The Unique Peculiarities of a Border Territory
The status of this territory, which administratively belongs to the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, is well represented by the two names that define it: Alto Adige for the Italians, who consider it to be in the north, and Sud Tirolo for the Austrians, with respect to whom it is in the south. Its dual language and cultural identity not only characterise it politically and administratively, but also give its various phenomena, including wine production, their own unique character. The names and terms of the South Tyrolean wine scene are indicative of the cultural history of this borderland, situated at a clearly defined boundary point between north and south. Schiava or Vernatsch, Pinot Noir or Blauburgunder, Lago di Caldaro or Kalterersee DOC, wine cellar or kellerei: each term in Italian corresponds to its German equivalent. This ambivalence is captured in the character of every red and white wine produced here, a perfect synthesis of north and south, of Mediterranean and Alpine peaks, of sunny aromatic expressiveness and mountain freshness.
The climatic environment offers producers an extraordinary opportunity to focus on excellence and quality. The wide variety of soils, the significant seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations, the valleys carved out by the Adige River, the protection from the mountains and the cool, breezy climate are optimal conditions for the production of high-quality grapes. Combine this with a predisposition for rigour and the development of first-class technical expertise on the part of the population, and the picture of an extraordinarily suitable terroir is complete. It is therefore easy to understand why the most widespread peculiarities of the entire regional production can be traced back to a technically impeccable precision that concedes nothing to chance. Most of the wine production is due to large, top-quality, highly efficient cooperatives that are a model for the whole of Italy. Large wineries such as San Michele Appiano, Colterenzio, Girlan, Nals Margreid, Terlano, Erste+Neue, Caldaro, Tramin, Abbazia di Novacella and many others have shown that unity is strength and have been able to combine high quality with large production volumes. Alongside these, there are also small, independent producers, whose numbers are slowly increasing. The latter include wine craftsmen such as Kuenhof, Falkenstein, Lageder, Haderburg, Franz Haas, Bruno Gottardi. Manincor, Nossing and Niedrist.
The Main Expressions of South Tyrolean Wine
Today, the territory is essentially known for the production of white wines, even if, in the past, the most typical and traditional expressions were red, based on Schiava or Lagrein. The quality revolution that has characterised local production since the second half of the 20th century has led to an increasing valorisation of white grape varieties that have allowed producers to make a name for themselves all over the world. One of the most famous varieties is Gewurztraminer Alto Adige: an intense, exuberant and spicy aromatic expression, characterised by rich scents of exotic fruit, white peaches and rose petals. Semi-aromatic varieties of German or Austrian origin have become increasingly important in recent decades: Riesling, Sylvaner, Kerner, Veltliner and Muller Thurgau. The interpretations of international grape varieties that lend themselves well to South Tyrolean mountain winegrowing are also very popular throughout Italy and the world: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. As far as sweet specialities are concerned, the products made from Moscato Giallo or Moscato Rosa grapes, which are always characterised by elegance and delicacy, have been very successful.
As far as Alto Adige red wines are concerned, Schiava stands out as a grape variety that gives rise to light, soft and fresh versions that achieve excellence in the area of Lake Caldaro. Another indigenous grape variety is Lagrein, which produces an intense, fruity and spicy red nectar with a pleasant softness. The red grape varieties that have adapted very well to the mountain viticulture of these areas are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and, above all, Pinot Noir, which reaches peaks of authentic excellence in the Mazzon cru.
Food and Wine Experiences and Pairing Suggestions
The Alto Adige wines, thanks to their impeccable balance and intrinsic elegance, lend themselves very well to accompanying elegant and formal dinners. The younger, fresher products are excellent everyday companions and are characterised by great gastronomic versatility. The balanced, crisp and clear style of these wines has the ability to lend elegance to social moments and transform the table into a refined and princely banquet. The famous South Tyrolean whites make the most of fish dishes from every region of Italy, from classic spaghetti with clams to grilled fish, tartare, seafood, brodettos and shellfish. The more intense and full-bodied expressions are also excellent with cheese, vegetables and white meat. This is the case with Gewurztraminer which, because of its exuberant aromatic intensity combined with a soft and warm taste, is also suitable for pairing with blue cheeses, ethnic and spicy foods.
The reds are best suited to regional pairings. South Tyrolean cuisine has Austrian and German influences and is essentially meat-based. A Schiava can be paired with bacon, barley soups, mushrooms, dried meat and delicate spicy first courses. Lagrein, on the other hand, is more suitable for beef, sausages and chamois, as well as mountain cheeses. The best Pinot Noir bottles are excellent with game. The younger interpretations, light and immediate, if served at a temperature below 16°C, can also accompany tasty fish dishes such as smoked trout, cod grostl, broths with tomato sauce and grilled salmon or eels.
If you want to know more about the world of Italian wines, discover the selection of bottles on offer on the Callmewine online wine shop and the right pairings for each type. Buy the most famous Alto Adige wine labels on sale on Callmewine at unbeatable prices, as well as the rarest and most sought-after expressions from small producers.