The Wines of Alto Adige


(playful guitar music)>>(narrator)
Between the countries
of Switzerland, Austria, and Italy lies an
autonomous Italian province, known to its native
German-speaking population as “South Tyrol,” but more commonly referred to by
its Italian name, “Alto Adige.” (playful guitar music) Alto Adige, with its
capital city of Bolzano, is the most northern
Italian province.>>(with accent)
We have a
Mediterranean climate, but, in the same way,
a cool climate, so you can see the
whole day snowing, but in the summertime,
Bolzano, for example, is the hottest
city in Italy. (playful guitar music)>>(narrator)
Known throughout Europe
for their regional food, Alto Adige is also
highly regarded for the quality
of its wines.>>(with accent)
The Romans, passing
through from south to north, have mentioned
this place as one of the oldest
winegrowing areas.>>(narrator)
The region has served as a hub for travel and trade
between northern Europe and southern cities like Rome
and Venice for centuries.>>It’s a mix
of cultures. We are between Germany, Austria,
Switzerland, and Italy, and so are the wines, and so are, a little
bit, the people, too.>>(narrator)
A perfect example of
this historic mix of cultures can
be seen in speck, a spiced meat made from
the hind leg of a pig. Speck is salt-cured like the
meats of southern Europe, yet also smoked in a
manner similar to meats produced further north. (playful guitar music)>>(speaking German)>>(narrator)
Alto Adige speck is now a protected geographical
designation. Alto Adige has a colorful
political history. From the mid-1800s until
the end of World War I, the region was controlled by
the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the war, Italy
claimed the territory.>>The borders were renewed,
and that was basically the idea of making the
border of Italy the natural border
of the Alps.>>(narrator)
Alto Adige and its neighbor, Trentino, were joined as Italy’s
northernmost political state. Culturally, however, the two
provinces have little in common.>>Alto Adige is
mainly German-speaking. Trentino is mainly
Italian-speaking.>>(narrator)
When traveling in Bolzano, street signs read in
both German and Italian.>>Here, you find in
Alto Adige a great mix between Germans’ discipline,
technical systems, but in the same way
the creative influence of the Italian
mentality.>>At this crossroads
of cultures, locals have long recognized
the region’s potential for grapegrowing. (bright, regal
brass music)>>(with accent)
What’s unique for the area is this direct impact
of the mountains.>>The Alto Adige region,
it’s very different from the climate
situation. So we have
different valleys with a totally different
microclimate.>>(narrator)
The wines of Alto Adige are precise, and influenced
by the region’s unique geology and topography.>>Predominately,
it’s limestone, but below that, we have the
influence of a volcanic soil, what’s called
porphyritic rock, and that brings much richer
minerality to the wine.>>(narrator)
While Pinot Grigio
is a chief export, Pinot Grigio accounts
for only 10% of the region’s
total acreage. Seeing the region firsthand
underlines the diversity within Alto Adige’s
vineyards. Winemakers are often more
excited about other varieties, and distinctive areas
within Alto Adige have earned fame for
individual grapes. The Bassa Atesina is the
southernmost winegrowing area in Alto Adige. (bright, regal
brass music) The western half of this is
famous for Gewürztraminer, grown around the
village of Tramin.>>The Gewürztraminer grape,
as far as we know, is one of the oldest
varieties in the world. There is some links to the
area, definitely the name– Tramin is the name of the
place. Gewürztraminer– so it means
“the spicy wine from Tramin.” If it really belongs
to here, we don’t know. But what’s important
and what’s for sure is that the area has some
specific characteristics and the climate to do
great Gewürztraminers. So the berry of the
Gewürztraminer grapes has a beautiful color. It’s
a very pink, intense color, and it’s surprising
when you see it and you’re not used to it,
because usually white wines– they always have this
yellow-green color, but this is a very
beautiful pink color.>>(narrator)
The eastern half
of Bassa Atesina is emerging as a
hot spot for Pinot Noir.>>Alto Adige Pinot Noir
is definitely known for its fine
sour cherry fruit, for its higher
acidity, which we get in these higher
elevation vineyards. And the wines have
a great structure; they have a great
potential of aging. They’re mostly fermented
and aged in oak, but, in the end,
we get this high acidity, and with the acidity,
we get the elegance that we need for
a Pinot Noir.>>(narrator)
Oltradige is a key area of production. There is a good amount
of Pinot Grigio, but Pinot Bianco
and Sauvignon Blanc are standouts
in the region, especially from vineyards
around the town of Albiano. A large region, Oltradige
also contains the heart of the Lago di Caldaro
growing zone, near the shores of its
namesake, the Caldaro Lake.>>Lago di Caldaro
DOC appellation is our second
appellation we have, besides the general
Alto Adige appellation. And it’s a 100%
Schiava wine. The area of the Lago di Caldaro
has a very long history of the Schiava
variety. So this traditional red
wine used in this area– it’s a light red wine,
a perfect summer wine. (playful orchestral music)>>(narrator)
Within the Val d’Adige
growing region is the village of Terlano
and its famous cooperative. Terlano and other co-ops
produce the majority of Alto Adige’s wines, and
their quality challenges any notion that cooperatives
make lackluster wines. (playful orchestral music) Pinot Bianco and
Sauvignon Blanc both make excellent
varietal wines in the area, but Chardonnay is
blended with these grapes to create the white wines
of Terlano DOC.>>It’s the
Terlaner Classico. This was the first white
that we made in this area. The Pinot Bianco– it’s
the mineral element in this blend, the
Chardonnay gives the blend the roundness, and the
little bit of Sauvignon Blanc, which is only 10%,
gives a little bit more of an aromatic style
in this blend.>>(narrator)
Many of Alto Adige’s wines have a surprising
potential for aging.>>All vintages
go back to 1954, and different vintages
go back to 1893. This is from 1927.>>(narrator)
To the northwest are the growing areas of
Merano and Val Venosta. These areas produce a
smaller volume of wine, as the valleys are covered
with apple orchards. Alto Adige harvests over
10% of Europe’s apples. In the center of the region is
the capital city of Bolzano. Two red grapes,
Schiava and Lagrein, are planted in the vineyards
surrounding the city. In the nearby hills
of Santa Maddalena, Schiava shines.>>(speaking German)>>(narrator)
Schiava is light bodied and lightly colored. Lagrein is dark
and robust.>>(speaking German)>>(narrator)
Gries is the
top area for Lagrein, even though it’s not
officially recognized as an appellation. (light guitar music) Valle Isarco is home to
Germanic white grapes such as Sylvaner, Veltliner,
and the aromatic Kerner.>>(with accent)
Valle Isarco is
the most northern part you can produce
wine from Italy, and we are also high–
600 meters– and the vineyards start here
and go up to 900 meters. It’s perfect for white wines–
for fruity, spicy, juicy white wines. Sylvaner– it’s a very
food friendly wine, but, in particular, it’s very
good with white asparagus. (light guitar music) Kerner is a cross–
the father is Riesling and mother is Trollinger–
or Vernatsch or Schiava. And the son, the Kerner,
from the Riesling takes the fruitiness
and the juiciness, and from the Schiava takes
the frost resistance.>>(narrator)
Many think of Italy as a single country, but, in truth, a unified
Italy is a modern concept. Alto Adige is one of
Europe’s most unique regions, and one that continues
to discover its identity amidst a melting pot of
neighboring cultures. (bright, playful
brass music) GuildSomm is a nonprofit
membership organization for wine
professionals. To join our
online community, visit us on the web at
guildsomm.com.

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