From the Cellar: Terlan!

7 Decades of Amazing White Wines


I am guilty. I Ignore too many wines but above all I ignore aged white wines, and that is a shame. White wines all to often serve a purpose; like lemon for fish or mint for lamb, we use them to refresh the palate and help accent a meal rather than for setting the tone. Aged white wines are of course rarer than aged red wines. It’s a matter of usage, but also due to the simple fact that fewer producers are bottling whites that can stand the test of time, or so we might believe, but there they are right under our noses!
Maybe it’s our own prejudices that prevent us from ageing our white wines. These delicious to drink wines couldn’t possibly get any better, could they? Well in truth that is debatable, though a recent tasting of wines from the Cantina Terlan in Italy’s Sudtirol, from vintages dating back to 1956 certainly challenge many of our assumptions. Of course these are incredibly well made wines from a terroir that endows the juice with the balance and bakbone to age, but at the same time these were wines produced to be sold young and consumed soon after purchase. The fact that they remain so pristine, complex, and fresh has to do with the cellaring, fresh from the cantina as it were, but also with each wine's innate ability to age. And that is where we go wrong.

The Oughts

60% Pinot Bianco, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc
Tight, though very floral on the nose with a hint of red fruits. In contrast this is supple and wide open in the mouth delivering melon and slightly astringent quince flavors that lead to a long finish showing super persistence to the melon, mineral and crab apple flaovrs. 93pts
Very floral with a rather yeast influenced bouquet that is dusty, showing a bit of melon and hints of blue flowers and verbena.  Bright, ripe and broad if clear on the plate with rich mineral laced white fruits. Cool, long and compressed on the moderately long finish this is quartzy and transparent. 92pts
Sweet wood spice, pressed flowers and savory umami notes are layered over dusty pear fruit On the palate this is tense, and embryonic with citrus fruits and a bit of lime rind leading to a fine, elegant finish. 92pts

Youthful Beauty

After tasting such fine ‘young’ wines it’s hard to think of ageing these further, though the tension in these wines, derived from well drained soils, often rich in silica and at altitudes that reach up over 2000 feet, bodes well for the future. Just because we fail to imagine what these wines may become does not prevent them from doing just that.
These vineyards have the right blend of nutrients in the soil, exposure, and stress that yields crops that are historically some 20% to 30% lower than surrounding vineyards. That explains the richness of fruit in their youth but age these beauties and something magically begins to happen. Fresh fruits yield to dried fruit. Floral notes become more complex while the palate lengthens and begins to reveal the core of minerality that drives these wines.

The 90s

Heather, candle wax and a hint of incense burst from the glass with an intensity and focus that is compelling, joining aromas of sweet nectarine and pineapple fruit topped with hints of lemon oil. Cool and focused in the mouth with flavors driven by very well integrated acids wrapped in a lovely creamy, leesy edge yielding a round and voluptuous texture. A touch of raw almond adds complexity as this turns silky and elegant on the back end with lovely minerality and sweet apple and pineapple fruit on the finish. 93pts
No malo
Deep and aromatic with  huge aromas of cut grass, gooseberry, passionfruit and salty minerality. This is so  precise, fresh and bright on the palate with a little leesy roundness adding a touch of richness around an ethereal core. Superbly balanced with a touch of mouthgrab on the backend leading to a long finish rich with hints of pineapple, a diesel nuance, and tart apple fruit. World class Sauvignon Blanc 94pts
100% malo
Nuts, apples, flowers, pumpkin, apricot, baking spice, dried apples and a hint of butter, come together on the nose which has a bit of a warm vintage character. Smooth, rich and clear on the palate this is very nervous and vibrant for a wine of its size. Subtly perfumed pear fruit with a touch of nuttiness and warm wood tones grace the long, slightly peachy and lime toned finish. 92pts

The Past

As we continue to go back in time we arrive in the past when things were done differently. It’s not a swipe at the producers, it’s just a statement of fact. Never before have worker in the vineyards and the cellars been more knowledgeable and better equipped to adjust to changing circumstances. From the corks,  to the fermentation vessels, the yeasts, and nearly every aspect in between things were more primitive 30 years ago. And yet, in spite of it all of that the land made sure that the wines would be able to age. Of course when you are dealing with wine this old, even direct from the cantina, every bottle is a crapshoot. It doesn’t take that much to convince one of the inherent quality in these wines, but today we must have been prticularly fortuante.

BC: Before Cable

Vinified in 2500 liter casks and bottled in May of 1985
First vintage of 100% Chardonnay produced by Terlan
Delicate floral and talc laced perfumes greet the nose. This is fresh with nary a hint of oxidation but also a bit simple and shy.  On the palate this is gorgeous and at peak, round yet with bright acids supporting tart apple fruit. It’s a small scaled wine and getting a bit lean but so well balanced with a long citrus note on the elegant finish. 88pts
Stony on the nose with aromas of white peach, white flowers, and a hint of dusty, peppery spice.  Bright and gorgeous on entry with notes of candied apricot, waxy fruit, and nectarine skin. This is a touch more rustic on the palate, showing a bit of astringency, but at the same time it exhibits such purity of fruit and a long, remarkably clear finish filled with  pressed flower, dried lemon rind, and dried hay accents. 92pts

BC: Before Color TV

Clean and bright with dried citrus aromas that are rather fruity on the nose! This shows a lovely texture on the palate. A bit simple and a bit spicy, yet with great energy to the quince and tart apple fruit. It gains some breadth on the palate but remains a bit lean offering a delicate yet intense feel rich with river stone and steel accents framing light grapefruit fruit. 90pts
Evolved and  very nutty on the nose with a flush of green herb and candied lime peel aromas. In the mouth this shows some oxidative sweetness and sherry tones on entry, turning more mineral on the palate with  bruised apple and  pear. The finish is short and heavily towards the mineral end of the spectrum. 84pts

A First: Today

One can see the threads that binds these wines: clarity, perfume, and tension. Of course Cantina Terlan has worked hard to produce the best wines it could, but it never worked hard to produce the best wine. Perod. Until now. Few of us will be fortunate enough to sample the new Terlano Primo.  Only 2,850 bottles were produced of this inaugural vintage, which in fact is not quite a vintage, coming mostly from the crop of 2011 with small additions of wines from both 2009 (5%) and 2010 (10%). And it is expensive, like ‘we are world class’ expensive. That’s probably close to $200 a bottle for those without the secret conversion tool. Time will tell if it stands up to the great wines of the past, but today it is full of promise. A wine to watch out for, in ten or 20 years time. 
Only sees big oak, one year on lees
Fruity on the nose though with a cool green peach and mango fruit character that is immersed in dusty notes of pollen, mineral and white pepper. Clear on entry with a, tight, layered core of white peach and apricot fruit that leads to a rich finish. Resonant with vibrant minerality a downright salty on the finish, this is quite elegant and bursting with potential. 93pts
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  • Snooth User: winekrep
    143676 27

    I'm curious as to why you don't mention the color of the wines? It would seem particularly pertinent with aged whites...just sayin :>)

    Mar 27, 2014 at 9:30 PM

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