Alto Adige Class

November 2, 2010 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment

Vineyards at Cantina Terlano (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

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.)

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