Wines from Cortina D’Ampezzo

As I entered A Voce Restaurant, I was offered a choice of a glass of Pinot Grigio or Rhine Riesling.  I was there for a wine tasting and lunch, so I tried both wines and liked them.  Wine in hand, I sought out our host, Peter Zemmer of the Peter Zemmer Winery to give him my compliments which he seemed pleased to receive.  Established in 1928, his winery is located in the Alto Adige-South Tyrol in northeastern Italy.

Peter Zemmer

Peter spoke about Cortina D’Ampezzo, a beautiful skiing and hiking resort in the Alps that I visited several years ago, as “his town.”  Cortina, he said, is among the smallest communities in the region and is also the last village with a German-speaking majority before the southern border with Trentino.  It is also the only village in the Southern Tyrolean Lowlands/Unterland that is situated on the valley floor.  He described the vineyards and fruit trees that surround the town and went on to say that the day temperature can be 40 degrees higher than the night temperature, which enhances the aromas and flavors in the grapes. Bolzano, the largest town in the area, can have summer daytime temperatures as high as Palermo, in Sicily.

In response to a question about screw caps Peter said that they can use them in foreign markets but in Italy they only want cork.

The Wines of Peter Zemmer

Pinot Grigio 2011 Alto Adige DOC There is a selection of grapes from the best vineyards of the valley floor and the steep slopes nearby. The soil here is stony, sandy and extremely chalky. Peter said that the low yields per hectare and this particular terroir combines for a very particular Pinot Grigio.  The grapes are gently pressed, then clarified through the natural settling of sediment.  Alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation does not occur in any of the white wines. The wine remains on the lees for several months before it is bottled. It has more depth than most Pinot Grigio, with ripe fresh fruit, a touch of pear, a hint of spice, good mineral character and fresh acidity. $16

Rhine Riesling 2011 Alto Adige DOC Peter said that this grape is very well suited to the micro-climatic conditions and the loose, well aerated soils in the area. The grapes are pressed and the stems are removed in a pneumatic tank press. Before being pressed, a 6 – 8 hour cold maceration takes place in order to enhance the fruitiness of the wine.
Afterwards, the grapes are gently pressed and clarified through the natural settling of sediments. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. This is a nice fruity wine with good body and hints of fresh peach.  It has a nice finish and aftertaste. $19

Pinot Bianco 2011  – Alto Adige DOC This Pinot Bianco is a selection of the best vineyards of the valley floor and steep slopes near the vineyard estate. It flourishes under outstanding climatic conditions on a stony, sandy and extremely chalky soil. Peter said that the poor yield per hectare and the particular terroir are responsible for the outstanding quality of the wine.

After the grapes arrive, they are gently pressed and clarified through the natural settling of sediments. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. Peter said that after several months of ripening on the yeast the wine in ready to bottle. This is a wine with rich fruity aromas and flavors with hints of green apple, fresh acidity and a mineral character. $19

Bianco “Cortinie”(Latin name for Cortina ) 2010 made from Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Gwürztraminer. These grapes are grown on the valley floor around the village of Cortina and on the slopes at different altitudes. The aromatic grapes are grown at 600, 400 and 300 meters. Peter explained that grapes from the valley floor give the wine more body and fruit and the ones at the higher altitudes add acidity and minerality. The harvest time is different; the lower vineyards are harvested in August and the highest in late September. Training of the vines is by the guyot method, 6,000 to 9,000 vines per hectare or on the single pergola, 3,500 to 4,000 vines per hectare. Peter said that Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio do not like a lot of sun and do better under the pergola. The older vineyards are single pergola and the newer are guyot.

The grapes are crushed and the stems are removed in a pneumatic tank press. Before being pressed, an 8 hour-long cold maceration takes place. Peter said that this is done in order to enhance the fruitiness of the wine. Afterwards, the grapes are gently pressed and clarified through the natural settling of sediments.  2/3 of the alcoholic fermentation is carried out in stainless steel tanks with select strains of yeast. 1/3 of the fermentation is carried out in small casks of French oak. The wine is then aged for 6 months in French barriques from Allier. Peter said that he does not use new barriques for the wine. The wine is then aged in the bottle until it is ready to be put on the market. This is a full-bodied wine with ripe fruit and hints of apricots and a touch of tropical fruit. There is good minerality and acidity. $ 30Pinot Nero 2010 Alto Adige DOC the stems are immediately removed and the grapes are fermented at a constant temperature of 26 – 28° C (79 – 82° F) for about 10 days. The must is kept in contact with the skins through circulation pumping and gentle pressure from below. Peter said they achieve ideal results with the coloring of the skins and this emphasizes the fruitiness of the wine. After two gentle rackings, 70% of this Pinot Noir is aged over 12 months in large barrels of French oak, and the remainder is aged in small casks of French oak (barriques), which are 2 – 3 years old. After blending, 750 ml Bordeaux-style bottles are filled and the wine is aged an additional 6 months in the bottle before it goes on sale. $22

Lagrein 2010 Alto Adige DOC
Peter said that this varietal, unique to Alto Adige, finds excellent growing conditions on the loamy soils of the community of Ora. Tender care of the vineyard offers the best conditions for the production of varietal and extraordinary quality.  The stems are immediately removed and the grapes are fermented at a constant temperature of 28° C (82° F) for about 10 days. The must is kept in regular contact with the skins through circulation pumping and gentle pressure from below. Peter said by this they achieve ideal results with the coloring from the skins and emphasize the fruitiness of the wine. After two gentle rackings, 60% of this Lagrein is aged over 12 months in large oak barrels, and the remainder is aged in small casks of French oak (barriques), which are 2 – 3 years old. After blending, 750 ml. Bordeaux-style bottles are filled and the wine is aged an additional 6 months in the bottle before it goes on sale. This is a big, intense complex wine with hints of wild berries, violets and spice. $22

Peter said that they make 22 wines but only these six are brought into the United States.

1 Comment

Filed under Alto Adige, Cortina, Cortinie Bianco, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lagrein, Peter Zemmer, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero, Rhine Riesling

One response to “Wines from Cortina D’Ampezzo

  1. Jack Zanetti

    from my grand father (who fought in The Great War) who was raised in Cortina. “we were the only town in the Dolomites that never spoke German.” From Wikipedia..(for what it is worth): In 1874 the Ampezzo forest became the property of the Carnic Woods Consortium.[12] Although remaining a Habsburg possession until 1920, aside from being home for an ethnic German-speaking minority, Ampezzo never became a German-speaking territory and conserved its original language, Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance language.[13]
    Perhaps, a misprint.

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