Amidst the spectacular slopes of the Dolomites lies one of Italy’s most distinctive wine regions, Trentino-Alto Adige.
Driving north from Verona, the Dolomite mountains suddenly envelop you, bathed in sunshine. The plains at the base of the mountains are typically planted to apples, the region’s other great agricultural success, but as the elevation rises the apple orchards fall away and it is the grapevines that cling to the slopes. Grapes were first grown here in 500 BC, and vine cultivation has been constant ever since. Political boundaries melt into the surroundings, and the region is strongly influenced by its time under French, Austrian, German, and finally, Italian rule. All of these cultures have created a multifaceted wine region.
There was a time when the production of international varieties was the norm here, but those days thankfully have passed and there is now a renewed focus on indigenous grapes, terroir, and sustainability. Terroir can be difficult to explain. It is the contribution of the climate, geography, vineyard, vigneron, and a bit of serendipity, that creates the wine in our glass. If a wine is said to have terroir it means it displays a sense of the place it came from. Trentino-Alto Adige’s consistent long and slow ripening in many hours of sunshine, coupled with the mountain protection from harsh winds and nasty weather, ensure a terroir that is unique and ideal for striking, lively wines. Often the winemakers of the region can’t help but be sustainable.
The steep mountain slopes offer no opportunity for mechanization. The work is done by hand as it always has been. Originally from necessity and now by commitment to quality, winemakers in Trentino-Alto Adige place great importance on environmentally friendly, sustainable, organic and biodynamic methods of winemaking. Summa, a wine festival with an emphasis on biodynamic and sustainable wineries has been taking place in the region for 19 years, well before much of the rest of world fully recognized the importance of such practices.
The distinctive terroir and lack of intervention in the winery and vineyard allow for a purity of flavour that communicates the region and the grape. The white wines are racy and refreshing. Alto Adige pinot grigio can have a complexity that is not often found in the grape. Gewürztraminer, indigenous to the region, is intense and aromatic – not for the faint of heart, but making vivid rose and lychee scented wines. The indigenous red grapes make wines that are balanced and distinctive with lagrein from Alto Adige and teroldego from Trentino performing particularly well. A cousin of syrah, lagrein wines are fruity and complex with aromas of red berries, black fruit and violets. These wines are appealing and silky on the palate, a perfect match for speck, the cured ham of the region.
The elegant and concentrated teroldego was nearly extinct and forever lost. Luckily Azienda Agricola Foradori, recognized the value of the grape and teroldego is now considered one of the most exciting varieties in Italy. There is no doubt that the Dolomite mountains provide Trentino-Alto Adige with one of the most exceptional wine growing regions in Italy. Dedication to sustainability while showcasing the terroir will ensure that this beautiful corner of Italy will continue to create fresh and exciting wines.
Franz Haas 2015 Pinot Grigio
Franz Haas winery has been producing wine just outside Bolzano since the 1880s. With a focus on quality and expression of terroir, Franz Haas pinot grigio has personality. Vines at 800 metres of elevation ensure the wine is fragrant with floral, citrus and honey notes. Excellent on its own or enjoyed with grilled fish or white meat. CSPC 766940 $35
Cantina Tramin 2015 Gewürztraminer
Located in the town of Tramin, Cantina Tramin has been operating since 1889. This gewürztraminer is pure and precise, displaying the classic characteristics of rose, lychee and passion fruit. Rich with freshness and finesse, this is made for spicy Thai or Malaysian cuisine. CSPC 737886 $30
Tiefenbrunner Turmhof 2014 Pinot Nero
One of the oldest wineries in the region, Tiefenbrunner has been registered since 1848. The Turmhof pinot nero is sourced from hillside vines as high as 980 metres. This elevation ensures a cool, sunny environment and long ripening. A complex pinot nero with an abundance of red and black fruit characteristics, this is fantastic with duck, other game birds or cured meats. CSPC 734156 $30
Another grape that is indigenous to the region is teroldego. Not something we often see in North America, Foradori is the undisputed leader making lively and structured examples full of red fruits. Foradori teroldego is a beautiful and complex wine, perfect with braised beef and grilled meat. CSPC 611269 $35