Description 1 of 2
Alto Adige is the north half of the larger region known as Trentino-Alto Adige, in northern Italy. Also known as Sudtirol (South Tyrol), it borders Austria, and is bilingually German and Italian, with many Germanic influences.
The area dates back to the Bronze Age, first inhabited by the Celts, then the Etruscans. The Romans took it over in the 1st century AD. After the fall of the Roman empire, it suffered much of the same fate as other parts of the country as the target of violent invading factions such as the Visigoths. This bi-cultural blend of Italian and German began in the Middle Ages. By the end of World War II, the industrial revolution propelled the region’s infrastructure and economy. The Alto Adige became a popular tourist resort destination, bringing with it, a global appreciation of the region’s wines, cultivated for centuries by monks. The prestigious wine school San Michele all’Adige helped bring the wines to new heights of quality into the 21st century. Along with well known cooperatives with high levels of production and big followings, the region has become known for some excellent independent wineries.
Many of the wines are identified by DOC title, of which there are many, and/or district, further broken down into commune zones, that each have an Italian and then a German name. For example, Alto Adige Terlano is also called Sudtirol Terlaner, all referring to wines cultivated from the vineyards surrounding the town of Terlano.
Alto Adige wines very much bear the mark of its Germanic cultural identity, with white varietals such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Kerner, Müller-Thurgau and Sylvaner. What many consider the world’s best expressions of Pinot Grigio (Pinot Gris) are produced here.
The best known local indigenous varietals are both red. Schiava (Vernatsch) is the most widely planted. It’s a popular, light, fruity red, sometimes produced in an off dry style. Lagrein is a bolder, darker red that is characterized by its perfumey aromatics. Lagrein also makes excellent rosés. The two are sometimes blended together to give Schiava more fragrant depth and Lagrein more fruit to offset its tannic properties. Moscato Rosa, a rare Muscat clone, produces prized dessert wines. ~Amanda Schuster
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