Alto Adige – also known as Südtirol – is one of the loveliest wine regions in the world. Vineyards dominate the land, as seemingly every inch of this territory is planted to vines. Cool climate varieties such as Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon (Blanc), Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) excel here, and the wines have excellent structure and expressive aromas, thanks to the moderate climate and fresh breezes from the nearby mountains.
There are dozens of superb producers here, ranging from large cooperatives to small firms. One of my favorites is J. Hofstatter, situated in the center of the charming town of Tramin (that is the German-language name; the Italian name for the town in Termeno – Alto Adige is a bilingual region). The proprietor is Martin Foradori Hofstatter, an incisive, personable individual who has a clear vision on the style of wines he wants to produce. Believe me, he succeeds quite well!
I recently tasted a number of his new releases, and was quite impressed with the high level of quality in his portfolio, with a few of the wines of outstanding quality. Here are some brief thoughts on the wines:
2016 Weissburgunder – Weissburgunder is the local name for Pinot Bianco, the most widely planted white variety in Alto Adige; Hofstatter’s version is memorable. Medium-full with rich aromas of golden apples and peony, this has very good acidity, excellent persistence and complexity, and impressive structure. This is a bright, vibrant, marvelous rendition of this wine type. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Fine value – excellent.
2016 Pinot Grigio – The cool conditions in Alto Adige are ideal for PInot Grigio, giving the wines structure and acidity. This means that the typical Pinot Grigio drinker might not like this wine, as it is not soft and round. Very good effort, though one step below the Weissburgunder, this is rather tight now, and needs a bit of time. Best in another year, and then for another two years after that. Very good.
2016 Gewürztraminer “Joseph”– Gewürztraminer is a specialty in Alto Adige, especially in Tramin, given the German name of the grape, “the sweet one from Tramin.” This is the winery’s entry level version and it’s very appealing, with typical lychee aromas and a touch of spice in the finish. Enjoy, especially with Thai food, over the next 3-5 years. Very good.
2015 Gewürztraminer “Kolbenhof” – This is one of the signature wines, not only of the Hofstatter firm, but also the entire region. Sourced from a single estate overlooking Tramin, this displays lovely, sexy aromas of lychee, grapefruit and elderflowers, this is quite rich on the palate. Very good acidity, excellent varietal purity and notable persistence. Enjoyable now, but this wine always delivers more after 3 or 4 years after release. Outstanding.
2015 Schiava “Kolbenhofer” – The Schiava grape, also known as Vernatsch, is the source for a lovely red, a charming wine with appealing fragrances and soft tannins; this wine also has a small percentage of Lagrein, to give it a bit more weight. Medium-bodied with aromas of fresh red roses, red cherries and currants; good acidity and varietal character. This is a real charmer, an ideal red that is best served with a light chill; pair it with salumi or a cold chicken or duck salad. Very good.
2016 Meczan Pinot Nero – The finest versions of Pinot Noir – or Pinot Nero, if you will, in Italy are from Alto Adige. This is a natural, given the cool breezes, moderate temperatures and ideally situated plantings. This Meczan is not only a beautifully made Pinot Nero with fresh red cherry and red roses notes, along with very good acidity, it also delivers a great deal of character for not much money. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years, this is irresistible! Excellent value – very good quality.
2013 Pinot Nero “Barthenau” – This is sourced from Hofstatter’s Barthenau estate, across the valley from Tramin. Medium-full, this has aromas of dark cherry, plum and myrtle, with delicate wood notes, medium-weight tannins and very good acidity. Admirable complexity and beautiful varietal character. Impressive now, but best in 5-7 years. Excellent.
2014 Lagrein “Steinraffler” – While Alto Adige is best known for its white wines, the red wines are equally impressive. You have the delicate Schiava (Vernatsch), the famous Pinot Nero, and finally Lagrein, a deeply colored (purple) variety with rich tannins and heathy acidity, that is a contrast to the first two. This is from the Hofstatter Steinraffler estate, and it is quite a wine! Lovely aromas of black plum, violet and a hint of raspberry, this has a very rich mid-palate, excellent depth of fruit and lovely tannins. While this was matured in both small and large oak casks, the wood notes are very harmonious. I’ve had problems with some of the more serious examples of Lagrein being much too oaky, but not with this wine. Beautifully balanced with exceptional varietal character, this can be paired with a number of foods, from leg of lamb to roast duck or pork. Enjoy over the next 7-10 years. Outstanding.