Nov 13, 2012

Posted by in 1/2 Day Vacation, Articles | 0 Comments

Exploring Italian Varietals: Part 2

As I’ve been preparing to write about my continuing exploration of Italian varietals by popping the corks on several Italian wines from the Alto Adige region of Italy; coincidentally, Gregory Dal Piaz, Editor in Chief of Snooth, was in the process of selecting his favorite wine region of 2012: Alto Adige.

Pergola vines in Alto Adige

After having just tried six different wines from this region, I’m not surprised at all by Gregory’s selection – each of the wines that I tried were absolutely delicious. While I’m writing specifically the wines I tried from Alto Adige, Gregory wrote about why he chose Alto Adige as the Region of the Year 2012:

“So now, I am sitting down to select my wine region of the year, and before I reveal too much, I want to lay out my criteria. They are fairly simple, the region should offer the consumer major bang for the buck. It should also offer something unique and something that is likely to enjoy broad appeal. Broad appeal is a loose term that includes both good pricing as well as easy to appreciate styles.

This year’s region of the year fulfills all of that criteria. It’s a region that should be on everybody’s radar as it is producing excellent white, red and rosé wines that range from value priced to fairly expensive. While much of the region is somewhat challenging to farm, prices are held down by the wide range of cooperative wineries that dominate the region, complemented as they are by an increasing number of private operations.”

An Italian Lagrein

To fully appreciate the reviews of the Alto Adige wines I sampled, Gregory’s article should be read in full as it contains valuable information about this up and coming region that well deserves wine consumers and critics attention. Read it here – Gregory Dal Piaz: Region of the Year 2012.

The first wine I ever sampled from Alto Adige was actually for a Snooth.com virtual tasting of wines from the Alto Adige region. I popped the cork on the Manincor 2010 Lagrein. The 2010 Manincor Lagrein is a dark purple hue in the glass and showcases aromas of dark berries and ripe plum with a hint of licorice. Similar flavors are robust and vibrant on the palate, yet smooth tannins make this an extremely approachable and easy drinking red wine. Medium bodied with a pleasing, well rounded finish, I was impressed at first sip.

My initial tasting of an Italian wine from Alto Adige left me with a great impression and an even greater curiosity to try more wines from this region. Soon after, I discovered that not only is the Alto Adige region known for great Lagreins, but Pinot Grigios and Pinot Noirs are touted as well – two popular varietals that Oregon is well-known for. If you know me, you know I love Oregon Pinot Noirs, so I was incredibly excited to try a Pinot Noir from Italy.

Montigl Riserva Pinot Noir comes from an individual terroir called Terlano, located in the Alto Adige region of Italy. Wines are produced from grapes grown on tiny plots of land owned by many grape growers that are a part of a cooperative called Cantina Terlano. The warm days and cool nights of this area, which are at a pretty high elevation – 1475-2125 feet above sea level, are ideal for growing the Pinot Noir varietal, or as they say in Italy-Pinot Nero.  The 2009 Montigl Riserva Pinot Noir was absolutely delicious. Aromas of bright berries and cherries offer a hint of spice and earth which follow through to the palate with added ripe blackberry flavors. Extremely well balanced, the soft tannins and elegant mouthfeel end with a lasting, ambrosial finish. I tried this with two of my friends, who are also big fans of Oregon Pinot Noir, and we all agreed – this was a fantastic Pinot Nero.

Next on my list of Italian Alto Adige wines to try was the Castelfeder 15 Pinot Grigio. Alto Adige’s largest white wine production area is from vineyards on the valley floor of the Lowlands around the towns of Cortina, Marge and Salomo – an area known for producing fresh and fruity Chardonnays and Pinot Gris’. The 2011 Castelfeder 15 Pinot Grigio is definitely fresh and fruity. On the nose, fresh honeycrisp apples and ripe pears are accented by a hint of grapefruit. On the palate, fresh, citrus and tropical fruit flavors are balanced out by bright acidity. Crisp and refreshing with a good depth of character, the finish has a slight minerality that is really pleasing. 

It wasn’t just the Lagreain, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio that caught my attention, however. There were two more wines from this region that I really liked: a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Blanc, also know as a Weissburgunder.

The Sauvignon Blanc, made by the same producers of the Lagrein, impressed me again with the Manincor 2010 di Lieben Aich Sauvignon. Lieben Aich is the site at Terlano where the grapes for the Sauvignon were grown. Super vibrant tropical fruit aromas leap from the golden hued wine in the glass. Fresh pineapple and mango flavors combined with lemon-lime zest create a well balanced, refreshing and medium bodied wine that is really palate pleasing. It definitely displays a solid structure, and the ambrosial finish lingers quite nicely. 

The 2011 Prunar Weissburgunder, or Pinot Blanc, is super light and refreshing with bright acidity. On the nose fresh apples follow through to the palate with added sweet Meyer lemon. This is one of those wines that require no food. Just pop the cork and sit outside on the patio in the middle of summer and enjoy – simple.

I have no doubt my list of mentionable and review-worthy Alto Adige Italian wines will grow as I continue to discover this incredible northern Italian wine region. For now, Salute! Cin Cin! Evviva! and Cheers!