Category Archives: Alto Adige

From the Alto Adige: The Wines of Elena Walch

Many years ago I owned a wine store in Brooklyn. One of the wine salesmen who came in regularly introduced me to the wines of Elena Walch in the Alto Adige and I really liked them and ordered them for the store. That summer Michele and I were visiting Northern Italy and decided to stop at the Elena Walch Winery. We had a memorable visit and tasted a number of wines along with the local food. territorio-canvas

The Alto Adige (Südtirol) Region, which borders on Austria and Switzerland, is at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites. It is Italy’s northern-most wine region. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.  Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tirol and themselves Tyroleans. The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy.

The Elena Walch Winery

This is a family owned and operated winery, led by Elena Walch and her two daughters, Julia and Karolina. There are 136 acres and there are two excellent single vineyards on the estate: Castel Ringberg in Kaltern which is 49 acres and the largest single vineyard in the Alto Adige, and Kastelaz in Tramin which is 15 acres. The philosophy of the estate is that the wines must be the individual expression of the soil, climate and cultivation in the vineyard.

The White WinesIMG_0909

Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC 2015 made from 100% Pinot Grigio from small vineyards around the villages of Tramin and Caldero. After the harvest the grapes are crushed and pressed. The fresh must is clarified at low temperatures then gently fermented at a controlled temperature (18C) in stainless steel tanks. The young wine matures in stainless steel tanks for several months on the lees. The wine has hints of pears, white pepper and a touch of sage with nice minerality. $17IMG_0910

Pinot Grigio “Castel Ringberg” Alto Adige DOC 2014 100% Pinot Grigio from the Castel Ringberg vineyard (1,150 ft.) which is located on the south-facing hillside above Lake Caldaro where the soil is glacial in origin with chalk and clay. Training system is guyot. The grapes are gently pressed and clarified, and then 85% of the must ferments in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The remainder of the must ferments in new, secon and third usage French oak barriques. The blending occurs shortly before bottling the following spring. It has ripe aromas of pear, sage and spice. The wine is full bodied and creamy with good acidity and minerality. $23IMG_0911

Pinot Bianco “Kastelaz” Alto Adige DOC 2014 100% Pinot Bianco from the Kastelaz vineyard situated on a very steep hill above Tramin at 980 ft. The soil is sand and clay and the training system is guyot. After pressing, the juice is clarified by refrigeration and natural sedimentation. Two-thirds of the must undergoes temperature fermentation at 18C in stainless steel tanks with extended yeast contact. The remaining third of the must ferments and matures in new 225-liter French oak barriques. Blending takes place the following spring. The wine has aromas of fresh green apples and a hint of white pepper. There are mineral notes and the wine has a long finish. $22IMG_0912

Gewürztraminer Alto Adige DOC 2014 made from 100% Gewurztraminer from small vineyards around the villages if Tramin and Caldero. After harvest, the grapes are crushed and pressed. The fresh must is clarified at low temperatures then gently fermented at a controlled temperature of 20°C in stainless steel tanks. The wine matures in stainless steel tanks for several months on its fine lees. The wine has hints of white flowers and spice with a nice long finish. $20IMG_0913

Gewurtztraminer “Kastelaz” Alto Adige DOC 2013 made from 100% Gewurztraminer from the Kastelaz vineyard. It is a classic site, situated on a very steep hillside above Tramin, the birthplace of Gewurtztraminer. The vineyard is at 980 ft, training system is guyot and the soil is chalk and clay. The grapes are very carefully selected for ripeness during two harvests. Before pressing, the crushed berries are cold macerated for 6 hours, after which the juice is clarified. Temperature-controlled fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks with select, inoculated yeasts. The wine remains on its lees, with lees stirring, until bottling the following spring. This is an aromatic and full wine with hints of lychee, dried fruit and a touch of honey. $32

The Red WinesIMG_0915

Schiava Alto Adige DOC 2015 made from 100% Schiava from high side vineyards above Lake Caldaro at 1,312 ft. The soil is limestone and dandy clay. There is temperature-controlled fermentation at 27°C in stainless steel tanks for 7 days of skin contact. Malolactic fermentation and maturation take place in traditional 8,000-liter Slovenian oak casks. This is a fruity red wine with hints of cherry and a nice bitter almond touch on the finish. $16IMG_0916

 Lagrein Riserva “Castel Ringbere” Alto Adige 2011 made from 100% Lagrein, which is indigenous to the Alto Adige, grown in the Castel Ringberg vineyard, at 1,500ft which is located on the south facing hill side above Lake Caldaro. The soil is glacial in origin with chalk and clay and the training system is guyot. The must is fermented for about 10 days in stainless steel tanks, followed by malolatic fermentation. The wine is then aged for 20 months in new French oak barriques. The wine is aged in bottle for several months before release.It has hints of spicy red berries, plums, and dry figs with a touch of smoke. $45IMG_0917

 Kermesse Vino d’Italia 2010 made from Lagrein, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Grapes come from Plon and extremely steep vineyard above the winery in Tramin and the two single vineyards Castel Ringberg and Kastelaz. The training system is guyot. All of the grapes except the Cabernet Sauvignon are harvested on the same day and crushed together. The must ferments for about 20 days in stainless steel tanks, followed by malolactic fermentation and maturation for 18 months in French oak barriques, almost all of which are new. The wine is aged for several months in bottle before it is release. This is a big wine with hints of spice, tobacco, pepper, wild berries and figs. $70

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Taste of the Alto Adige

Guests were coming and Michele decided to make beef goulash, a recipe from her book The Italian Slow Cooker.

I was surprised when she mentioned “goulash”, but she said that northern Italy’s Alto Adige region has more in common with neighboring Austria than it does with the rest of Italy. I decided to serve some wines from the Alto Adige to go with the meal.

The Alto Adige (Südtirol) region, which borders on Austria and Switzerland, is at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.  Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily.

The people that live here call their region the Sud Tirol and themselves Tyroleans. The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy.  Ham is called Speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.

I decided on 3 wines from one of my favorite wineries, the Abbazia di Novacella, a monastery.

The Abbazia di Novacella is located in the northern most winegrowing region of Italy in the Alto Adige on the southern side of the Alps where the vineyards for the white wines are located. The monastery also owns vineyards in the warm central region of the Alto Adige, which supplies the red grapes such as Lagrein from the Mariaheim vineyard in Bolzano.IMG_9612

Kerner 2014 DOC Alto Adige-Valley Isarco 100% Kerner the vineyards are located in the municipalities of Bressanone, Varna and Naz-Sciaves and are at 600 to 700 meters. The soil is gravelly morainal deposits and the exposure is south-southwest. The training system is guyot and there are 6,000 to 7,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place in early October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at 20°C. Natural and selected yeast is used and the wine remains in stainless steel tanks for 6 months before it is bottled. This is an aromatic white wine with hints of apple and peach, ripe and full with crisp acidity.

In 1929 August Herold a German crossed of a red variety Schiava and Riesling. The result was Kerner named in honor of the poet and physician, Justinus Kerner from Swabia. We had drank the Kerner with thinly sliced speck and ripe pears.IMG_9611

Muller Thurgau 2014 DOC Alto Adige-Isarco -Same as above. This is a fresh and fruity, delicately aromatic white wine with hints of lemon, green apple. It has good acidity.

Herman Muller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau created this white grape variety in 1882. Recent DNA testing shows it is a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royal and not Sylvaner as was once believed. We had this with gnocchi in a light tomato sauce.IMG_9613

Lagrein 2014 Alto Adige DOC 100% Lagrein The vineyard is at 260 to 350 meters and the soil is a mixture of sand, clay and eroded quartzite porphyry. There are 2,500 to 3,00 vines/ha and the training system is guyot. Harvest is in early October. Fermentation with natural and selected yeasts takes place in stainless steel punch down tanks and lasts for about 15 days. This is followed by malolactic fermentation and maturation in 60hl oak casks for about 6 months and 2 months in bottle before release. It has hints of violets, blackberries and black cherry with a touch of coffee and dark chocolate.

It was the perfect accompaniment to the beef goulash.

 

 

 

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Filed under Abbazia di Novacella, Alto Adige, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kerner, Lagrein, Muller Thurgau

White Wines of the Alto Adige that can Age

A few years ago Michele and I were in Italy and drove north from Lake Garda to the Alto Adige. As we left the city of Trentino and headed toward Bolzano (Bolzen), the countryside started to look more German than Italian.  Even the road signs changed:  they were written in both German and Italian.  This is a fascinating region with characteristics of two cultures.

I accepted an invitation to a seminar and panel discussion of wines of the Alto Adige that can age.IMG_7734

The moderator of the panel was Tim Gaiser, MS.  Tobias Zingerle of Kaltern Caldaro, Martin Foradori Hofstâtter of Tenuta J. Hofstâtter, and Ines Giovanett of Castelfeder made up the panel.

Alto Adige, also know as Südtirol due to its deep-rooted bicultural heritage, is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.  Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The vineyards range from 600 to 3,300 feet and the soil is mainly porphyry, limestone and slate rock with glacial deposits of gravel, sand and clay. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tyrol and themselves Tyroleans.   The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy.  Ham is called Speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.

Mr.Gaiser said that in the Alto Adige 70% of the production is from 13 cooperatives,  25% from 40 larger wine estates  and 5% from over 100 private producing winegrowers.

Südtirol Wein/Vini Alto Adige: Wines of the Italian Alps

The first two wines are made from the Pinot Bianco grape. This is a grape variety that I feel is not appreciated and under valued. I have had wines made from the Pinot Bianco grape from the Alto Adige that have been 20 years old and have stood the test of time. Therefore I was not surprised to see the older examples showing so well.

Mr. Zingerle said the Pinot Bianco was the local wine of the area, the everyday wine. He said that the training system was pergola and guyot trellises and hand harvesting was the rule.IMG_7736

Kaltern Caldaro Pinot Bianco Vial 2014 & 2008 DOC   100% Pinot Bianco. Kaltern Caldaro is a co-op with 440 members. The 300 hectares of vines are located around Lake Kaltern, the warmest lake in the Alps. The Vial vineyard is  between 500 and 550 meters and is located at the foot of the Mendel Mountain range.  Whole cluster pressing takes place, then a natural must clarification and slow fermentation at 16% of which 10% is in large casks. The wine remains on the lees for 5 months and is then filtered and bottled in March. The residual sugar is 3g/l for the 2014 and 3.5 for the 2008. It is a full bodied wine with hints of apple, pear and a touch of almonds. The 2008 was showing very well with  pear flavor becoming more pronounced. Mr. Zingerle said that all the production must go to the cooperative.IMG_7739

Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva Vorberg 2012 & 1999 DOC  100% Pinot Bianco Cantina Terlano is a cooperative founded in 1893. Today there are 143 growers with 165 hectares of vines. The Vorberg vineyard is in the Southern Tyrol facing the slopes of the Monzoccolo in the Terlano DOC area. The vineyards are between 450 and 950 meters. Harvesting is manual, followed by a gentle pressing of whole grape clusters and clarification of the must by natural sedimentation. A slow fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in 30HL barrels. Malolactic fermentation and aging on the lees in traditional wooden barrels for 12 months. The residual sugar is 3.2 for the 2012 and 2.5 for the 1999. Mr. Zingerle said that the winery was known for making white wines that can age and after tasting the 1999 I have to agree with him. The 2012 had aromas and flavors of citrus fruit, with hints of apple and a touch of grass and herbs. The 1999 was more subtle with a creamy finish and aftertaste. He added that 2012 and 1999 were very good vintages.

The panel members agreed that Gewürztraminer probably originated in Germany.

Mr. Hofstâtter said that the grapes for Gewürztraminer are picked when they are over ripe and the harvest usually takes place at the end of September and the beginning of October.  The training system is pergola and guyot. He also said that a touch of smoke is typical of the wine.IMG_7740

He said that  wines made from this grape are very aromatic with hints of  lychees, mango, peach and apricot and they can age.

Tramin Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer 2013 & 2009 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer  This cooperative was founded in 1889. 100% Gewürztraminer. The  14 hectares of vineyards are at 300 to 400 meters and the soil is calcareous and gravel in the area of Tramin and Montagna. There is a gentle pressing of the grapes immediately after harvest. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and malolactic  fermentation does not take place. Residual sugar is 8g/l for the 2013 and 8.6 for the 2009.

Tenuta J. Hofstâtter Gewürztraminer Vigna Kolbenof 2013 & 2006 DOC 100% Gewürztraminer. This is a family run winery. There are 50 hectares of vines  between 250 and 750 meters on the slopes on both sides of the River Adige. The grapes for this wine are grown in the hamlet of Söll overlooking Tramin. The grapes are lightly crushed and the juice is left in contact with the skin for a few hours. The juice is clarified using natural sediment and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled tanks. The wine is on the lees for eight months and the lees are stirred up once a week (battonage). It is a full bodied wine with hints of apricot, peach and passion fruit. The residual sugar is 8.4g/l for the 2013 and 8.2 for the 2006. Only the Vigna on the label guarantees the origin of the single vineyard in the Alto-Adige.

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Filed under Alto Adige, Castelfeder, Gewurztraminer, Hofstatter, Kaltern Caldaro, Tramin winery

Pairing Gnocchi with Three Wines from The Alto Adige

Gnocchi ricotta with tomato-butter sauce

A few weeks ago Michele made ricotta gnocchi with tomato-butter sauce from her new book “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” for a dinner with friends. One of the guests said that she had tried making potato gnocchi but they never turned out right. Michele said that ricotta gnocchi were very easy to make and she would be happy to show her. Last Saturday, our friends returned and brought prosciutto and melon for an antipasto and three bottles of wine from the Alto Adige to see which one matched best with the gnocchi.IMG_5206

Michele and I used to do wine and food pairing classes and we found that one of the following scenarios was typical:

-The wine and the food may be good on their own but in combination they do not work and leave a bad taste in your mouth.

-The next is when the wine and food do not combine but each keeps its own individual character.

-The last is when the wine and food combine to give you the perfect combination.IMG_5204

Südtirol Eisacktaler Kerner 100% Kerner. Abbazia Di Novacella. The vineyards are 600-700meters, the soil is gravelly morainal deposits and the exposure is south-southwest. The training system is guyot, there are 6,000 to 7,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in October. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks at 20°C. Only natural yeast is used and the wine remains in stainless steel tanks for 6 months before it is bottled. This is an aromatic wine with hints of apple and peach, ripe and full with crisp acidity.

We drank this wine with the prosciutto and melon, and it was a perfect combination. Later, we tried the Kerner with the gnocchi. It was good, but the flavors did not marry. The tastes remained separate.IMG_5205

Alto Adige Sauvignon Sanct Valentin 2012 100% Sauvignon Blanc St. Michael-Eppan. The grapes come from different vineyards in Appiano Monte all at 400 to 600 meters and the vines are 10 to 18 years old. There is long maceration at low temperatures in steel tanks and then 12% of the wine is aged and refined in big and small oak casks. This is sauvignon blanc from Italy with all the characteristics of the best is sauvignon blanc with a hint of figs and light spice. This is one of Michele’s favorite producers of white wine and I have to agree with her.

The Sauvignon blanc overwhelmed the gnocchi so that there were two different tastes but mostly Sauvignon blancIMG_5202

Hexenbichler Schiava Alto Adige DOC 2012 100% Schiava Tramin The grapes come from the 6 acre Hexenbichler vineyard. The soil is clay-loam and pebbles, the training system is Pergola, the elevation is 990 to 1,320 feet and there is an eastern exposure. Harvest takes place in September. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks for 10 days and aging takes place for 6 months in 50 to 100 HL steel tank. Length of time before bottling is 6 months and 2 months in bottle before release.IMG_5209

This is a light red wine with fresh fruit flavors and a nice finish finish and aftertaste. It was the perfect combination with the gnocchi, the light fruitiness of the blended perfectly with the delicate ricotta gnocchi and the tomato and butter sauce.

 

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Filed under Abbazia di Rosazzo, Alto Adige, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Kerner, Sanct Valentin, Sauvignon Blanc, Schiava, St. Michele-Eppan, Tramin winery

The Legends of Italian Wine

Istituto del Vino di Qualitá /grandi marchi (The Institute of Fine Italian Wines/Premium Brands) is a group of 19 of Italy’s top wine producers that have joined together on marketing activities to improve both the image of Italian wine and to promote the member wineries. The members include Alois Lageder, Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari, Tenute Antinori, Argiolas, Biondi Santi Tenuta Greppo, Ca’ del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d’Almerita, Tenuta San Guido and Umani Ronchi. The President is the Marchese Piero Antinori.
All of the producers are older well-established wineries that are family owned. It is very unusual to get Italians to agree on anything so to have so many producers from different regions cooperate like this is even more unusual.

Their first event in NYC, “The Legends of Italian Wine,” was held at the New York Public Library on Fifth Ave.  17 of the 19 producers were  at the event (only Gaja and Tenuta San Guido were missing) and there were wines from ten of the Italian regions.

As I tasted the wines, I felt that there was a movement away from the over extracted oaky wines of the past few years. Even those producers that make wines of this type spoke about terroir and using less new oak. There were only two wines that were a little too international in style for me, but they were not over the top.

Listed below are six wines, which I felt were particularly interesting:

Pinot Grigio “Porer” Alto Adige DOC 2011 Alois Lageder 100% Pinot Grigio. (Alto Adige) Fermentation and aging on the lees in stainless steel tanks and the wine is matured in stainless steel tanks and large oak casks. Clemens Lageder, representing the winery, said that the vineyard faces east and gets the morning sun. He feels that because of this the resulting wine has a touch of smoke and good acidity. This is an elegant Pinot Grigio with a lot of body.  It is soft and creamy with a long finish and nice aftertaste. $25

IL Falcone Castello Del Monte Riserva DOC 2006 Rivera Made from 70% Nero di Troia and 30% Montepulciano. (Puglia).   The harvest is in the middle of October, with the older vineyard of Nero di Troia sometimes picked the first week of November. Maceration and color extraction are carried out in stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days with frequent pump-overs and delestage.  Sebastiano Decorato, the sales director and a member of the family that owns the winery said that this is done to obtain better extraction and soften the tannins. The wine is aged for 12/14 months in 225-liter French oak barriques of various ages. The wine is filtered but not cold stabilized and released after one year of bottle aging. This is a wine that should get more attention. I have been drinking it for a number of years and it never disappoints. $30

Taurasi “Radici” DOCG 2006 100% Aglianico Mastroberardino SPA. (Campania) Piero Mastroberardino said that the vineyards were on two hills, Mirabella vineyard at 500 meters and the Montemarano vineyard at 550 meters. Because of its position on the hill and its altitude the temperature at the Montemarano vineyard was much colder and the grapes are picked a little later. Harvest in from the end of October into the beginning of November. The vinification is the classic one for red wine, long maceration with skin contact at controlled temperatures. The wine is aged for 24 months in French barriques and Slovenian oak barrels and remains in the bottle for 24 months before release. Piero made a point of telling me that the barriques were second and third passage. This is full, complex wine with hints of black cherry, plum, spice and a touch of leather.

There was a dinner the night of the tasting and I was sat with Piero. He said that a few people said that his wine should be more concentrated. I could not believe this!.  This is a great wine, a unique wine the can last for 40 years or more. I have the 1989 1995,1997 and 1999 vintages of this wine. Piero said, to my relief, that he would not change anything. $65  

RubescoVigna Monticchio” Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG 2006 Cantina Giorgio Lungarotti SRL (Umbria) 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo. The Monticchio vineyard is the Brufa hill is near the town of Torgiano. Giorgio Lungarotti said that this vineyard is at 300 meters and the soil is mostly clay. He feels that this is a unique vineyard, which gives the wine its unique character. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with 15/20 days of maceration on the skins. Aging is in oak barriques and barrels for about 12 months and following a light filtering it remains in the bottle for four years before it is released. This is an elegant wine with red fruit flavors and aromas with hints of cherry, tobacco and spice. The 2006 is the current vintage.  I have been drinking this wine since 1981 when I first visited the winery in Torgiano and drank the 1973 vintage. The wine was granted its own DOCG in 1990. The Rubesco Riserva is a wine that can age for 30 years. $55

Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Greppo DOCG 2007 Franco Biondi Santi. (Tuscany) 100% Sangiovese Grosso-BBS11 clone. The BBS11 is a very special clone that goes back to the beginning of Brunello.  Bondi Santi is the only producer that has it.  Alcoholic fermentation takes place in concrete vats. The wine is aged for 3 years in Slovenian oak barrels and released into the market after five years from the harvest. This is a legendary wine that can last for over 100 years. They still have the 1888 and 1891 at the winery and they are still in good condition. $150

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico Riserva  “Di Costasera” DOCC 2007 Masi Agricola SPA (Veneto) made from 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta and 5% Molinara. The hillside vineyards face southwest. At the end of September/beginning of October the best bunches are picked and laid out in on traditional bamboo racks (arele) in special lifts where the natural drying process (appassimento) is controlled by the NASA system. By the middle of September the grapes have lost about 40% of their weight and have a great concentration of sugar. Only the Corvina grape is subject to slight touch of botrytis (noble rot). The Oseleta grape gives greater tannic structure and deeper color to the wine after drying. The grapes are gently pressed after partial destalking and are fermented for 45 days in large Slovenian oak barrels or in stainless steel vats at cellar temperature. The malolactic fermentation takes place in 38/40-hectoliter barrels for 35 days induced by the inoculation of selected yeasts highly resistant to alcohol. The wine is aged in 600 liter Slovenian and Allier oak casks-1/3 new, 1/3-second passage and 1/3 third passage. The wine is aged in bottle for six months before release. This is a big full wine, with aromas of ripe fruit, jam and a hint of balsamic. On the palate it is smooth and rich with a long finish and great aftertaste. $85

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Filed under Alto Adige, Amarone, Biondi Santi, Brunello, IL Falcone, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Lageder, Legends of Italian Wine, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Pinot Grigio, Rivera, Taurasi

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.

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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

Alto Adige: Why is it also called the Sudtirol?

 The Alto Adige

Urs Vetter of the Alois Lageder winery

Driving north passed the city of Bolzano, the countryside started to look more German than Italian.  Road signs were in two different languages: German and Italian. When we reached the Alois Lageder winery, we were greeted by Urs Vetter the export manager who gave us a tour of the winery and a wine tasting.  When it was time for lunch, he said that he knew an excellent restaurant not far away. He called the restaurant and spoke in German. When he looked up and saw the surprised look on our faces he simply said that in the Alto Adige, German is the first language.

 Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.  Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tirol and themselves Tyroleans.   The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy.  Ham is called Speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot. 

  Recently in NYC I was invited to attend a seminar followed by a tasting of the wines of the Alto Adige moderated by Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW (the first American Woman Master of Wine).  The seminar was entitled “Distinctive White Wines of the Alto Adige” and included eight wines in the tasting.

Mary began with a few remarks regarding the enormous range in vineyard altitude and temperature between the southern and northern areas of the Alto Adige which results in a huge diversity of microclimates. She also went on to say that the most important grapes from the area for the American market were: Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Lagrein.

The Wines

Pinot Grigio “Punggi” (single vineyard) 2007 DOC Alto Adige Nals Margreid 100% Pinot Grigio. The vinification of the grapes and the wine’s storage are carried out half in large oak barrels and half in stainless steel. The speaker for this wine was Klaus Gasser, sales director of the Cantina Terlano cooperative.  He said that Pinot Grigio grows better in the southern half of the Alto Adige where there is less elevation and higher temperatures. It is also grown in the north but as he put it “in the south it is the right grape in the right place”. He described the wine as balanced, fresh with crisp acidity, minerality and nice fruit. Mary asked him how long the wine would age, he said this was not his wine but he knew it well and his answer was 10 years. Klaus also said that to make a great wine the vines must be at least 15 years old. He also added that while they still were training the vines using the Pergola Trellis, most were switching over to Guyot.  $24

Manna 2004 IGT Dolomiti Franz Hazz made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling and Traminer Aromatico.  Because of the different maturing times, the grapes are harvested and worked separately. The Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are fermented in barriques, the Reisling and Traminer Aromatico in stainless steel. The wine does not go through malolatic fermentation.  The Traminer Aromatico is late harvest and there is only a small percentage of Sauvignon Blanc .The wines are then blended together and rest on the lees for 10 months and remain in the bottle a few months before release. The speaker for this wine was Tobias Zingerle.

He is the General Manager of the Kaltern-Caldaro cooperative. Mr. Zingerle said that it was interesting to note that the four vineyards are in the municipalities of Montagna, Egna and Aldino, all very close to each other. The altitude is between 350/800 meters. The sites however are very different from each other, are of Dolomite origin, prophyric, sandy and marly, with a south-west exposure. This was not Mr. Zingerle’s wine but the winemaker told him that he blended these grapes together so that this wine would go with all types of food. The wine was big and complex with hints of spice, honey and a surprising fresh fruit finish and after taste. However it lacked acidity which I believe is necessary to make it a good food wine. $40

 Pinot Grigio “Sanc Valentin” 2006 DOC Alto Adige San Michele Appiano 100% Pinot Grigio. This winey is also a cooperative. The grapes come from selected vineyards in the Appiano Monte at an altitude of 450 meters and the wines are 25/40 years old. 40% of the wine is fermented in new barriques and 60% in used ones, where the wine stays on the yeast for 11 months. The speaker for this wine was Wolfgang Klotz. Mr. Klotz is the marketing and sales director. He said that 2006 was the driest vintage in the last ten years and that the berries were very small and concentrated. The wine had a very distinctive aroma that I could not quite place. On the palate it was very mineral. Over all it had more oak and vanilla then I expect from this producer.

 Sudtiroler Sauvignon Castel Giovanelli 2007 DOC Alto Adige Caldaro 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Castel Giovanelli is 2.5 hectares of vineyards which are bio-dynamically cultivated. There is extreme prolonged pressing of the grapes in their entirety, spontaneous fermentation of the unfiltered juice in 500 liter oak casks. The wine is aged in wood for 12 months, then a light filteration and bottled in August 2008. The speaker for the wine was Tobias Zingerle. He said that the vineyard was an east facing slope of 500 mt above sea level. The soil is loamy, chalky gravel with porphyry and weathered granite, providing a prominent mineral character to the site. This was the most vegetative of the wines with a lot of citrus fruit which I found to be a strange combination. Mr. Zingerle found it less vegetative. Mary commented that this was more of a winemakers wine than a natural fresh wine but did not find it “over worked.”  I did.

 Nova Domus 2005 Riserva DOC Alto Adige Terlaner The wine is made from 60% Pinot Bianco  30% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Fermentation: 50% in large oak casks and 50% in Tonneaux (500 liters). Maturation and aging for 12 months on fine yeast in large oak barrels. This was said to be in keeping with tradition. The assemblage took place in March 2007 and bottled in August 2007.  The panel member speaking was Klaus Gasser. The producer feels that the wine can age and the 2005 is the current release in magnums. He said that the 2007 would be available in 750’s and went on to say that 2005 was a warmer vintage while 2007 was cooler and made a more elegant wine. Even thou there is only 10% of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend it was the dominant aroma and taste along with a mineral character in the mouth. It is an interesting wine. $N/A

 Chardonnay Lowengang 2002 DOC Alto Adige Alois Lageder 100% Chardonnay The  grapes come from selected vineyard sites in the Magre and Salorno area. Using natural yeasts, the wine is aged for 11 months on the lees in barriques made of Alliers, Nevers, Troncais, and Vosges of which one half are new. The vines are between 45/60 years old and are at an altitude of 260/450 meters. The soil is sandy and gravelly with high limestone content. It is a warm mesoclimate with vast contrasts between warm days and cool nights. The harvest was the 19/20 of September. This was the oldest wine that we tasted. The speaker was Urs Vetter, our old friend now the VP for the Alois Lageder winery and their director of sales and marketing. He said that all their wines go through malolatic fermentation. Urs also said 2002 was a very good year for Chardonnay and the secret to making great Chardonnay was the age of the vineyard. The wine was an interesting combination of citrus fruit, vanilla and oak.  In the mouth the sensation was very strange; the oak, vanilla and citrus were all there but you tasted them separately! The current release is the 2006. $N/A

 Gewurztraminer Reserve 2006 DOC Alto Adige Peter Zemmer 100% Gewurztraminer.   The vines are grafted on slow-growing rootstock and trained on traditional trellises (Guyot), the grapes are grown in the best vineyard zones in the valley floor around the center of Cortina. Before the grapes are pressed 6/8 hour long cold maceration takes place. The grapes are gently pressed and the stems are removed in the pneumatic tank press. The wine is clarified through the natural setting of sediments. The alcoholic fermentation is carried out with pure strains of yeast at a controlled temperature. The speaker for this wine was Urs and he said the Gewürztraminer was the most typical white wine of the Alto Adige. $ N/A

  Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer 2004 DOC Alto Adige Cantina Tramin. 100% Gewurztraminer The speaker was Wolfgang Klotz from the Tramin winery and Urs introduced him as a Gewurztraminer expert.   He said that Gewurz means spice in German and Tramin being a village in the South of Alto Adige where the grape originated. Others believe that it is Germanic in origin. The Nussbauner estate is located in Sella, a small village above Tramin. The vineyards are between 350/550 meters on the slopes below the Roen mountains. Dry winds blow from Lake Garda during the entire growing season. The soil is clay and gravel with a limestone layer from 20-100cm and porphyry subsoil. The grapes were harvested in small bins, gently crushed and left to macerate with their juices for a brief period.  Mr. Klotz said this was done to capture the characteristic aromatics of the grape. After pressing the grapes are fermented at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks. This wine was balanced, complex elegant and subtle all at the same time. It was one of the best examples of Gewürztraminer that I have ever tasted. $40

 Mary said that the cooperatives in the region were quality-focused and overall the region has the best cooperatives in Italy. A typical cooperative will have several hundred members cultivating a plot that is on average less than 2.5 acres. Fifteen cooperatives produce almost 70% of the regions wine. The remaining 30% is produced by wine estates and independent winegrowers.

There was a brief discussion on how well the white wines of the Alto Adige age. Mary said that she was surprised that the panel members did not chose a Pinot Bianco as part of the seminar. She agreed that the white wines do age but believed that the Pinot Bianco aged the best. She went on the give examples of Pinot Biancos that she had in the past that were 20 and 30 years old and in great condition.  This was why she believed that the best place to grow Pinot Bianco was in the Alto Adige.

Ms. Walch of the Elena Walch winery

 In the walk around tasting here are some of the wines which I found interesting and show the great variety of wines produced in the Alto Adige:Abbazia di Novacella – Kerner 2009, Cantina Bolanzo- Santa Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2010, Franz Hass Moscato Rosso 2009, Alois Lageder Muller Thurgau 2010, St Michele Appiano Sauvignon Sanct Valentine 2009, Elena Walch Beyond the Clouds 2008 and Schiava 2009, Peter Zimmer Lagrein 2009 , Manincor Moscato Giallo 2009  Tiefenbrunner Pinot Nero Turmhof 2009 and the Pinot Bianco 2009 and the Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer  2009 from Tramin.

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