…is the title of a seminar I attended today, and distinctive they were.
Some fun facts about Alto Adige:
*300 days of sunshine per year. Wouldn’t that be nice?
*It’s the smallest region in Italy – 50% larger than New Jersey with 6% of the population of New York City.
*20 grape varieties are planted. Gewürztraminer, Schiava, and Lagrein are indigenous. Current trends are leaning toward white production – 55%.
*It’s one of the oldest winemaking regions in all of Europe. Even in 700 BC, winemaking was already thriving.
*The region has the highest percentage of DOC wines in Italy, as well as three times the Tre Bicchieri-rated wines (the highest rating from Gambero Rosso magazine) that Tuscany does.
1. Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio Punggl 2007. Pinot Grigio is the wine that everybody loves to hate as well as the varietal consumed by housewives, but this was delicious: hazelnut, anise, citrus, green apple, with great acid structure, a round mouthfeel and loads of minerality. Punggl, pronounced poon-gull, is old German dialect for hill. A panelist accurately described this wine as having “one leg in Alsace and one leg in Italy”.
2. Franz Haas Cuvée Manna 2004. This was an IGT Dolomiti wine instead of a DOC Alto Adige because of its unique blend: Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc. Franz had the idea for this blend in 1988, after he and his party consumed 7 bottles of wine with a 7 course tasting menu at a local restaurant. He wanted to come up with a wine that would work across multiple courses and the first vintage of Manna (named after his wife) debuted in 1995. Golden, with red apple, herbs, and some interesting developing aromas, I could see how this complex wine would be versatile with many dishes.
3. San Michele Appiano Pinot Grigio St. Valentin 2006. A dry year in Alto Adige that produced concentrated berries. This wine had incredible freshness even though it had seen 11 months in barrique (1/3 new) as well as lees aging. Stone fruit, hazelnut, minerality and sweet spice were there, too.
4. Caldaro Sauvignon Blanc Castel Giovanelli 2007. The Castel is for a castle built on the vineyard in the 19th century (which the panelist dubbed, “not old”). This wine also had some barrel aging and lees contact, but maintained the bright grapefruit, tropical and grassy notes that we all love from Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Terlan Nova Domus Terlaner Riserva 2005. 60% Pinot Blanc, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon was noticeable on the nose and the Pinot Blanc provided the intense minerality on the palate. Pretty notes of pear and chamomile tea, too. This vintage is a current release – the winery considers a 20 year old bottling “old”.
6. Alois Lageder Chardonnay Löwengang 2002. Löwengang, pronounced loo-ven gang, means lion’s gate or passage, and refers to the 400 year old manor house on the property. Chardonnay has over 150 years of history in this region, so they’ve had plenty of time to figure out the best terroir. I initially wrote, “yum!” and followed up with: creamy, ripe apple and pear, white flowers, Burgundian elegance.
7. Peter Zemmer Gewürztraminer Reserve 2006. Planted at altitudes of up to 1300 feet, this wine had classic Gewürz notes of perfume, rose and lychee, but was lighter on its feet. Cool mountain winds in the afternoon extend the hang time of the grapes and increase their physiological ripeness. It was so well-balanced, that no one noticed its residual sugar of 6.2 g/l.
8. Tramin Gewürztraminer Nussbaumer 2004. At 15% abv, this was a powerful wine, with similar, yet more intense aromas than wine #7. Gewürz has a rich history in this region and it is the most important varietal for Nussbaumer, whose 700 year history isn’t so shabby either.