The region of Alto Adige lies at the base of the Dolomite Mountains leading into the Swiss Alps. A part of the Austria, under rule of the Hamburgs, for much of history, the German/Austrian influence is very much a part of the everyday life of those in the region with every moment being a “Hills are Alive” Sound of Music minute.
I shared a little bit about this beautiful region this morning on The Broadcast, but here are a few more tips on why this region, recently voted the third most popular tourist destination in Italy (just behind Rome and Tuscany, beating out everything from the Amalfi Coast to Cinque Terre), is so sublimely special and deliciously beautiful.
- High altitudes and very steep slopes characterize the vineyards. With vineyards soaring 8000 feet into the sky, resting on steep slopes that must be managed by hand, creating highly fragrant, fresh and interesting wines.
- The diurnal temperature swings (hot days/cool nights,) helped by the steep altitudes, create wines with high acidity and juicy, fresh flavors. Wines that may typically be somewhat off dry, here fermented to a completely dry state with balanced alcohol and acidity levels.
- Wines range from Gruner Veltliner, Mulleur Thurgau, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and beloved Pinot Bianco to expressive Pinot Noir, light bodied Schiava and hearty Lagrein – the last two the indigenous red wines grapes of the region.
- Though vineyards dot the countryside, with many families having a few vines of grapes for personal consumption, apples are a primary crop in this highly agricultural region. 80% of the apples consumed in Europe grow in Alto Adige.
- Food is hearty, very German/Austrian/Swiss influenced. Pastas like Knodel, potato or bread dumplings, and hearty ravioli or Schlutzkrapfen are typical country fare, with sauces made of butter instead of olive oil. Rich braised meat, sausage and of course, the beloved Speck of the region, are common on most tables at night, paired with vinegar filled sauerkraut and rustic bread.
A few favorite wines of the region are below, but the overall take away from every wine we tasted was the quality. Even in wines my personal palate may not have taken to, each wine was very well made and the dedication, and quality was astounding. And, the ability to pair with anything from the hearty, rich fare to light and elegant dishes is exactly what you look for in balanced wines, and these have them. Keep any in mind for the upcoming holidays. Your guests will thank you for it!
2012 Tiefenbrunner Feldmarschall Muller Thurgau, $33- one of the highest altitude vineyards in Alto Adige, upwards of 8000 feet above sea level – very clean, fresh and fragrant wine with white flowers and citrus notes.
2013 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio Alto Adige Valle Isarco, $18 – though many Italians don’t drink Pinot Grigio from their country, they will drink those from Alto Adige, as the bright acidity and dry character makes this wine, that is often overly fruity and unbalanced, completely fresh, light and harmonic. Novacella, still a working monastery, does this one perfectly, benefiting from high altitudes to create high acidity and freshness with well rounded fruitiness.
2011 Cantina di Terlano Pinot Bianco Vorberg Riserva DOC, $30, Pinot Bianco, or Pinot Blanc, thrives in Alto Adige, creating lively flavors of apple, citrus, tropical fruit and white flowers, balancing freshness with a nicely rounded body for a wine that is not only delicious today, but in the case of Terlano, a winery who has made an art out of aging their white wines for a significant amount of time, delicious for years to come as well, developing more honeyed, creamy, dried fruit notes.
2012 Kalleri Kaltern Pfarrhof Kalterersee Auslese Lagrein/Schiava, $17, from some of the lowest elevation vineyards near Lago Caldero, or Lake Kaltern, Schiava, grown in pergola vines to ensure maximum exposure to the sun and Lagrein, an earthy, rich wine filled with spice and dark fruit, are blended to make a light, balanced and easy drinking red wine perfect for Thanksgiving!
2010 J. Hofstatter Pinot Nero Barthenau, $80, The Pinot Noir wines really surprised me the most in the region, especially those that had a bit of age on them. J Hofstatter was one favorite in particular, bringing typical Pinot Noir berry, cherry and spice notes to the palate, but with a little bit of age, developing more earthy, dried spice, toasted nutty notes to the dark fruit filled wine.
All of the wines are available in Texas. If you can’t find one at your favorite wine shop ask them to bring it in for you. In Dallas Jimmy’s, Pogo’s and Spec’s have great Alto Adige wine selections.