Articles

By Rasmus Christensen

Trentino-Alto Adige is the region’s official name and it is Italy’s northernmost wine region. It stretches from the top of Lake Garda, straight north of Verona, and up along the valleys to the feet of the high alps. 

The region is divided into two provinces Trentino and Alto Adige, with a population of little over one million, half in each province. 

In the southern province Trentino the majority languages is italien, where German is the first language for many in Alto Adige or Südtirol (South Tirol). 

 

Going back in time

The reason for this regional bilingual is to be found in the complicated history that has surpassed this border country. 

From 15 BC the region was swallowed by the Holy Roman Empire and after its collapse, it was divided between Bavarian and Germanic tribes. From the 11th century it was ruled by numerous conflicting central European powers. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 it was given to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, where it was finally annexed by italian troops after severe battles during 1. WW. 

Under Mussolini’s dictatorship in 1922-43 the fear of german invasion catalysed a strong Italianization of the region and all references to Tyrol was banned and severely suppressed. 

Today the two languages are co-official and the mixed cultures are co-existing, which is quite evident even for outsiders. This inheritance is also why you might find the Südtirol branded and projected with strong emotions in the Alto Adige province.

Alto Adige
By Rasmus Christensen

Trentino-Alto Adige is the region’s official name and it is Italy’s northernmost wine region. It stretches from the top of Lake Garda, straight north of Verona, and up along the valleys to the feet of the high alps. 

The region is divided into two provinces Trentino and Alto Adige, with a population of little over one million, half in each province. 

In the southern province Trentino the majority languages is italien, where German is the first language for many in Alto Adige or Südtirol (South Tirol). 

 

Going back in time

The reason for this regional bilingual is to be found in the complicated history that has surpassed this border country. 

From 15 BC the region was swallowed by the Holy Roman Empire and after its collapse, it was divided between Bavarian and Germanic tribes. From the 11th century it was ruled by numerous conflicting central European powers. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815 it was given to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, where it was finally annexed by italian troops after severe battles during 1. WW. 

Under Mussolini’s dictatorship in 1922-43 the fear of german invasion catalysed a strong Italianization of the region and all references to Tyrol was banned and severely suppressed. 

Today the two languages are co-official and the mixed cultures are co-existing, which is quite evident even for outsiders. This inheritance is also why you might find the Südtirol branded and projected with strong emotions in the Alto Adige province.

Mapping the region

The Alto Adige province itself has its name from italy’s second longest river Adige that sources in the alps near the Reschen Pass and flows into the Adriatic sea. Alto Adige has a Y-shaped form with Bolzano in the center. Adige flows along the west side of the Y and joins with the river Eisack south of Bolzano, that runs along the east side of the Y. 

The East side of the Y continues north towards the Brenner pass, which is a low and principal alp pass that has been used as an important link between central european civilizations since prehistoric eras and the cities along the trail has grown as a merchants route throughout history. And they might even have enjoyed local wines along their journey as viticulture here is dated back to the 5th century BC. 

The climate is influenced by several strongly contributing factors. The high Alps protects the valleys from cold wind and rainfall coming from tho north. Warm meditarainian climate from the south provides mild and warm sunny days, while cooler air rolls down the hills during the night. The drastic diurnals ensure the vines to fully ripen and maintain acidity at the same time, which is a general trademark in the style of wines produced. The Valleys with its sizable typographic deviation also fanes the wind which effectively helps to dry the vines and make them less prone to fungus and other forms of disease pressures. 

Beneath the surface and training

Soils on the valley floors are formed by mineral rich alluvial deposits, and the hillside and terraced vineyards are shaped by debris cones from the surrounding alps. The northern valleys are dominated by quartz, slate, and mica. Around Bolzano volcanic porphyry soils dominate, and in the southern part of the province more calcareous and dolomite rock soils are found. But this is a simplified description, as the region’s soil composition spans over more than 150 different rock deposits that radically change some places over just a few meters. 

On the hillsides the vines are often high-trained by the use of ancient pergola trellising. A type of trellising that lifts up the canopy by a support structure. It was once frequently used around northern Italy, but has been outdated and abandoned for the sake of the Guyot training system. New studies indicate that the pergola system benefits from several elements, especially as an encounter against spring frost, that is becoming increasingly more challenging for European wine growers as climate change is ever more evident. 

 

Multiple varieties

Around 20 grape varieties are grown in this region with two being indigous, Lagrein and Schiava (Vernatsch). Each variety has its own preferred growing spot that is well provided by the multiple climatics found between the colder north to the warmer south, combined with the many vertical growing zones found between the valley floor and hillsides up to 1000 m.a.s.l.

There is a total production of 62% whitewine and 38% redwine, where the northern valleys are dominated by white varieties and vice versa. The majority of the wines are produced under DOC classification and the total production accounted for little over 1% of Italy’s total production. 

Unity for quality

There are a total of 218 individual wineries, with 70% of the total production made by cooperative wineries. While this might seem like a swing towards mass production, it’s on the contrary. There are more than 5.000 winegrowers, many of them are small families that proudly provide their grapes to the local cooperatives as they have been doing for generations. They know, and cultivate their vineyards to an extent that otherwise would have been impossible to manage on large scales. The other way around, the cooperatives can provide expert guidance and specialised equipment. This is a positive contributing factor for general quality produced from these cooperatives.  

For what the smaller private wineries are concerned, they have usually chosen site specific vineyards and possess what is needed to produce quality wine. Many of them are also partly engaged in their own hotel and restaurant business, which makes it easy for visitors to enjoy the local wine production.  

The collective sum

This region with the complicated history, versatile demography, complex terroir and a span for new wine makers to challenge the norm, and experience in their approach for quality, presents a highly diverse and interesting wine region. The wines found here generally have an intense character, elevated acidity, with juicy fresh fruit notes and are often displayed with a good quality across all levels. The region has over the recent years experienced an exponential export and have become increasingly more exposed in wine shops abroad and visible on social media platforms. 

So will this region continue to foster quality wines from exceptional terroirs, and will we see a tendency for small growers to break loose from the cooperatives and create their own ground, as we have witnessed in other parts of northern Italy? It will be worth following. 

 

I have tasted some good examples, and you can find my notes below.

Tasting notes

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Sabiona Kerner 2018

This is the cooperatives top wine and Kerner from its most profound terroir. It is aromatic and spicy with well integrated alcohol, elevated crispy acidity and a long peppery finish. 

Great effort. 

94P

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Grüner Veltliner 2019

Citrus fruit and floral flavours are packed around a tense core of vibrant acidity. It is a benchmark for this variety in Alto Adige.

93P

Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Riesling 2019

Peperry and herbal expression with crispy acidity and discrete amount of fruit.

89P

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Sylvaner 2019

This is Sylvaner in its pure form. Fresh, crispy and mineral driven that are lifter to a second level by the pronounced acidity. 

92P

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Sabiona Sylvaner 2018

Sylvaner from the “holy mountain” beneath the abbey founded in

 350 A.D. It comes with an extraordinary perfumed fragrance and an electric acidity that elevates both fruit and the long and delicate finish. 

95P

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Kerner 2019

Expressive and energetic. It has a high acidity that tinkles the floral and green fruit flavours.

Impressive elevation of this variety. 

93P 

Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Aristos Kerner 2018

The cooperative is known for its high quality Kerner and this one of them. Intens aromatics, crispy high acidity and a powerful well composed structure. 

94P

Cantina Terlan Pinot Grigio Tradition 2019

Lime juice, ginger and herbal aromas. This is a mineral driven wine with an electric and pronounced acidity. 

90P

Cantina Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Super floral and fruity with a lively acidity to balance it perfectly. This is a captivating and quite sophisticated Sauvignon blanc. 

93P

Cantina Terlan Lagrein 2015

Juicy red and blackberries with a medium body, herbal notes and a fresh acidity. This is exactly why Lagrein continues to gain in popularity. 

92P 

Cantina Andrian Pinot Noir 2016

This wine presents a fruity and vibrant palate with a juicy and crispy acidity that beautifully elevates all the delicate impressions. Great quality for a basic line wine!

93P 

Manincor Eichhorn Pinot Bianco 2019

Good amount of fruit, acidity and a nicely rounded texture. Mediocre. 

89P

Manincor Sophie Chardonnay 2019

Lovely focused bouquet with intense flavours rapet around a crispy minerality and a long mineral driven finish. Leaves a joyful expression. 

93P

Manincor Tannenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Rich and perfumed aromas with high and intense crisp acidity. It has spicy flavour and noticeable impact from skin contact. It is a Sauvignon Blanc that differs radically from the norm. 

93P

Manincor Réserve della Contessa 2019

Complex and packed nose with flowers, ginger and fresh fruit. It has an intense and lively acidity, loads of flavors and a long and spicy finish.

This wine examples the art of blending superbly. 

94P 

Manincor Cassiano 2019

Intense and energetic wine that are beautifully balanced. There are a good amount of acidity and a tense core that needs a few years to fully moderate. 

95P

Cantina Tramin Gewürztraminer 2020

Expressive aromas of rosehip flowers and tropical fruit. It delivers a creamy mouthfeel with an elevated acidity and slightly tannic bite in the finish. Brilliant effort in this entry level wine that truly shows Tramins masterskills in this variety. 

93P 

Cantina Tramin Gewürztraminer Terminum 2017

Owerhvelming fragrance of dried tropical fruits and intense aromatic flavors with a high level of residual sugar that the amount of acidity has difficulties to follow. 

92P 

Cantina Tramin Pinot Grigio Unterebner 2019

It is juicy and intense with a creamy mouthfeel and a lot of personality. This belongs to some of the most serious Pinot Grigio in all of Italy. 

92P

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