Italian Pinot Nero

A wine of unique terroir


As you might have guessed, I love Italian wine. Pinot Nero might be tough to define as Italian wine, but it has a century long history in Italy and offers an alternative style to the myriad other styles of Pinot produced around the world.

So what makes Pinot Nero Italian? The terroir of course. Almost all of the wines I tried during this tasting hailed from the Alto Adige, that northern-most province of Italy's center that is blessed with gorgeous mountain valleys fit for vines from floor to hilltop. Pinot expresses something unique in this region because of those hillside vineyards and the climate, which often calls for a sweater at 600 meters even in the heart of summer.  

Though it can be cool at night, daytime temperatures in an Alto Adige summer are plenty warm. This shift in temperatures, known as a diurnal shift, allows for the full ripening of the fruit without the development of any jammy flavors. In fact, one of the issues many people have with Alto Adige Pinot Neros is that lack of fruit, which even I can see as a fault sometimes. When Pinot Nero lacks the requisite fruit flavors, the wines tend towards pronounced forest floor and earthy flavors, but when producers capture the fruit, there is a clarity and brilliance to it that very few other Pinot Noirs can compete with.

Find out who captured that fruit!

Photo courtesy Achernar via Flickr/CC

2008 Castelfeder Glener Pinot Noir 13% $21

This is deep, intense and layered on the nose, with floral notes, gentle green herb elements and a really nicely done edge of wood spice. This is really beautiful in the mouth; rich, soft and supple, with clear, ripe red cherry fruit and edge of earth, integrated tannins. Totally seamless and wonderfully pure, this finishes with good length to the gentle spice, mineral and herb elements, ending with a touch of peppery tannins offset by notes of dried lime peel. 91pts

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2009 Terlan Pinot Nero 13.5% $25


Nice intensity on the nose, with very attractive dried herb, wild cherry, spice and mineral aromas and a mineral top note. This really opens up on the palate with intense, juicy wild cherry/wild strawberry fruit framed with herbal, floral and chamomile notes. The texture is so supple yet firm, with nice mineral and leather tones emerging on the back end. Clear and unmistakably Pinot Noir. The finish is lean and elegant, with pure, slightly creamy strawberry flavors and a finale of strawberry seeds. 91pts


2009 Caldero Saltner Pinot Noir 14% $28


This is fruity and floral on the nose. Very meadow-after-a-rain scented with gorgeous citrussy grapefruit rind and bitter orange rind-edged wild cherry fruit, wrapped up in modest, warm oak spice. Big fruit on entry though with fine clarity. The wood tannins add some structure but are covered by the sweet, almost jammy wild cherry fruit and strawberry top notes. Spicy on the finish, with really fine clarity to the black cherry pit flavors that lead to a spice and mineral finale. 91pts

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2008 Zemmer Pinot Nero 13% $18


Licorice and tree bark accent the black raspberry fruit with a deep note of Bergamot orange and a little camphor. Soft and sapid, with bright, juicy black raspberry/black cherry fruit. There's a nice stemmy, herbal note on the mid-palate, with very good fruit intensity through the transition to the moderately long finish, ending with a hint of iron. This really offers lovely complexity and richness. 89pts

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2009 Alta Luna Cavit Pinot Noir Vigneti delle Dolomiti 12.5% $12


Minor smoke notes and firm minerality greet the nose, backed up with strawberry and cherry fruit and a suggestion of dry wood. Rather medium bodied, this offers up a nice blend of cranberry/strawberry/raspberry fruit in a modestly rich, bright style. Shows off a hint of wood spice on the palate, then gains a modestly richer impression of tobacco leaf and mocha on the moderately long raspberry/strawberry finish. Fairly reminiscent of village Burgundy. 87pts


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  • Snooth User: nikolaki
    558588 0

    have you tried the Vicolo?

    Nov 29, 2011 at 1:39 PM

  • The only Pinot Nero that I could find from the LCBO search in Ontario

    VINTAGES 248054 | 500 mL bottle

    Price: $ 99.95
    Spirits, Eau-de-Vie, Grappa
    40.0% Alcohol/Vol.

    Made in: , Italy
    By: Mazzetti D'Altavilla

    Release Date: Oct 29, 2011

    A great single-variety Grappa from a premium producer. ?The bottle contains a delicate glass sailing vessel and rests on a wooden pendulum 'spillatore' or pouring apparatus. A unique attention-grabbing gift.

    Nov 29, 2011 at 4:49 PM

  • Did some more searching and found this bottle from Puglia. Also some inexpensive pinot nero from Sicily. Is this the same as the Alta Adige style?

    VINTAGES 583435 | 750 mL bottle

    Price: $ 15.95
    Wine, Red Wine
    13.0% Alcohol/Vol.

    Sugar Content : XD

    Made in: Puglia, Italy
    By: Azienda Vinicola Rivera Spa

    Release Date: Sep 17, 2011

    Tasting Note
    I tasted this as a vat sample at the winery in February 2011. Made 100% from the nero di Troia variety, it delivers full flavours of bright fruit that show very good complexity, a tangy texture from the fruit-acid balance, and a firm but manageable tannic grip. Overall, it's well-made, good value, and a successful partner for rich pasta dishes. Score - 4 Stars (out of 5). (Rod Phillips,, March 3, 2011)

    Nov 29, 2011 at 5:11 PM

  • Snooth User: hugh27
    Hand of Snooth
    253137 65

    If you really want to find something unique in Italian (or others) wines look for the Gratina Grape- this is a cousin of the Merlot and has been authenticated by the University of Pisa as a true Vinifera varietal. At this point there are only 6000 vines in existence and it is produced under the Brand name "Siro" by the Fattorio di Gratina in southern Tuscany- Loads of red fruit and big structure with long lasting taste showing Licorice chocolate and plums- Grown in perfect soils,- stony clay that permit deep root penetration to pick up the bedrock flavours- and is certified organic- due to the unique natural quality of these vines they may be pre phyloxxera- this has got to be the rarest of the rare

    Nov 30, 2011 at 10:24 AM

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