers

The following is a highly subjective selection of Trentino-Alto Adige estates and their most interesting red wines. The Alto Adige labels seen in this country are usually in Italian, but I have also given their German names in parentheses.

Abbazzia di Novacella (Stiftskellerei Neustift): an ancient, still active abbey (a beautiful place to visit), and the northernmost winery in Italy; primarily whites, but nice Lagrein from the Bolzano area.

Gardens of the Abbazia di Novacella; vineyards in the background

Caldaro (Kaltern): a co-op most of whose vineyards lie within sight of Lake Caldaro (Kalterer See); the cool climate and moderate temperature range, regulated by the large lake, yields good Schiava, Lagrein, Pinot nero, and even some Cabernet.

Cantina Bolzano (Kellerei Bozen): an amalgamation of two long-established co-ops, Santa Maddalena and Gries; excellent Lagrein, good Pinot nero.

Cavit: a large firm based in Trentino; good basic IGT Teroldego under the Cavit label and a fine prestige bottling DOC Teroldego under the Bottega Vinaia label; also a small amount of Trentino Lagrein.

Colterenzio (Schreckbichl): The most progressive and possibly the best of Alto Adige co-ops, producing excellent Pinot nero and Lagrein.

Endrizzi: newish Trentino producer making fine Teroldego.

Foradori: top Trentino producer of Teroldego in several bottlings – Teroldego Vigneto Morei, Karanar, Granato. The Granato in particular has been getting a lot of serious attention and racking up honors and high scores in Italy and America.

Girlan: another fine Alto Adige co-op making enjoyable red wines at several price levels; surprisingly fine old-vine Schiava, plus very good Lagrein and Pinot nero.

Hofstätter: an excellent privately owned firm (cousins of Trentino’s Elisabetta Foradori); really nice Pinot nero, good Lagrein. They have vineyards on both sides of the Adige near the town of Termeno (Tramin, from whence Gewuztraminer is supposed to originate: your factoid for the day).

Lageder: probably the leading winery in all of Alto Adige; a complete line of white wines plus first-rate Pinot nero and Lagrein.

Manincor

Manincor: an up-and-coming, committed biodynamic house; nice Schiava and Pinot nero, several interesting blends (indigenous and international varieties).

Mezzacorona: a conglomeration of growers, centered in Trentino, but with properties in several different wine zones; good Pinot nero and Teroldego, and a small amount of Marzemino under the Castel Firmian label.

Muri-Gries: a centuries-old Benedictine monastery, practically within Bolzano city limits; it is rapidly becoming a specialist in Lagrein, making a rosé, a regular bottling, and a fine riserva Abtei; also Moscato rosa.

Muri-Gries vineyards and monastery

Terlano: a fine co-op, primarily a white wine house, but also making Lagrein and Pinot nero.

Zeni: a Veneto firm with vineyards in Trentino; excellent Teroldego.

One Response to “Alto Adige III: Other Grapes and the Producers”

  1. Joanie Karapetian, Italian Wine Geek Says:

    I LOVE this region! And although as you stated, primarily a white wine producer, don’t neglect the amazing Terlano Lagrien “Porphyr”. This is a red unlike any others- and you’ll never forget it either!

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