And finally there is Lagrein, the Alto Adige’s indigenous red variety. In the past, many producers went a bit too far with their Lagrein, extracting the often-green tannins found in this variety and producing wines that were rustic and course. Today, producers have a much better understanding of the variety and are regularly producing fabulous wines that are rich with dark berry and plum fruits wrapped in the cocoa nuances that occur naturally when the variety is planted in the right combination of soil and exposition.
Want to try a benchmark Lagrein? There are quite a few contenders, though for me the best is Muri Gries’s Abtei Riserva. This can be a remarkable wine that is bursting with fruit, balanced, and structured for aging with compelling complexity and an elegant, silky texture. Although difficult to find, bottles can be tracked down in the U.S. for about $40 each, another superb value. That is the Alto Adige.
Take some time in the coming year and start sampling the wines of the Alto Adige. They are fantastic values and great examples of their types. Wines that capture the essence of this alpine region provide the consumer with remarkable variety and opportunities for discovery.
Wines of the Alto Adige
We are all familiar with fruity and bright Pinot Grigio, but few are as complex as those from the Alto Adige. This is ideal Pinot Grigio country, particularly the Adige valley floor abutting Trentino in the south of the province. Many producers have begun to experiment with malolactic fermentation and wood aging for their premium Pinot Grigios, producing wines with unusual richness and an added layer of complexity.
A cousin of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco is the white wine of the Alto Adige. Less overtly fruity and more mineral and linear in character, Pinot Bianco is refreshing and easy to drink with a flavor profile rich in fruit yet zesty and lean, making them remarkably easy to pair with food.
With lots of sunshine and cool nights, the Alto Adige has proven to be an ideal location for Sauvignon Blanc, producing wines that tend to offer crisp citrus and pineapple fruit framed with classic herb and gooseberry notes in a moderately rich yet well focused style.
Perhaps no grape is more malleable than Chardonnay, producing a wide range of styles around the globe. In the Alto Adige, the wines are no different, ranging from fairly crisp to richer styles that show the winemaking quite obviously. One trait all the wines tend to share is a vibrant acid spine.
The namesake grape of Tramin, Gewürztraminer in the Alto Adige tends to be dry, floral and brisk in the mouth, lacking some of the bitterness that winemakers tend to balance out with a touch (or more) of sugar.