You can describe the basic characteristics of any grape, but it always ranges when you start heading from region to region. That usually has to do with the affect of the area’s unique climate and soil, but also often just the winemaking style. I’d had all of the grapes they grow in Alto Adige before heading there and you may have too, but here were some of the unique things I found in each varietal there as well as my fave wines for each.
These were fragrant but relatively restrained compared to the usual punch of syrupy Chinese-restaurant canned lychee you get from Gewürz. The Alto Adige ones I had tended to be more floral and elegant with just some lychee nicely mixed in.
AKA Pinot Blanc, which they pretty much grow in Germany, Alsace, and Alto Adige. This is one of my summer go-to’s, but thought of it just as something light and refreshing to grab on a hot August day. Had a bunch of really nice ones in AA, but at Cantina Terlano we also did an awesome vertical that showed it can be complex and can age really well.
Tiefenbrunner took us to one of the highest vineyards I’ve been to: a crazily winding, nausea-inducing drive 3300 feet up into the Alps. Once we got there, the stunning views were all worth it. They planted MT there because it grows really well in very high places. I’m not in love with MT, usually finding it kind of wimpy/flabby. But it’s not offensive or anything, and would be pretty nice every once in a while in the summer.
This grape has a bad rep, and I definitely contribute to the rants about it. In AA, I had a few that I actually thought were not just good but great. Some winemakers are taking time to grow the grapes well and not in bulk, producing a wine that can actually be good. We spoke a lot about how they have an uphill battle to get people to try a PG, especially those who normally taste baby vomit whenever they drink it (yes, I’m talking about me). But I was truly impressed with a few of them and even poured myself a second glass of one! Unprecedented.
This was the first grape I ever had from Alto Adige so I thought they made a lot. Nope. It’s only about 1% of total production in Alto Adige and they only make it in the Valle Isarco area. Now knowing that, I’m pretty amazed we even have it in the US! But lucky we do because it’s awesome – super crispy, white peach, white florals. Yum. Abbate di Novacella also makes one that I love and see a lot in New York.
This is a light, herbal red that’s the most widely-grown grape in the region. They used to make way more of it until they realized they should be rocking the aromatic whites more, so tore up a lot of the vines. More on this in a full post tomorrow!
Pinot Noir grows great in colder climates, so it does well in Alto Adige. It’s has a bit of an herbal/tarragon quality to it here, which can be nice for a change every once in a while. Plus, it’s nowhere near the crazy Burgundy prices you’d normally pay – more in line with the Oregon ones price-wise. Unfortunately my favorite out of all the ones I tried isn’t available in the US, but definitely check it out if you go over there.
This is the other indigenous varietal in Alto Adige, and one of the few heavier grapes grown in the region. And when I say heavy, I mean heavy. It’s about as inky and tannic as Petite Sirah, and can be pretty off-putting if you’re not eating it with grilled sausage or something. I don’t like it that much, with one exception: Elena Walch’s single vineyard Lagrein is well balanced and on the more elegant side of what Lagrein can be. She cut back the yields in the vineyard, leaving just a heart of grapes on the bunch. Even the old-time farmers would pass by and ask what grape she was growing, since it wasn’t the typical way they let Schiava grow. Really worth trying.
and don’t forget the grappa!
What would an Italian meal be without a shot of grappa at the end? We ate at a place up in the mountains where the guy made his own grappa (as well as speck, bread, and sausage – suck it, “artisanal” restaurants!). The apple one was phenomenal.
And after the morning of hiking, we had a three course meal and scads of wine. As we were walking out the lady grabs my arm and literally says, “Sorry, you have to have grappa now.” Who was I to say no?
ps they also do sparkling
This Haderburg was mostly Chardonnay with 15% Pinot Noir – classic grapes, and classic method. It’s especially phenomenal when it’s waiting for you after a morning of hiking in the Dolomites!
Hope you made it through to the end! Lots of wines, but so worth trying. Loved this region and had such an arduous time (HAHAHA) to come up with my list of faves from the week for you.
Tomorrow, more on my fave indigenous Alto Adige grape: Schiava!