Just got back from an incredible trip to Alto Adige, a wine region nestled in the super high, super gorgeous Tyrolean Alps. I’ve loved the region ever since I had my first sip of crispy Kerner a few years ago, so I was stoked to head there in person to drink a lot more. Here were the 5 things that struck me the most.
1 it’s aromatic whites land
The Alps are high, the air is cold, and that sets it up for some way fragrant grapes. “Aromatic whites” is how wine people describe the wines that give off extra-intense smells: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Moscato, and Pinot Grigio are some of the most aromatic. In Alto Adige, 58% of the wines grown are white (a percentage skewed by the large amount of red Schiava grown – 22% of all wine in the region – which is a holdover from when it was widely grown as a bulk/table wine back in the day). And they’re soooo good.
2 it’s the Sybil of towns
Technically Alto Adige is in Italy but it doesn’t know if it’s Austrian or Italian. They speak both languages, to the point where the street signs will say “Via Leonardo da Vinci Strasse” and you’re like, “Are you a via or a strasse? Make up your mind, street!” The bias is to Austrian though, with more people speaking German, more sausage than any long-noodled pasta, and wines that are light and aromatic.
3 politics affect what’s in your glass
Alto Adige used to be part of Austria, and then Italy annexed it after World War I. When it was Austrian, it was the most southern region of that country, so they planted red grapes there (reds generally do better in the relatively-warmer climate). But now that it’s the most northern region in Italy, they tore up many of the red vines and planted white grapes (which generally do better in colder climates, depending on the varietal).
4 grapes to call their own
Alto Adige’s borders may have changed over the years, but two things that have always been part of the area are Schiava and Lagrein (pronounced “laGRINE”). They’re the two grapes that are indigenous to the region, and sort of weird birds. Schiava is a light, herbally red that is just phenomenal with speck (another regional specialty – seriously ate my body weight in it all week). And on the absolute other end of the red spectrum is Lagrein, which is inky, heavy, and packed with a ton of tannins that wallop your mouth.
5 it makes you want to yodel
The town is surrounded by awe-inspiring Alps, dotted by pointed church spires and medieval castles everywhere. Sudtirol (Alto Adige’s region) has the highest concentration of castles in all of Europe. Literally, you’re just driving along and there are castles like every 15 minutes – even on the way to the airport! It’s a great location for fairy tales or Game of Thrones.
Stay tuned all week for more Alto Adige awesomeness. Tomorrow: the best wines I had.