Una Sopresa Magnifica

August 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm 4 comments

I was told by a friend in Italy that the phrase “unexpected brilliance” really doesn’t translate very well, so I’d be better off using the words una sopresa magnifica – “a magnificent surprise” to describe a marvelous Alto Adige red wine I recently tasted. 

The wine – the 2009 Campill – is from a small producer Weingut Pranzegg, located in Bolzano in northern Alto Adige. The grower and winemaker of this wine is young Martin Gojer, an artisan producer who also makes an excellent Lagrein and Lagrein rosato along with a lovely blended white from local vineyards. The Campill, named for the site where the winery is located, is 95% Schiava, with the remaining 5% a mix of Lagrein and Barbera.

The very fact that I am strongly recommending a Schiava will probably come as surprise to most readers. I would imagine that many have never even heard of this variety (it is also known as Vernatsch), while those familiar with it know it as one that yields a very light red, one with high acidity and very light tannins. It’s the type of red that normally must be comsumed within a year or two and it is often served slightly chilled as it can be quite refreshing that way.

Now while I do enjoy the typical style of Schiava, I have discovered a few examples that represent more than just a pleasant offering. This is a remarkable wine and the main factor for that – as with most first-rate wines – can be found in the vineyard, as Gojer is working with vines that have an average age of 45 years; a few of the vines are 30 years of age, but several are 80 years old! Clearly these old vines limit yield and deliver a wine of great complexity and structure.

My notes list the “sensual” aromas of carnation, red roses and strawberry; medium-full with excellent depth of fruit, there are silky tannins, very good acidity and a lengthy finish with notes of Asian spice and nutmeg. This has excellent balance, lovely finesse and amazing complexity! It is drinking beautifully now and should be in fine shape for another four or five years. I’d love to try this with a pork dish, especially in a Thai or Oriental cuisine, although roast pork or roast chicken with mushrooms would also be an ideal partner.

Currently, the wines of Weingut Pranzegg are not available in America, so here’s hoping some smart importer brings these products in soon. For now, you’ll have to head to Alto Adige and pay 13.90 Euro a bottle, which may be one of the wisest decisions you’ll ever make for a bottle of wine!

Bravo, Martin for making such an extraordinary wine from a variety most commonly associated with ordinary wines!

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charles Scicolone  |  August 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Ciao Tom- very interesting article on a little know grape

    Reply
    • 2. tom hyland  |  August 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Thanks, Charles. There is a place for these wines and how nice of a the local producers to recognize this.

      Reply
  • 3. mdmarone  |  August 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Tom,
    Thanks for another great introduction to a little known variety. I haven’t heard of the grape, but that’s the word for slave in Italian (fem.) Did you hear any stories behind the history of the grape or where its name was derived? Also, do you know of any producers importing this wine to the US?
    Grazie,
    Mark

    Reply
    • 4. tom hyland  |  August 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

      Mark:

      As noted in the text, this is not currently available in the US, but another excellent version is from Girlan “Gschleir” Alte Reben (they label it as Vernatsch). This is also from old vines and offers a lot more complexity than the typical Vernatsch (or Schiava, if you will). Montcalm importers in NYC bring the Girlan wine into the country.

      Reply

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