Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sudtirol - aka Alto Adige

The landscape where grapes are grown tells much of the story of what ends up in the bottle. Alto Adige, also known as Sudtirol (Italian for South of the Tyrols - Tyrolean alps, that is) wines are no different. Look at the sweeping, high altitude mountainous vistas in the photo below. You can taste this landscape in both the reds and whites grown here.

Whites, though not shy on fruit, have a crisp acidity that gives them an almost electric charge.  And the reds, many made from atypical varieties (Schiava, Lagrein, Teroldego, etc.), are leaner and less voluptuous than lower altitude/river valley offerings normally serve up.  Still, there's a diversity represented by these wines (reviews below) that suggests that there's no single profile for this region - an encouraging sign for those in search of new experiences.
Photo Courtsey Alto Adige Wines USA
Tucked against the Italian/Swiss/Austrian border, Sudtirol (aka Alto Adige) is home to the dramatic Tyrollean Alps - and some very respectable (and affordable) wines. Given its location, it shouldnt be any surprise that the back label on the Zemmer Lagrein is in both German and italian - German first.  With varying altitudes and no shortage of micro climates, there's a smidge of everything from profound, deeply serious, brooding wines to light-hearted, gulpable Tuesday night follies.

One of Italy's smallest winegrowing regions, it's no surprise that Alto Adige has to compete for attention.  But as the samples reviewed below prove, there are discoveries (and values) to be found along the path less traveled.


The Whites:

2012 Cantina Andriano Pinot Bianco Finado $17
Memories of pleasurable Pinot Blancs from Alsace come flooding back with this example.  Enjoyable and replete with racy acids and a delicate minerality.  Voluptuous fruit, rare in Pinot Blancs, is the dominant quality here.  Excellent companion to Asian fare, or easily quaffed on its own.

2012 Cantina Terlano Chardonnay $30
"Pure" is the first word that springs to mind tasting this lighter-styled Chardonnay.  Though several shades paler than oak-driven vottlings, the Terlano is not at all shy on flavor.  In fact, as a result of being unencumbered by treatment, purity of fruit is delivered in an uncommonly focused manner.  Delicious, if a bit pricey.

The Reds:

2011 Cantina Nals Magreid Schiava "Galea" $20
Light bodied, simple, and remarkably easy drinking. Not a hard edge within a 100 miles of this thing. Increasingly pleasant as it opens and no less enjoyable for its lack of complexity. A perfect lunchtime red or to accompany subdued fare. Schiava is a new variety to me, but worth exploring further. And soon.

2012 Peter Zemmer Lagrein Alto Adige $20
Uncommon. Medium bodied with lean fruit and a strong acidic component, this is clearly a food wine. Green and blue aspects dig deep to convey a serious persona.  Nothing glib about this wine. Probably a baby in terms of its real lifespan, I'd like to meet this wine again in 5-7 years.

2012 St Paul's Lagrein Alto Adige $15
Strikingly similar to the Zemmer Lagrein.  Brooding and serious, but with a flash of freshness, too.



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