Tag Archives: Alto Adige

Gewürztraminer: Alto Adige!

2 Sep

In 2008 I traveled to Italy and spent a week in Tyrol, a region of the former Hapsburg empire that is home to the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy and a southern portion of Austria that includes Innsbruck.

Tirol Region Map, Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

The largest city in the Alto Adige region is Bolzano, but we stayed in the smaller town of Merano, at the luxury Park Mignon Hotel, enjoying the accommodations and tremendous food from the five-star resort. During my time here, I drank the local wines suggested by the somm, which including brilliant Lagrein, stunning Schiava, and gorgeous, high-quality Gewürztraminer. The region grows MANY grapes and I’d be remiss to not mention the local Chardonnay, their first-class Pinot Grigio, the Pinot Bianco, their focused Pinot Noir and Pinot Nero, as well as the flowery, delicate Müller-Thurgau, among others! But let’s get back to Gewürztraminer!

Today’s REASON to talk about my 2008 trip to Italy was the revelations I had with Italy’s white wines. I had tasted  Gewürztraminer before, knowing it as a floral, aromatic, off-dry, and spicy wine. But early in my youth, I’d had a bad first impression. My first Gewürztraminer had been a less expensive wine and I recalled it being sweet, fruity, and flowery- and not impressive. My experience in Alto Adige could not have been more different, and what was considered “just daily table wines” were Gewürztraminers that were beautifully balanced with dry fruit, sweet aromas, laser-focused acidity and a plethora of spice notes that enchanted my palate with a melange of flavors and nuance.

 

St. Michael-Eppan Gewürztraminer 2017, Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy. 13.5% ABV, Found locally for $16-18/bottle.

 

 

Color is medium straw with a greenish tinge. On the honeyed nose are apricot, passionfruit, rose bush, citrus, violet and white pepper. The palate is laden with spicy fruit -pear, lychee, lime zest, and young pineapple- followed by notes of ginger root, pepper, spice box and a medium-long finish with Meyer Lemon rind, limestone and a hint of clay. 

This wine has flexibility. It could be enjoyed in the afternoon sunshine as an apéritif, but is ideal when elevating delicate flavors of veal, lobster, corn chowder or freshly summer vegetables.  Also ideal for the summer heat and foods with serious spice from Indian curry to African tagines, from Chinese sauces to Latin foods- this wine is capable of taking the spice and heat from the food and cleaning your palate with a fabulously spicy, sweet wash with a splash of acidity- like the lemon on your fish or the lime squeezed over fajitas as they hit your plate. Few white wines have enough strength to cleanse the palate after hot pepper sauce, but this bottle proved up to the task when I made extra-spicy fajitas and a side of Frank’s hot wings!

For that reason alone, I decided I should keep a few bottles of Gewürztraminer in the cellar to beat the late summer/early autumn heat while being able to pair with any range of spice profile that might appear, from the delicate to the powerful,  all in a package that wine drinkers easily enjoy, and in the under-$20 range that everyone can afford. Any why not? These wines can age from 5-20 years in the cellar, though mine never get a chance before I pop the cork to share with friends.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Bolzano or Merano, you can’t help but appreciate the beautiful vineyards that cover the countryside- but if you just want to dream about it today, all you need is a bottle of this St. MIchael-Eppan Süditirol/Alto Adige Gewürztraminer. Your mouth will think you’re arrived!


A view from one of my afternoon hikes in Merano, Italy.

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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The Red Wine You Need for Hot Weather!

19 Aug

Cantina Kaltern Kalterersee Classico Superiore “Leuchtenberg” 2016; Alto Adige, Italy.  13.5% ABV, Around $20/bottle.

 

The lighter reds of summer. Some of my wine-loving friends drink cabernet sauvignon all year ’round, but I ache for wines with gentler body, brighter fruit and higher acidity that you can drink all night, still feeling my palate.  This is one of those delightful treats you need to have in your cellar!

Color is a translucent cerise, while the nose offers fresh ripe raspberry. On the palate, bright young cherry and raspberry are followed by secondary notes of black pepper and smoky paprika, with a medium finish and hints of oak, granite, and volcanic basalt. Made from 100% schiava, this wine is summer’s best friend! Delightfully light and fresh with plenty of bright fruit, perfect acidity, and moderate tannins make this schiava so easy to drink during hot, humid weather, and hard to resist a refill!

 

a beautiful translucent color in the glass

 

Over the course of a week, I paired this wine successfully with a spicy tomato sauce over pasta, grilled salmon and zucchini, veal cutlet and steamed asparagus, Thai noodles, southwestern fajitas, and cheeses from mild to moderate. I remember in Alto Adige how beautifully the local fare complements these delicate, high acid, alpine wines: carpaccio, speck, polenta and risotto, dumplings, and beautiful dishes that combine whatever is sourced locally– often beef or pork, wild game and fowl, cabbage, and apples.

 

 

While wines like Kalterersee Classico Superiore may be harder to find in the states, most wine stores do carry Italy’s schiava or lagrein, which are ideal summer drinks that more people need to try and share for your summer barbecue, dinner party, or just a night at home. At $20/bottle or under, schiava has enough flavor and punch to match with heavy meals, but remains delightful and fun with moderate weight and body.

One more thing you will find is that it goes down easily, and leaves you wanting more. That’s my kind of summer wine.

 

 

 

What is in your glass this summer, while you fight the humidity and try to beat the heat?

Let me know below!

à votre santé!

 

 

Extreme Wine: Lagrein Riserva from Alto Adige

14 Jan

Kellerei Cantina Andrian’s ‘Tor Di Lupo’ Lagrein Riserva 2014, DOC Alto Adige; Terlano, Italy. 13.5% SRP $50/bottle.

 

When is wine extreme? When the grapes are grown under extreme conditions! These vineyards are steep: up to 4000′ in height, and the grapes for Tor Di Lupo are planted in high trellises along the Easternmost side, getting over 300 days a year of Mediterranean sunshine, with temperatures up to 104℉.

Color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is full of violets with hints of eucalyptus. On the full-bodied palate, cassis and mature cherries meet French oak, with secondary notes of blue plum, mocha, granite, gravel, sodium, and clay. Bountiful tannins are on the long finish; this wine expects to pair with food. Made from 100% Lagrein. My pairings included pizza, full-bodied cheese, and corned beef. Some better pairing choices (Think Northern Italy, closer to Austria) might include fowl and game meats to pork to pasta and flatbreads, but my personal favorites were coal-oven Margherita pizza on the first night and Gorgonzola cheese on the second. The bottle did not last long, as I enjoyed it immensely. While I drank this lagrein young, it has the potential to age 10-15 years easily and will give significant improvement to the owner after such time with proper cellaring.

 

This is an amazing bottle to give to an Italian wine lover, someone who is learning more about wines, or someone who is starting to cellar bottles with the intent of allowing wines a decade or more to age.

 

What extreme wines do you like?
Have you ever considered what the grapes go through in the vineyards?

 

For more about the Lagrein Grape, please click here!

 

*Wine provided for review by Cornerstone Communications.* 

à votre santé!

 

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco 2015

4 Sep

Strasserhof Sylvaner Valle Isarco, by Hannes Baumgartner; DOC Süditirol/Alto Adige, Italy, 2015. ABV 13.5%, MSRP $22/bottle.

 

Color is pale straw. The delicate nose has traces of lemon, wildflower, and a hint of funk in the background that was gone by day 2. On the palate: Lemon and freshly cut grass, with backing notes of gooseberry, lime zest, and schist. High acidity and nice heat fill the back palate. The long finish features gentle flavors of citrus and sour candy behind the acidity and heat of the wine, and the combination of delicate flavors plus the elegance of a well-made wine make this a real wine nerd’s favorite.

 

 

After tasting this by itself, the next day I made grilled chicken, which complemented the sylvaner beautifully, as could chicken or veal piccata and marsala. This wine could also work nicely with spicy fare such as  Thai, Mexican, Indian, Lebanese, and Halal, as well as the traditional food of the Trentono-Alto Adige region. Some obvious local pairings would include schnitzel, fresh water fish, sausages, dumplings, sauerkraut, root vegetables, and of course, cured meats like prosciutto. But by day 3, I just wanted to enjoy the subtle flavors and structure of this wine by itself, sipping slowly and savoring the experience.  And for the non-wine nerds who had a taste of this wine? Their response was always the same: positive and interested. So buy some for your wine-centric friends, or for your own edification and education of the great white wines of the world at an affordable price. It might be your first Sylvaner, but it won’t be your last.

à votre santé!

 

Schiava: the Welterweight Knock-Out Wine!

30 Aug

Abbazia di Novacella Schiava “Stiftskellerei Neustift” 2015. Alto Adige, Italy. 12.5% ABV, MSRP $ 16/bottle.

 

Color is a robust, translucent ruby. The nose has sweet cherry, rose petals, and hint of limestone. On the palate, moderate bright raspberry, fresh cranberry, and a hint of red cassis are followed with lush, green foliage on the front palate. Polite, gentle acidity and tannins are balanced in body and scope. The flavors deepen across the top and back palate, with notes of slate and calcium-rich clay on the medium finish under the fruit profile. Best when served slightly chilled, and just under ‘moderate’ in body, this is a welterweight red that is luscious and mouthwatering, a wine that is beefier than rosé but lighter than the Cru Beaujolais and Burgundian pinot noir, and what a perfect wine for the middle! Pairing is so easy with vegetable appetizers, salad, fish, and pizza.

 

 

 

After a few sips, I kept thinking of all the meals I could serve this wine for; how easily to pair this with an appetizer, soup or salad course as a brilliant impact of delicacy and deliciousness. Taking the next step in meal evolution, if you are planning a cheese plate, cured meats, or a fresh seafood course, this Schiava is still worth your consideration as a capable flavor profile with plenty of acid and personality to pair with these more challenging dishes. Even more, it would be an ideal match for white meats such as turkey and cranberry sauce or roast chicken.

 

At this price, it offers an excellent value that is well worth seeking out to add to your repertoire and cellar, and is a beautiful representation of both the uniqueness and subtlety one can find in the wines of the Alto Adige. This one will go ten full rounds and win by decision as a crowd-pleasing favorite.

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016

24 Aug

Elena Walch Castel Ringberg Sauvignon 2016, Alto Adige AOC, Tramin, Italy. 13%ABV; MSRP $17/bottle.

 

Color is goldenrod. The nose offers a complex balance of grapefruit, gooseberry, tall grass and a hint of sandy loam. On the palate, gorgeous peach is primary, followed by starfruit, lemon zest, and a hint of hay. The long finish leaves beautiful citrus lingering after the tart completion, with tiny notes of salty, sandy limestone echoing like choirs of angels singing the beauty of the terroir of the Alto Adige.

 

 

Impeccably dry with lovely acidity, this wine is a delight for those who enjoy complexity in a white wine: it has depth of flavor with inspiring acidity to cleanse, along with a excellent ability to pair with food -fish, salad, vegetable, or pasta course- but is of course, stunning when served by itself in the afternoon sunshine or dockside. I’m consistently impressed by the wines of Elena Walch. She delivers elegance and complexity in her world-class wines, and I heartily suggest that when you see her wines, snap them up to enjoy a great value in a higher-tier delights that can be enjoyed immediately or aged gracefully in the cellar for a few more years.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Gimme Shelter / Sympathy for the Wine Reviewer

13 Jun

This week I was making dinner and popped the cork on a rosé wine that has been in my queue waiting to taste. And I tried it and was forced to spit it out. I poured another glass, swirled it, and gave it some time to air. I tasted it again. “Mildly better,” I thought, but still the same basic feeling: “YECH!” and into the sink it went.

The Stones were on my stereo, Mick was belting about not getting what he wanted. “I can’t agree more,” I thought as I chucked what was left in the glass and poured a third attempt, leaving it to the air. I went back to my stir-fry, chopping more veggies and adding my spices to the dish. I finished cooking and reduced the heat, grabbing dishes for my family to eat. I called them to come down for dinner, as I tasted the wine a third time. This time, I could actually drink some of it, but didn’t want to. I poured first the glass, then the entire bottle down the drain.

As my family started dinner, I grabbed another bottle from my queue, popped the cork. After a quick rinse of my wine glass with a  swirl of the wine, I tossed that, poured a taste, and examined the bottle.

Peter Zemmer, Alto Adige-Süditirol 2010 Lagrein DOC. 13% ABV, $19 from Sherry-Lehmann.  Turning back to the glass: Near-black center in color, I held it to the light to see the deep purple color and the violet edging. I put my nose in the glass and inhaled the scent of rich black fruit, sharp acidity, and violets cutting through the smell of my stir-fry dinner’s ginger and sesame oil. I put a small sip in my mouth, inhaled air across it, swirled around my tongue, and swallowed.

Ahhhhh. Blackberry and boysenberry, powerful acidity, supple tannins. Some more herbal/floral notes, a touch of earth and note of slate under the old wood in the finish. This is a wine meant to enjoy with food that has a little punch.

Mick’s backup singers were fading out, and the intro for ‘Gimme Shelter’ started. I fixed myself a plate of dinner, tasted the sauce, then the wine. Then the chicken and rice, then the wine. My eldest daughter smiled at the studious look on my face and asked if she could taste my wine. “No, but you can smell it. You wouldn’t like this. Trust me, it’s very acidic.” But I had to admit, my mood had shifted with a total reversal from my earlier state of mind. I went to the cupboard and grabbed three spices, trying each one with the food against the wine to see how it fared against cutting the flavor and cleansing my palate each time. Each time, the lagrein left me with a clean and fresh palate, until I tried a hot sauce that the wine could clean the flavor but not the heat.

This is a completely European wine. It has reserve and balance, it’s not going to win any huge awards, but instead it will be enjoyed by oenophiles who know how to pair a good wine with the proper food. For me, this pairing was entirely accidental, but it’s a wine I’d like to have a case of for the right time- when a cab franc is too strong but a pinot noir is too light, this lagrein’s fruit and acidity is just right.

ZemmerLagrein

This wine put me in a great mood, thankfully. I don’t often get stuck with a bottle as bad as that rosé, but some days you can find shelter in a wine that will put you right.

Have you all had a legrein yet, dear readers? I hope so. If not, it’s time you take it upon yourself to find one at your local wine store and try it out when you’re feeling adventurous. It might just give YOU shelter at a time you so need it.

à votre santé

 

 

 

Not the “Pale” Rieder

17 Jan

Castelfeder Lagrein “Rieder”, Süditirol- 2011, Alto Adige, Italy. From Garnet Wines, $15. 13.5% ABV.

Recently, some wines from Italy’s Alto Adige managed to whet my appetite. So  I went looking for additional labels to try from my local NYC wine stores. From the name of this wine alone, I don’t know why, but I was expecting a lighter, brighter, fruitier wine when I purchased this Castelfeder “Rieder”. What I got felt like a full blast of flavor from this Lagrein, proud of its heritage in North-Eastern Italy, the portion where residents identify more as Tyrolean than Italian. To the tasting notes:

Color is deep violet with purple edging. Nose of black plum, cassis, and vegetation.

On the palate, the flavor of plum starts and is followed by gently sour blackberry, with a hint of charcoal on the top palate. Gentle tannins and earth on the medium finish, with floral notes of lavender and violet. Notes of schist, stone, and old wood indicates both the terroir and ancient wine casks for aging. Over several days, the gentle sourness grew in intensity, as did the earthiness, tannins and acidity.

On Days 1 and 2 I loved drinking this alone and it was subtle and delicate with meals, on Days 3 and 4 I was adoring this wine with food as it brought out bigger notes and grew with intensity. This dark, savory, powerful wine was a great foil to the bright wines I tasted recently from the same area. A testament to the great variety you can find from a single region, this lagrein shows similarity to a mature pinot noir early upon opening and acts closer to a cabernet franc after getting air. Fun, flexible, and offering great value in this $15-16 price range, this “Rieder” is one I  want to take over and over again.

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à votre santé!

Alto Adige: Northern Italy’s Powerhouse Wines

12 Jan

I recently had an opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing Alto Adige DOC wines, and I was impressed with the quality, the flavors, and the prices of these wines.  They will have a regular place in my vocabulary and cellar from here on out, and it’s time we looked closely at them. Trust me, you will be glad you did!

AA 1st schava

Cantino Valle Isarco Schiava DOC 2011, Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines.  ABV 12%. No MSRP listed.

This schiava is bright ruby in the glass with a nose of young cherries. On the palate, very delicate- the softest of the reds I tasted, light with gentle tannins. With balanced acidity and tannins, this wine pairs best with pastas, appetizers or a meat & cheese plate.  This is a tasty and light summer red. Though not easily found,  it is available in NYC through the distributor: www.panebiancowines.com.

This wine warmed me up for the next three heavy hitters:

Eppan Pinot

St. Michel-Appan 2011 DOC Pinot Noir. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV MSRP $13.

Color: Pale ruby with clear edging. Nose: hints of red fruit, raspberry and cherry blossoms together with a note of old wood.  On the palate; a fresh young blend of blackberry, cherry, and cassis is delicate going down. Harmony is demonstrated by matching young fruit and the right amount of acidity together with supple tannins for a very enjoyable experience.

It paired beautifully, after opening, with basic rigatoni pasta a garlic and olive oil, and side of steamed broccoli. Ideal to cut the garlic from the palate, leaving my mouth refreshed. This would also be a great appetizer wine, with the lush fruit and crisp acidity this is a sommelier’s pairing dream. A very strong competitor against both US pinot noir and Burgundy, I was surprised at how good this wine is for the price, and I kept finishing my tastes early- the bottle was gone far too soon.

In NYC, you can find this wine at Gotham Wines & Liquor .

Galea Schiava

Nils Margreid Galea Schiava DOC 2011. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 13% ABV, MSRP $19

Color is pale ruby center with garnet notes, translucent with clear edging. A delicate nose of ripe red fruit, ancient wood and a hint of limestone. In the mouth, it expressed more body and depth than I expected, fresh fruit and nice crisp acidity with gentle tannin. Instead of  layers of flavor, I experienced singularity of flavor and location. This wine screams Tyrol, and reminds me of hiking in the mountains and taking an early dinner with thinly sliced meats, a house salad, a side of pasta, and fish. This pairs delightfully with each of those, and is just as nice by itself.

When you buy this wine, whether its for yourself or a friend, don’t stop at one bottle. It goes down so easily, you’ll open it while you’re cooking and finish the bottle before dinner is ready.  It took all the patience I had to save enough to try this with fajitas, stir-fry, burgers, and pasta and this wine went the distance with each one.

In the NYC area, this is available from NJ-based www.trainoswine.com .

Andrian Gewurz

Kellerei-Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer DOC 2012. Sample Provided by Alto Adige Wines. 14.5% ABV,  MSRP  $16.

Color: pale straw. Nose: a delightfully aromatic wine, slightly perfumed, touch of citrus and jasmine with underlying floral blend.

On the palate, If there ever was a wine that came close to a handmade salted caramel, this might be it. Lychee is the initial fruit, followed by notes of toffee and butterscotch, and an amazing blend of sweetness, acidity, and salinity that made it difficult to put the wine down from either my nose or mouth. Addictive.

This is a 90+ point wine all day long, and it was so tasty that I kept this bottle for a several weeks, rationing tiny sips just to keep reminding myself how delicious it tasted. Every time, the aromatic wine with sweetness and a noticeable salinity just knocked me out. I did several searches for this wine locally and found consistent ratings in the 90-92 point range, prices $20 and under, and limited availability (usually only several hundred cases per year in the USA). So you won’t find it on grocery store shelves, but when you do find this, buy me a bottle- I’m good for it.

Yes, it’s just that darn good. And each of these is something special. Look for wines of the Alto Adige region (also known as Suditirol) to start popping up in the least expected places, on wine lists you love, in your wine stores.  Why? They are a Powerhouse region, providing  solid wines with great value, my friends… this is the next big thing in wine.

à votre santé!

*Special Thanks to Cornerstone Communications!*

Not Shaken, Nor Stirred

22 Oct

Castelfeder “Lahn” Kerner 2012, from Alto Adige Region of Italy. Sourced from Garnet Wines, $14/bottle. 14% ABV.

Pale gold in color.  Delightfully curious nose of lychee, mature apple, young pear and orange zest. In the mouth, this wine is  dry, flavors of citrus battle behind gravel and clay minerality and lots of spicy white pepper. The medium finish feels longer that it is, given how dry and gentle the wine seems on first notice. Very well made, easy to appeal to many types of white wine drinkers. On one hand, this is a delight to drink on its own, on the other hand, a good pairing could make this wine an indispensable part of your menu, cellar, or repertoire.  Gentle fruit, high acidity, and nice finish from this wine made 100% from Kerner grapes, which are a crossbred grape between riesling and trollinger. Like the Tyrolean people with their sense of Austrian/Germanic reserve and rigid staunchness, this  seemingly straightforward wine demonstrates power in its taut, angular approach and surprises in the multifaceted structure and finish.

More info on Castelfeder via the attached link.

à votre santé!

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