Posts tagged ‘cantina terlano’
Vineyards at Cantina Terlano, Alto Adige (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
When you think about the best red wines of Italy, you probably look to Piedmont and Tuscany or perhaps even Abruzzo, Umbria or Puglia. But when it comes to Alto Adige, white wine is most likely your strongest association with this far northern region. Yet, this area is home to several red varieties that are made into some of the country’s most expressive wines, offerings that are beautifully balanced, adapt perfectly with so many foods and best of all, are wonderfully expressive.
The variety of red wines in Alto Adige is quite amazing, ranging from the very delicate wines made from the Schiava variety with its pleasing cherry and currant fruit and extremely light tannins to Cabernet Sauvignon, which expresses the power and intensity you find from other regions around the world, along with higher acidity than many of its counterparts.
But for this post, I’d like to concentrate on two varieties that have become specialties in Alto Adige: Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Lagrein. Pinot Nero of course is the same variety that is grown in Burgundy as well as a few other areas around the world, from Central Otago in New Zealand to Casablanca Valley in Chile as well as the Willamette Valley in Oregon and several zones in California. Alto Adige is a natural spot for Pinot Nero (sometimes labeled with its German name Blauburgunder), as this is a cool climate wine region, espcially being so far north in Italy as well as being situated in the shadow of the Dolomite Mountains. Examples of Pinot Nero from Alto Adige range from the delicate, light tannin style you can chill for a bit to the more medium-full and full-bodied versions that receive small oak barrel aging and can be aged for 7-10 years or even longer.
Here are notes on a few impressive examples of Alto Adige Pinot Nero I’ve tasted recently:
2010 Cantina Tramin - This is the entry level Pinot Nero from this outstanding cooperative producer, located in the town of Tramin. Medium-bodied with pleasing aromas of bing cherry, dried strawberry and rhubarb, this has good varietal character with light tannins and a subtle touch of oregano in the finish. You could chill this for 15-20 minutes or so before serving; it’s best paired with lighter chicken and pork dishes (especially in a Thai restaurant) or with a light preparation of tuna. ($19)
2009 Caldaro “Saltner” - This is richer and riper than the above wine, displaying aromas of red cherry, red currant and thyme. Medium-full, this is a nicely structured wine with distinct notes of paprika and turmeric; the acidity is quite good and the oak is nicely integrated. This can stand up to foods such as roast pork, veal or yellowfin tuna. Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years. ($28)
Martin Foradori, J. Hofstatter (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
2008 J. Hofstatter “Vigna S. Urbano Barthenau”
Martin Foradori, proprietor and winemaker at the J. Hofstatter estate, calls this wine the “flagship” of his production; to me, this is evidence of how great Pinot Noir can be in Alto Adige. The vines in the vineyard are 65 years old, which naturally produces a small yield as well as remarkably concentrated fruit. Full-bodied, this has aromas of tart cherry and strawberry along with lovely notes of coriander and marjoram. Here is a Pinot Nero with outstanding complexity, ideal balance and the structure to age for 15-20 years. Pair this with everything from duck with cherry or orange sauce, pork medallions, salmon or tuna steaks. ($80 – note that this wine is extremely limited. If you find another vintage such as 2007 or 2006, go for it!)
And, two recommendations of Lagrein:
2009 Valle Isarco - I truly believe Lagrein can be a great success in America as the wines made from this variety have deep color, good ripe black and red fruit and moderate tannins- as a rule, these are drinkable upon release. Here’s a very good example, one with bright ruby red color and beautiful aromas of black plum, licorice, tar and tobacco. Medium-bodied with good acidity and moderate tannins, this has pleasing notes of bitter chocolate in the finish. Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years with most red meats, especially a lighter cut of beef or with eggplant parmigiana. ($20)
2007 Cantina Terlano “Gries Riserva”
Bright purple with aromas of black plum, iodine and black raspberry. Medium-full, this has very good ripeness, elegant middle-weight tannins, good acidity, subtle wood and a touch of bitter chocolate in the finish (a nice touch found in many examples of this wine). This is approachable now, but will be even better in 2-3 years as it round out. Pair this with lighter game, most red meats or hearty stews. ($30)
As 2012 gets underway, it’s time to look back on the best Italian wines of 2011. Today’s post will focus on whites, while the next will be on sparkling and dessert wines with a third post highlighting red wines.
These posts will be partial lists of the best wines of the year:
2008 Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco Riserva “Vorberg” (DOC Alto Adige – Südtirol) Cooperative producers – wine firms that source grapes from growers that are members of the cooperative – are quite prevalent in the northeastern region of Alto Adige. Cantina Terlano, founded in 1893, is one of the very best. Pinot Bianco is the most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige, but few versions have as much complexity or style as this offering. Produced from grapes sourced from the eponymous vineyard more than 1500 feet above sea level, this wine received a short time in large casks that are a few years old. Medium-full, there are aromas of dried pear and tea leaf; the mid-palate is generous and there is excellent persistence. There is a distinct minerality in the finish along with notes of pink grapefruit. Overall, this is a wine that displays outstanding varietal purity, excellent balance and amazing complexity.
What a marvelous rendering of this variety, a wine that can be enjoyed tonight with a variety of foods, from grouper and sea bass to roast pork and veal. Or if you prefer, let this age and consume it in another 5-7 years, as the acidity and structure (signatures of the excellent 2008 vintage) guarantee a long life. Suggested retail price: $ 25 (and worth every penny!)
2008 Gini Soave Classico Superiore “Contrada Selvarenza Vecchie Vigne” (Soave Classico DOC)- Brothers Sandro and Claudio Gini have made their estate in Monteforte d’Alpone into one of the finest and most consistent in the Soave zone. Their Soave Classico normale is a textbook example of this wine every year and then you have this particular bottling, which shows just how complex and multi-dimensional Soave can be. Vecchie Vigne refers to old vines; in this instance, the grapes are sourced from 80-year old vines. Fermented in large casks and then aged in barriques, this is a Soave that has tremendous depth of fruit, while the oak adds texture and a bit of spice. The aromas are of Anjou pear and lilacs along with a pleasant note of heather (not that unlike a classic single malt scotch); the finish is extremely long and the wine has impeccable balance. From the marvelous 2008 vintage, my best guess is that this wine will be at its best in 10-12 years. I have had 10 and 15 -year old botlings of this particular wine and they have been in excellent shape. This is a great Soave! Suggested price: $35
2008 Primosic “Klin” (DOC Collio Bianco) - The Collio zone in the region of Friuli in the far northeastern reaches of Italy is a superb growing area for white varieties, so it’s no surprise that there are a number of outstanding white blends. The “Klin” from Primosic is the finest I tasted last year. A blend of Sauvignon (Blanc), Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Chardonnay, this wine was fermented and aged in small French oak barrels. While there are several blends from Collio that are aged only in steel tanks and are marvelous, the oak aging works beautifully with this wine, as this is reminiscent in many ways to a great white Burgundy. Just an amazing array of aromas, from pear and beeswax to lanolin and lavender; the finish is extremely long and there is outstanding concentration and vibrant acidity. Another remarkable wine from the 2008 vintage (notice a pattern here?), this should drink well for 10-12 years and perhaps longer. This is a wine – and a producer – that should be better known. $55
2010 Zuani “Vigne” (DOC Collio Bianco) - Here is another brilliant blended white from Collio, this one aged only in steel tanks (the winery makes a similar white that is aged in oak, named interestingly enough, Zuani “Zuani”). A melange of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon in equal parts, the fruit is from vineyards that are between 15 and 30 years old. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this wine displays aromas of melon, peach, spearmint and dried yellow flowers with excellent persistence and a lovely brightness, thanks to very good acidity. The 2010 is a bit lighter than the 2009 and 2008 versions of this wine, but it is no less accomplished. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. $22 (an excellent value!)
2009 Livio Felluga “Terre Alte” (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo)- Anyone familiar with the finest Italian white wines surely knows the Terre Alte bottling from Livio Felluga. Primarily sourced from vineyards in the Rosazzo zone, this is a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon that is aged for a brief time in oak. The 2009 is especially notable, given its deep concentration, lengthy finish and outstanding persistence. This wine has historically shown beautifully upon release and then little by little, displayed its complexities over the years. Look for this 2009 version to drink well for 12-15 years – at least! $75
This is a partial list of the best Italian white wines of the year. The complete list will be in the Spring issue of my Guide to Italian Wines, which will be sent to paid subscribers. If you are interested in subscribing to my publication – currently in its 11th year – email me at email@example.com.
Two lovely wines to discuss today from one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions, Alto Adige. This stunning area, in northern Italy, bordering Austria, is famous for its bilingual use of Italian and German (the region is also known as Südtirol); in fact, in the early part of the twentieth century, Alto Adige was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (it was annexed by Italy following the end of the First World War).
Being situated so far north, Alto Adige is quite cool, which makes this an ideal region for the production of white wines along with reds that are better suited to a moderate climate, such as Pinot Noir (known as Pinot Nero in Italy). While Pinot Noir is not common throughout Italy, it is a featured variety in Alto Adige and there are several producers, both large and small, that consistently craft excellent bottlings.
I recently tasted the just released 2009 Pinot Nero from Cantina Terlano (also known as Kellerei Terlan in German), one of Alto Adige’s finest producers. This is their regular bottling of Pinot Nero, the other is a Riserva bottling known as Montigl) and while I look forward to that special wine, I am in love with this regular bottling!
2009 was a superb vintage for whites throughout Alto Adige and much of Italy (it may even turn out to be a spectacular one), as the wines have impressive concentration, lovely texture, ideal acidity and remarkable structure. Thus it should be no surprise that a cool-climate, early ripening variety such as Pinot Nero should also be a notable success in Italy in 2009. My notes for this wine are as follows:
Pale garnet with aromas of bing cherry, strawberry candy and carnation. Medium-bodied, this is a delicious Pinot Noir with tasty fresh red cherry fruit, tart acidity and moderate tannins. Elegantly styled with just a touch of red spice in the finish. Approachable now, this is a real treat and is styled for so many types of foods, from poultry and lighter game to lighter tuna preparations. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years, best fresh.
I rate this wine as excellent; what I love most about this bottling is its varietal purity and instant satisfaction from the inviting aromas to the delicious flavors on the palate. This is an excellent value at $25 and has more character than most California or Oregon Pinot Noirs at twice the price! (Note: the wine is labeled as Pinot Noir on the front and Pinot Nero on the back- this is for the American market).
The second wine I am recommending is the 2008 Sauvignon “Andrius” from Cantina Andriano (in Italy, Sauvignon is Sauvignon Blanc). Sauvignon from this cool climate always has beautiful structure as well as very good acidity and in a excellent year such as 2008, beautiful perfumes as well. My notes on this wine:
Bright yellow with aromas of yellow pepper, gooseberry and golden poppies. Medium-full with good to very good concentration. Elegant entry on the palate and a lengthy finish with good acidity and persistence. Nicely styled for many types of food. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years.
This is a rich, lush, almost muscular Sauvignon that I would pair with foods ranging from risotto with shrimp or scallops all the way to veal medallions. I’m very impressed by the wine, though I’d like to see this priced at a bit less than $44, but this is a limited wine and thus an expensive category.
These are two of the most notable releases I’ve tried from Alto Adige as of late; I look forward to trying more new wines over the next few months. What I love best about the wines from Alto Adige are their balance and suitability with food. I’ve never been a fan of wines that have been styled to receive a high score in a magazine; rather, give me a wine that marries well with a variety of foods – that’s what Alto Adige does best!
(Note: In 2008, Cantina Terlano purchased Cantina Andriano. The wines are vinified separately because of each estate’s history an terroir.)
In my last post, I discussed the superb whites of Alto Adige; in this post I will deal with this region’s unique red wines.
Most people will be surprised to know that red varieties account for more plantings than white in Alto Adige. The numbers used to be higher, as much of the red plantings were the Schiava grape, which produces lighter, high acid, low tannic reds. This grape is still seen in good numbers, but it is far less important today. Still, a lightly chilled Schiava is a pleasant wine for lighter fare.
PINOT NERO and LAGREIN
The two most important red varities of Alto Adige then are Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Lagrein; these are two very different grapes.
Few people think about Pinot Nero in Italy, but there are some excellent examples produced in the cool climes of Alto Adige. Many are medium-bodied with pleasant red cherry fruit, high acidity and soft tannins; there wines are meant for comsumption within 2-3 years of the vintage date. But there are a few examples that are from single vineyards (crus) or special selections that have greater depth of fruit, more pronounced aromatics and are more complex in general. These top offerings of Alto Adige Pinot Nero are in the vein of a Burgundy from the Cotes du Beaune and can be enjoyed anywhere from 5-10 years after the vintage.
A few of the best bottlings of Pinot Nero from Alto Adige include:
- J. Hofstatter “Barthenau Vigna S. Urbano”
- Colterenzio “Cornell”
- Alois Lageder “Krafuss”
- Cantina Tramin “Riserva”
- Abbazia di Novacella “Praepositus Riserva”
Lagrein is one of Alto Adige’s most unique red varieties, offering rich purple color, ripe black fruit flavors and moderate tannins. Most examples of Lagrein are quite delicious upon release and as the acidity is not too high, they are quite enjoyable on their own, although most work better paired with a variety of red meats. Some examples are medium-bodied and meant for short-term consumption (2-3 years), although many producers also make a richer, riper, more serious version (often aged in small oak barrels) that have more tannin and can age for as long as a decade.
Among the best bottlings of Lagrein in Alto Adige are:
- Cantina Terlano “Porphyr”
- Elena Walch “Castel Ringberg Riserva”
- Cantina Tramin “Urban”
- Muri-Gries “Abtei-Muri Riserva”
- Alois Lageder “Lindenburg”
- J. Hofstatter “Steinraffler”
- Cantina Bolzano “Taber Riserva”
- Abbazia di Novacella “Praepositus Riserva”
A few producers also work with Cabernet Sauvignon; the cool climate here preserves acidity and brings out some of the herbal components of the variety. These are not flashy examples of Caberent Sauvignon, but are well made and tend to age well. Arguably the finest is the “Cor Romigberg” from Alois Lageder, which drink well at 10-12 years after the vintage.
A few producers also make a varietal Merlot or blend Merlot with Lagrein.
All in all, the red wines from Alto Adige may not reach the same heights as the region’s whites, but they are of high quality and are quite distinct.
Some of Italy’s finest white wines – and a few wonderful reds -are produced in the region of Alto Adige. In reality, Alto Adige is the northern part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, but as Alto Adige is so different in nature from Trentino – as well as the rest of Italy – I will discuss Alto Adige separately.
There are several things that make Alto Adige so distinct. First is the situation of dual languages used here, both Italian and German. Alto Adige until the end of World War l was part of the Austria-Hungary empire, so the German influence is still quite strong. Menus in restaurants, road signs and even names of cities are bilingual – for example, the town of Termeno is also known as Tramin, while the region’s largest city of Bolzano is also known by its German name of Bozen (Alto Adige itself is also known as Südtirol, or South Tyrol.)
This is one of Italy’s most gorgeous wine zones, as vineyards have been squeezed in every possible inch amidst valleys below the Dolomite Mountains as well as on steep hillsides. The northern border of Alto Adige abuts Austria, so this is a cool climate, best suited for white wines. Thanks to moderate temperatures and cold air from the mountains, the local whites have vibrant acidity, one of the signatures of Alto Adige whites.
The leading variety planted in Alto Adige is Pinot Bianco; versions vary from simple, crisp dry whites to more medium-full efforts with a light spiciness. PInot Grigio is also popular here and as these wines have excellent acidity, they are among the very best examples of this variety produced in Italy.
The two finest varieties are Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon (known as Sauvignon Blanc outside of Italy). Gewurztraminer comes from the German word gewurz, meainng spicy. This is one of the most beautiful aromatic varieties grown anywhere and it is in the town of Tramin (thus Gewurztraminer means roughly, “spicy from Tramin” that it reaches it heights. There are three superior bottlings of Gewurztraminer from Tramin: the “Kastelaz” from Elena Walch, the “Kolbenhof” from J. Hofstatter and the “Nussbaumer” from Cantina Tramin. Each of these three is a full-bodied, tremendously complex Gewurztraminer with exotic aromas of lychee, grapefruit and yellow roses along with rich spiciness in the finish. All have beautiful texture (the Hofstatter has almost an oily feel on the palate) and age well for 3-5 years and sometimes longer. These wines are ideal with Thai food, although Martin Foradori told me it is a pity that there are no Thai restaurants in Tramin!
As for Sauvignon, the best versions in Alto Adige combine intense varietal aromatics of bell pepper, pear and asparagus with bracing acidity – these are not the simple, fresh, melon-tinged versions of this variety you would find in a warmer climate. Rather these are intense with plenty of herbal character to them, so pair these with seafood with herbal sauces or accompaniments. Among the best bottlings of Alto Adige Sauvignon are the “Montan” from Cantina Tramin,” the “Castel Ringberg” from Elena Walch, the “Sanct Valentin” from St. Michael-Eppan, the “Quartz” from Cantina Terlano and the “Lafoa” from Colterenzio. Each of these wines is outstanding; in my opinion, the “Lafoa” is a brilliantly realized Sauvignon and is one of the finest white wines produced today in all of Italy!
Among the best producers of white wines in Italy today are the following producers:
- Abbazia di Novacella
- Cantina Terlano
- J. Hofstatter
- Alois Lageder
- St. Michal-Eppan
- Cantina Tramin
- Elena Walch
Most regions in Italy have large co-operative wineries where grower members sell their grapes. This is a long-standing tradition in Alto Adige and it is here that there are more great co-operative producers than anywhere else in Italy. Among the best are Cantina Tramin, Cantina Terlano, St. Michal-Eppan and Colterenzio.
Coopertive producers have the great advantage of purchasing some of the finest grapes in all of Alto Adige and as they have so many grower members (most usually have more than 100), prices can be kept at reasonable levels.
Alto Adige is becoming one of the top regions in Italy for wines made from organically grown grapes as well as wines made according to biodynamic procedures. Several producers are working with these practices, none more highly regarded than Alois Lageder. A courteous, reflective individual, Lageder has been producing organic wines for some years now and recently released a Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio blend under the “beta delta” moniker (the 2008 is stunning!). A toast to Alois Lageder and other Alto Adige producers for their work with organic and biodynamic wines!
In a future post, I will deal with the unique reds of Alto Adige, from the sensual Pinot Nero to the ripe, forward, purple-hued Lagrein.