Consider that the overwhelming majority of table wine produced in Trentino comes from a pair of large, albeit quite good companies and that the production of Trento DOC, the local Metodo Classico Spumante that we rarely see, contributes to pushing the production to nearly 65% white wine.
You’d think we’ve had seen all that Trentino has to offer.Of course the truth is more complicated. This is a region of astoundingly high quality wines that get gobbled up by the domestic market, to a certain extent, as well as visitors from the north, who have historically driven down through the Brenner Pass on their way to summer destinations in the Dolomiti mountains and on the glorious shores of Lake Garda. The trunks of those cars tend to sit decidedly lower as the visitors return to points north. If not for them we might see more of these delicious wines here with greater frequency.
What follows is a bit of an indulgence, wines from just three producer focused primarily on the local starring red, Teroldego. But please forgive me this indulgence as Teroldego is my epiphany grape, and these three producer are doing some terrific stuff with the variety and are worthy of your attention, even if finding the wines is a constant struggle.
Teroldego is a terrific grape, and one that is being planted with some intensity in California, and from what I understand Australia as well. It produces darkly colored wines that are relatively light on tannin, with juicy acids supporting dark and tart fruit flavors with hints of game and herb. While the color of Teroldego tends to be quite dark, its character in the mouth is one of transparency. That is it reveals its terroir quite clearly and nowhere is there better terroir for Teroldego than within the Piano Rotaliano region that it calls home.
This narrow flood plain, bounded on both sides by imposing cliffs and the foothills of the Alps, has a loose alluvial soil layered over meters of glacial debris and river stones. All of that rocky matter imparts a fine minerality, and firm, crisp tannins to the wines that are grown here. They really are unique and while Teroldego may not be as age worthy or complex as some of the most appreciated wines of the world, they are delightfully engaging, easy to pair with food, and offer the wine lover a chance to experience something new while staying very much within the classic red wine paradigm.
For more information on Teroldego please check out: Teroldego
At the recent ProWein event, more information on which can be found here: ProWein 2014 I made it a point to try the wines from three of my favorite producers from Trentino. These have all been imported to the USA at some point or another, with Foradori being the most broadly and consistently distributed of the trio.
Below I present just a few tasting notes to help introduce you to Teroldego, and a few other gems from Trentino.
Barone de Cles
A classic winery from Trentino located in the town of Mezzolombardo, Baron de Cles was certainly one of the first private producers to introduce Teroldego to the US market. The wines had always been quite good, if somewhat rustic in the past. Today that seems to have changed and this line-up, featuring an expanded range of wines and new labels shows an impressive step up in quality.
2012 Barone de Cles Teroldego Primo $10 in Italy
Spicy, mineral and bright on the nose, this has an almost soapy floral accent over peppery mulberry, slightly tarry fruit aromas. Soft and bright, and really quite chewy in the mouth this reminds me a bit of Dolcetto with lots of wild berry raspberry fruit in a softly tannic bright package. easy and fruit driven. 86pts
2011 Barone de Cles Teroldego Maso Scari $20 in Italy
Decidedly earthy on the nose and without the brightness of the Primo but much more complex and interesting with nuanced dried grass, black fruit, and stony aromas. Downright opulent on entry with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit in a broad slightly chewy and deep style that shows savory accents to the fruit that turn sharply mineral, if a touch dry on the fairly long tart finish. Classic Teroldego in a clean, more modern style. 89pts
2010 Barone de Cles Teroldego Cardinale $40 in Italy
Big old wood aromas greet the nose which is savory and sweet like mortadella and toasted nuts, with a bit of a sour leather, fish sauce thing going on as well. Very finely focused in the mouth this starts off all mineral and snappy, slowly picking up smoky, stemmy nuance and precise, real savory fruit on the backend with tart plum and baked blackberry notes streaked with minerals driving through the long finish. Obviously a more important wine that the Maso Scari, though i’m not sure that I prefer it. 91pts
Zeni produces what must be the broadest range of wines of any private cellar in Trentino. Located in Grumo, on the Adige river and virtually across the street from the famed viticultural school of San Michele, Zeni is both hard to miss and difficult to find, Grumo being but a hamlet. The wines on the other hand, while also hard to find, are totally worth seeking out for their fine blend of traditional flavor profile produced through methods that are not bound to the past. Case in point, their Teroldego Pini which sees a portion of the fruit dried for several week a la Amarone. It’s a beautiful expression of Teroldego and one that might very well have some historic basis yet represents a departure from the recent norms. Zeni also produces some of the best grappa around, and while i generally don’t like barrel aged grappa theirs are knock outs!
2012 Zeni Rossara $15 in Italy
Rossara is an ancient indigenous grape in Trentino that produces pale, delicate, yet complex wines. The Zeni bottling has historically relies on an tiny ancient vineyard for their fruit though they now have a vineyard of recent plantings that is used to produced the wine, which is organic from 2013.
Stemmy and sweet spice aromas greet the nose which has a lovely intensity and delicacy. On entry this is round, spicy, and lively with wonderful red cherry fruit, that leads to a long, mineral inflected finish. Medium light bodied, juicy and with modest tannins, this has an innate sweetness to it and killer refined spice aromas that linger in the mouth. It’s both pale and delicate so it won’t blow you away, but it will seduce you. 90pts
2012 Zeni Teroldego $16 in Italy
Smoky and finely mineral and stemmy on the nose, this does show an impressive array of sweet spice and herbs on the nose which pop early on the palate as well. There’s gorgeous fruit here, bright, complex, and high toned, though the palate lacks the complexity of the nose. Everything wraps up in a clean, light finish. 87pts
2009 Zeni Teroldego Pini $35 in Italy
One third of the fruit used for this wine is air dried two to four weeks,
Smoky with really big aromas of spicy black plum fruit and black cherries explode from the glass. This is a big wine with ripe dense fruit over a spicy base, all supported by a nice base of soft, brushy tannins and nervous, juicy acids. The fruit, big and black, remains fresh thanks to the acids and offers a fine, seamless, and slightly glycerine rich mouthfeel that makes this a bit chewy, particularly on the long and slightly peppery and spicy finish that trails with notes of dried fruits. A very impressive example of Teroldego and while not exactly what I’m looking for you can't deny that this is great wine. 93pts
Elisabetta Foradori has done more to raise awareness for the wines of Trentino than any other person. First with her groundbreaking super-Teroldego Granato, then with her tireless promotion of her wines. I can remember meeting her in a small shop on the upper west side of Manhattan some 20 plus years as she graciously poured her wines for a mostly uninformed crowd. And finally with her near wholesale adoption of organic farming and fermenting wines in amphorae that has kept Foradori both in the world’s spotlight, as well as in the glasses of opinion leaders the world round.
I was never a huge fan of Granato, finding it to lack the transparency and detail of the finest Teroldego. Unlike the Sgarzon and Morei single vineyard bottlings from the early 1990s for example. So imagine my surprise and delight when Elisabetta decided to reintroduce these two wines as she expanded her portfolio of offerings. The base bottling and Granato remain, with Sgarzon and Morei added to a line up that also includes single vineyard white wines as well.
I find these wines to be thrilling wines. Not always as technically perfect as the Granato for example, but offering moving complexity and detail for the lover of Teroldego. they are simply not to be missed.
2012 Foradori Manzoni Bianco Fontanasanta $30
A bit wild and gamy with a classic natural ferment nose that gains notes of heather honeycomb, and hot rocks with air. There’s a bit of tannin on entry, then this turns round with good size and weight in the mouth. offering up complex dried apricot, honeycomb and dried herb flavors, there is a slightly astringent note on the palate which plays with the mouth in a very tactile way. The finish is quite floral and shows good persistence. 90pts
2012 Foradori Nosiola Fontanasanta $45
Mineral and spicy on the nose, this shows better precision and more freshness than the Manzoni Bianco. Entering with great power and focus, this fills the mouth with clean gorgeous expressions of white peach and crisp apple laden with mineral notes and subtle hazelnut accents. Finishing with a mouth cleansing and slightly bracing texture, this is just a terrific expression of Nosiola. 92pts
2012 Foradori Teroldego $25
Hints of wood help frame the blackberry and a little blueberry fruit of the nose. In the mouth this is a bit tannic, even a bit hard today with good intensity to the juicy blackberry fruit that shows a slightly candied edge in the mouth and fades away on the modest finish. Attractive but not terribly distinctive. 86pts
2012 Foradori Teroldego Sgarzon $50
Stem, mineral, chalk, and tight aromas of astringent black fruit grace the nuanced nose here. In the mouth this is tight, but with obvious depth and power to the palate. The great acids leave the mouth a bit raw still today and provide for good length to the clean finish which is also by fine grained fruit tannins. Overall this is so very fresh and clean, yet still relatively unformed with great tension and elegance to the pure black fruits on the palate. 93pts
2012 Foradori Teroldego Morei $50
A bit of obvious VA on the nose adds lift and brilliance to the aromas of dried herb, raw nut meats, flowers and a bit of sour berry fruit. Riper tannins here than in the Sgarzon make for a somewhat denser and richer expression of Teroldego with bright wild blackberry, blueberry fruit filling the palate supported by lots of acid and soft tannins. There’s a slightly jammy accent to the wild blackberry flavors here even if they are perfectly supported by the acids right through the long finish. This is perhaps easier to understand than the Sgarzon, but perhaps also a bit simplier. 92pts
2010 Foradori Teroldego Granato $60
Oily and smoky on the nose with lots lots of pipe tobacco and used pipe briar aromas. Rich, seamless, and powerful in the mouth. This shows lots of depth on the palate though some wood tannins do intrude on the midplane. Ultimately one finds more power, less detail here and the wine wraps up with a tough, tannic finish. There’s lots of red fruit up a chunky midpalate, then not a lot of detail on the back end. 88pts