The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

All About Trentino-Alto Adige

Posted on | May 11, 2015 | Written by IWM Staff | No Comments

Map taken from Wikipedia

Map taken from Wikipedia

Trentino and Alto Adige—situated around the cities of Trent and Bolzano, respectively—are the only Italian provinces that operate autonomously. When considered in broad terms, the two provinces appear to possess an identical grape culture; they’re both mostly dedicated to the cultivation of a of whites, something aided by the merger between the cool Alpine air and the warm currents issuing from Lago di Garda. Moreover, both operate a rather extensive co-operative culture, notably distinguished by the quality of the co-ops (many of which were initiated by independent farmers).

While they do have many grapes in common—Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Bianco—each specializes in its own particular varieties. Trentino has demonstrated a particular talent with Sauvignon Blanc (which frequently goes solely by Sauvignon), Nosiola, and Müller-Thurgau. Trentino’s Sauvignon is far more restrained than many of its counterparts in the New World, as well as its fellow Italian from Friuli. Nosiola, a Trentino native, is rarely found outside its home ground, yet its lithe frame and tart acidity make for a refreshing quaffer. Müller-Thurgau offers the virtual antithesis of this slight character, providing a full-bodied, aromatically stirring wine; it is widely considered to have found an almost ideal contextual setting in Trentino.

Alto Adige also singles out a leading trio of grapes in its catalogue— Pinot Bianco, Gewürztraminer, and Sylvaner. Several producers present an individual varietal in a comprehensive stylistic range. The Pinot Bianco grape makes the most frequent appearances in this hierarchical construct, as it may be expressed in a relatively simple form or enhanced through oak. Gewürztraminer (a.k.a., Traminer and Traminer Aromatico), however, is widely regarded as Alto Adige’s signature grape, offering an intense mélange of flavors including lychee, rose petals, and baking spices. Its emblematic status reflects not only its likely identity as a native, but the customized complement it offers the region’s hearty mountain cuisine, particularly dishes such as knödel alle erbe (gnocchi with wild herbs) and smoked sausages. Sylvaner exhibits a character that is similar to that of Gewürtztraminer’s, albeit less concentrated.

Trentino-Alto Adige’s extensive white roster can obscure its fairly long-standing commitment to reds. It’s a serious red wine region, and it has grown yet more so in recent years. Both are fairly active on the international front, with the Bordeaux triumvirate—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot—receiving more attention in Trentino than its natives, such as Schiava, which is largely consumed on a local basis. While Trentino’s autumn rains often impair the ripening of the grapes, many producers believe that the climate can ensure adequate ripening. The most successful and established of the Cabernet-based bottlings issuing from Trentino is the Gonzaga San Leonardo Rosso. On the indigenous front, the rare Teroldego is quite prized, given its enticing profile of plush berried notes and a savory quality, but it tends to not leave Italy’s borders.

Alto Adige’s Cabs are also quite trendy, yet many see potential in Pinot Nero, given that the area wholly satisfies all of this grape’s demands, including high altitudes and a distinct shift in temperature between night and day. Alto Adige’s native affairs, at the moment, largely involve Lagrein, which is vinified as both a rosso and a rosato. Known for its juxtaposition of the sweet and savory, Lagrein often delivers a rather pronounced and tannic character.

tenuta01Despite the fact that they don’t receive much attention, the sweet wines of Trentino–Alto Adige are not mere also-rans in the region’s line-up. Trentino’s artisan Vin Santo producers utilize the appassimento process, much like those who craft the more famous Tuscan version. Unlike their Tuscan counterparts, however, Trentino’s winemakers stay exclusively in a circumscribed area, the Valle dei Laghi, the only subzone with a a climate conducive to the drying of grapes. The other two main dessert wines involve two sub-varieties of the Moscato grape, Moscato Giallo and Moscato Rosa. Trentino and Alto Adige both produce the wines concerned, the former of which may be derived from either ultraripe grapes (vendemmia tardiva) or appassimento. While quantities of all three dessert wines are fairly minimal, Trentino turns out a pretty sizable quantity of metodo classico dry sparklers, produced predominantly from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, with a modest contribution made by Pinot Bianco.

Just as each Trentino and Alto Adige keep to their own winemaking pursuits, the provinces also cultivate their own signature specialties. Alto Adige finds its place of glory in the gourmet aisle with speck, an artisanally cold-smoked boned ham, aged according to local practices and traditions dating back to the 1300s. The small Alpine villages comprising the province possess abundant pastures, which account for the production of high quality staples such as Grana Padano and Asiago, as well as numerous traditional cheeses that are local exclusives; they they defy replication and are rarely found outside their zones of production, and they’re often paired with the local artisanal salame, Luganega Trentina.

Polenta is a Trentino staple, playing a fundamental role in the rather dense smacafam, baked with sausage, salt pork, and occasionally, cheese. Another menu regular, gnocchi (referred to as canederli or knödeln in the local dialect) offers diversity in its seemingly infinite catalogue of preparations, with strangolapreti, meaning “priest chokers,” being the most famous variation. You can also find dessert gnocchi in sweet, fruit-flavored versions such as canederli di albicocche (apricot) and canederli di marroni (chestnuts), sharing the meal’s end with Austrian-inspired strudels, puff pastries, and fritters.

Some of IWM’s favorite winemakers from this region are Tenuta San Leonardo, Peter Dipoli and Pojer & Sandri.

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