Thursday, August 28, 2014

Italy Unit 2 - Trentino-Alto Adige

The following are my notes for studying the wines of the Trentino-Alto Adige wine region of Italy. In these notes I provide information about the topography, climate, soils, important red and white wines and extensive information on the DOCs and DOCGS of the region. I then provide notes on the wines I tasted from this region.

The two autonomous provinces which make up the Italian region known as Trentino-Alto Adige region are Trentino in South which predominately speaks Italian and Alto Adige in the north where German is the dominant language. In English, Trentino-Alto Adige is also known as Trentino-South Tyrol and in German it is referred to as Trentino-Südtirol.

Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtiro is the most northern region of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland. It is a mountainous region and it is estimated that only about 15% of the land here is suitable for agriculture. The territory stretches from the Adamello-Brenta range and the peaks of Ortles and Cevedale to the Dolomites and Rhaetian Alps.


The Valdadige DOC includes Trentino-Alto Adige and Verona in Veneto, but the majority of wines are released under the separate Trentino DOC and Alto-Adige DOC / Südtiroler DOC.

The Wines of Trentino

Trentino DOC is the general DOC for a wide range of varietal wines produced in region including red Schiava (Vernatsch in German), barrel-fermented Chardonnay, and sparkling wine. Local varietals include Marzemino and Teroldego.

The Wines of Alto Adige

The Bassa Atesena is the southern most wine growing region in Alto Adige. The western half is famous for Gewürztraminer grown around the village of Tramin and is an upcoming area for Pinot Noir.

Just north of Bassa Atesena is Oltradige which is a key region for Pinot Grigio as well as Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc, especially around the town of Oppiano.

The Lago di Caldaro DOC (Lake Caldaro DOC) encompasses an area around Lake Caldaro and extends down into northern Trentino. The vineyards right around the lake are also considered a subzone of the Alto Adige DOC. The wines made from grapes grown there may be labeled Alto Adige Lago di Caldaro DOC. The area produces light, red wines consisting of at least 85% Schiava, along with small portions of Pinot Nero and Lagrein.

The Terlano DOC is located at the foot of Mount Tschoggel. The south-facing slopes provide extended exposure to the sun and the porphyry rocks absorb the heat which warms the soil warm keeping the roots dry and rot-free. Terlano’s cooperatives produce the majority of Adgige’s wines. Terlaner Bianco is a white blend consisting of a minimum of 50% Pinot Bianco and/or Chardonnay, with the remainder Riesling, Riesling Italico, Sauvignon, Sylvaner, Muller Thurgau. Both dry and sweet Passito and Vendemmia Tardiva (late harvest) versions are available, as well as a dry Spumante.

To the north-west are the growing areas of Merano and Val Venosta which produces a small amount of wine as the valley floor is dominated by apple orchards which produce 10% of Europe’s apples. In the center of the region is the capital city of Bolzano which is surrounded by vineyards of Lagrein (pronounced LAH Grine) and Schiava (pronounced Skee-AH-Vah).

North-east of Bolzano is Chiusa, home to The Chiusa Wine Trail which produces the Germanic grape varieties of the Isarco Valley such as Sylvaner, Riesling, Veltliner and Kerner.

The region has a cool continental climate which favors white wine production and makes red wine production difficult.
Delle Venezie, Mitterberg, Vallagarina, Vigneti delle Dolomiti and Weinberg Dolomiten
There are 8 DOC zones in the region, although much of the classed wine comes from the two large zones of Trentino and Alto Adige DOC. As of 2000 over 75% of the region’s production is of DOC quality.

1. Alto Adige DOC / Südtirol DOC

Established as a DOC in 1975. The principal white grape varieties are: Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, Moscato, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sylvaner Verde, Welschriesling (Riesling Italico). The principal red grape varieties are: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, Malvasia Nera, Merlot, Moscato Rosa, Pinot Nero, and Schiava.
2. Lago di Caldaro / Caldaro
Established as a DOC in 1970. The principal red grape is Schiava. Rosso requires a minimum 85% Schiava and a minimum 10.5% abv. Rosso Classico Superiore requires 11 % abv., Scelto requires 11.5% and Scelto Classico Superiore requires minimum 12.0% abv.
3. Casteller DOC
Established as a DOC in 1974. The principal red grape varieties are: Lagrein, Lambrusco, Merlot, Schiava, and Teroldego. Rosso must be a minimum 50% Merlot with a maximum of 50% Lagrein, Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata (locally Enantio), Schiava (Gentile or Grossa), and/or Teroldego.
4. Terradeiforti DOC
Formerly a subzone of the Valdadige DOC, it became a separate DOC in 2006. The principal white grape variety is Pinot Grigio. The principal red grape varieties are: Casetta and Lambrusco.
5. Teroldego Rotaliano DOC
Established as a DOC in 1971, Rosso and Rosato consists of 100% Teroldego with a minimum of 11.5% abv, Superiore and Superiore Riserva must have 12.0% abv. Riserva requires a minimum 2 years ageing.
6. Trento DOC
Established as a DOC in 1993. The principal white grape varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. The principal red grape varieties are Pinot Meunier and Pinot Nero. Spumante are made Metodo Classico with minimum 15 months on the lees from any percentage of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Meunier, and/or Pinot Nero
7. Trentino DOC
Established as a DOC in 1971. The principal white grapes include: Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Nosiola, Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder), Pinot Grigio (Rulander), Riesling, Riesling Italico, (Weischriesling), Sauvignon, and Sylvaner Verde. The principal red grape varieties include: Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, as well as Pinot Nero and Italian native varietals such as Lagrein, Lambrusco, Marzemino (Berzamino, Berzemino), Moscato Rosa, Rebo, Schiava, and Teroldego.
8. Valdadige DOC / Etschtaler DOC
Established as a DOC in 1975. The principal white grapes include: Chardonnay, Garganaga, Muller Thurgau, Nosiola, Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder), Pinot Grigio (Rulander), Sauvignon, Trebbiano, and Welschriesling (Riesling Italico). The principal red grape varieties include: Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero, as well as local varietals Lagrein, Lambrusco, Schiava, Teroldego. Bianco must consist of a minimum 20% Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, and/or Welschriesling and a maximum 80% Garganega, Nosiola, Sauvignon Blanc, and/or Trebbiano Toscano. Rosso and Rosato must consist of a minimum 50% Lambrusco a Foglia Frastagliata and/or Schiava with a maximum of 50% Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagrein, Merlot, Pinot Nero, and/or Teroldego
Adige DOC Subzones
1. Meranese di Collina
Known locally as Sudtirol Meraner Hugel in German, it is less than 10 miles from the Tirol region of western Austria and is surrounded on all sides by the Eastern Central Alps. It produces wines made based on Shiava under the Alto Adige DOC from vineyards around the town of Merano. To qualify for the title, these wines must be made from vineyards in the communes of Caines, Cermes, Gargazzone, Lagundo, Lana, Marlengo, Postal, Rifiano, S. Pancrazio, Scena, Tesimo, Tirolo and Merano.
2. Santa Maddalena
Known locally as Sudtirol St. Magdalener in German, it produces mid-bodied reds made predominantly (at least 85%) from Schiava grapes and up to 15% Lagrein. Pinot Noir is also now growing in popularity.
3. Terlano
Located in the Adige valley, the Terlano wine zone stretches several miles both north and south of the town of Terlano, six miles west of Bolzano. Red wines from this region are labeled under the Alto Adige DOC. The dominant grapes include: Chardonnay, Muller Thurgau, Pinot Bianco (Weissburgunder), Pinot Grigio or (Rulander), Riesling, Riesling Italico, (Weischriesling), Sauvignon, and Sylvaner. Terlaner Bianco must consist of a minimum of 50% Pinot Bianco and/or Chardonnay, with the remainder Riesling, Riesling Italico, Sauvignon, Sylvaner, Muller Thurgau. They are produced in dry, Passito Vendemmia Tardiva, and dry Spumante.
4. Colli di Bolzano
Known locally as Sudtiroler Bozner Leiten in German, it produces red, white and rose wines made under the Alto Adige DOC from grapes grown around Bolzano, in the Adige valley. Bolzano is the provincial capital of Alto Adige. It produces red wines based on Shiava, blended with Lagrein and Pinot Noir
5. Valle Isarco
Known locally as Eisacktaler in German, it exclusively produces white wines made from made from Kerner, Silvaner, Gruner-Veltliner, Muller-Thurgau and Gewurztraminer (Traminer Aromatico).
6. Valle Venosta
Known locally as Vinschgau in German, the area includes the municipalities of Bernkastel-Ciardes (Castelbello-Ciardes), dwarf (Laces), Naturns (Naturno) Partschins (Parcines) and Silandro (Schlanders). White varities include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer (Tramíně Aromatico), Kerner, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio), and Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco). Red varieties include Vernatsch (Schiava) and Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero).
Trentino-Alto Adige does not contain any DOCG zones.
Key White Grape Varieties
Trentino produces more Chardonnay than any other Italian region.
A parent variety to Gewürztraminer, it tends to be very aromatic and produces light bodied wines. In 2000, prominent French ampelographer Pierre Galet revealed that White Traminer was in fact the same variety as Savagnin Blanc (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc), a key ingredient of Jura's famous vin jaune. Other synonyms include Auvernat Blanc, Bon Blanc, Forment, Fromenteau, Gentil Blanc, Schleitheimer, Ryvola Bila.
Pinot Bianco
It is known as called Pinot Blanc in France and Weissburgunder in Germany. It is a mutation of Pinot Grigio (which is a mutation of Pinot Noir), but Pinot Bianco has textbook aromas and flavors of white flower, beeswax and green apple, steely and mineral-driven, fleshy and rich in its resiny, with honeyed yellow fruit aromas and flavors.
A crossing of Trollinger (Schiava Grossa or Vernatsch) and Riesling created in 1929 by August Herold.
A variety of white wine grape which is also spelled “Silvaner” is a crossing of Traminer with a little-known variety called Osterreichisch Weiss. It is grown primarily in Alsace and Germany, where it is known as Grüner Silvaner. Small amounts are also grown in Alto Adige where it is a specialty of the Isarco Valley. Italian Sylvaner typically is lighter and crisper than their counterparts from Alsace and Franken, with faint citrus notes and a hint of pale honey.
Müller-Thurgau was created by Hermann Müller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau in 1882. It is a crossing of Riesling with Madeleine Royale.
Pinot Grigio
Pinot Grigio is the same grape as Pinot Gris in Alsace, but due to the climate, soils and style of winemaking the two wines are very distinct from each other. In the northeastern regions of Italy it thrives in Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, where it produces wines with notes of pear and apple with hints of lemon and a distinct minerality that are dry, crisp with more body and substance. While Pinot Grigio is the regions #1 export it only covers approximately 10% of the regions vineyards.
The name Nosiola may be derived from the Italian word for hazelnut (nocciola) which may be a reference to either the hazelnut aroma note that sometimes come out in Nosiola based wines or to the light, instead of dark, brown color that raisined Nosiola grapes turn when they are very mature. It is also known as Groppello Bianco. The grape is grown in the Trentino region north of Lake Garda in the Valle dei Laghi. It is a blending component in wines such as Sorni Bianco from Trento. It is also used to produce the dessert wine Vin Santo which is made from grapes that have been allowed to dry out prior to fermentation.
A Bordeaux varietal “Sauvignon Blanc” known locally simply as Sauvignon.
Moscato Giallo
Also known as Yellow Muscat, Moscato Giallo is a member of the Muscat family of grapes. According to DNA analysis it has shared a parent-offspring relationship with Muscat blanc à Petits Grains (also known as Moscato bianco). It is tends to have deep large cluster of loose, deep yellow colored berries and produce golden colored wine. In northern Italy it is most often used to produce passito style dessert wines.
Key Red Grape Varieties
Bordeaux Varietals
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot
This is NOT the same grape as the Lambrusco Emilia-Romagna. It is widely planted for use in inexpensive blends.
The original name of this autochthonous grape variety was Farnatzer or Vernetzer. It is also known as Vernatsch or Trollinger in Germany. It is a light red wine with low tannins, moderate alcohol and its tends to reflect its terroir. It is used to make the classic red of Bolzano, known as St Magdalener. Alto Adige DOC wines labeled Schiava must have a minimum 95% of the variety from grapes harvested limited to 14 ton per hectare with the finished wine having a minimum alcohol level of 10.5%.
The most important red grape of Alto Adige in terms of quality is the Lagrein (pronounced la-GRINE) which is a native to the valleys of South Tyrol. It is a descendant of Teroldego, and is related to Syrah, Pinot Noir and Dureza (a French varietal in Southern France). It produces best in the gravelly soils along the Adige river by Bolzano.
Teroldego is a dark-skinned variety that produces deeply pigmented wines with an intensely fruity character. There is just one DOC for Teroldego (Teroldego Rotaliano) in its native Italy and the wines are made exclusively from local Teroldego grapes grown on the Campo Rotaliano – a flat, roughly triangular plain of the Adige Valley in northern Trentino.
Marzemino is primarily grown around Isera, south of Trentino. It is a late-ripening, dark-skinned grape variety with sour-cherry, grassy, herbal notes. It is also grown in the Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. Marzemino’s most prestigious role is as the key ingredient (95%) in the Colli di Conegliano Refrontolo passito wines. The wine is most noted for its mention in the opera Don Giovanni of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (“Versa il vino! Eccellente Marzemino!”). The vine ripens late and is susceptible to many grape diseases including oidium.
Pinot Nero
Known as Pinot Noir in Burgundy France where this grape originates. The best examples come from the eastern side of the Bassa Atesina, Alto Adige’s southernmost growing zone.
Sparkling Wines
Sparkling wine production is on the increase in both Alto Adige and Trentino. Trentino has been a center for quality sparkling wine for many years under the Trento DOC. The traditional method (metodo classico) is used as well as the same grapes as Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) but Pinot Blanc is also permitted.
Other Wines
Rosé: Some fine rosé is produced in the region, like the aromatic Lagrein Kretzer and the dessert wine Moscato Rosa, prized for its delightful floral character.
Passito: Made from white varietals except Welschriesling, or Moscato Rosa. It must be dried on or off the vine to achieve a minimum potential alcohol level of 16.0%
Notable Wine Producers
Elisabetta Foradori
San Leonardo Estate

The Wines

In my study of Trentino-Alto Adige I enjoyed the following wines:

2004 Abtei Muri Südtiroler Blauburgunder Riserva

A semi-clear/opaque red wine, dark ruby at the core to garnet at the rim with a hint of brown/brick tinge around the edge. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of baked strawberries, black cherries, dried cinnamon stick, dry earth, dried mushrooms, and allspice. On the palate the nose is confirmed, it is dry with moderate grainy tannins, medium+ acidity, moderate body and a medium length finish. For Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) that is 10 years hold this wine is holding up exceptionally well. It is definitely more old world in style with more earthy character than fruit. This wine sells for $50.99 at Enoteca Vino Nostro in San Francisco.

2006 Abtei Muri Südtiroler Riserva Lagrein

This is an opaque red wine, dark purple/black at the core to violet with minimal rim variation, medium+ viscosity and tears that stain the glass. On the nose it is clean with moderate intense aromas of stewed plums, baked blackberries, smoked meat, black licorice, and damp earth. On the palate it is dry, fruit forward with medium+ tannins, medium acidity, it is full bodied with medium+ alcohol and a medium+ length finish. If tasted blind this wine could easily be mistaken as a Syrah from the Northern Rhone. This wine sells for $51.99 at Enoteca Vino Nostro in San Francisco. 

2011 Foradori Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT

When we were studying Italy in the Intensive Sommelier Training at ICC, Eric Entrikin MS asked the class, “Has anybody ever had a Teraldego?" which was followed by silence... The only one I have ever had was from Montoliva Vineyard & Winery in California. So, when I was on the hunt for the hard-to-find native varietals of Italy I was looking for a Teraldego but could not find one. Well, after posting these notes I found one at Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto.

This is an opaque red wine, dark purple/black at the core to dark purple at the rim with very little rim variation, medium viscosity and slightly staining tears. On the nose it moderate intense aromas of plum jam, cassis, raisins, dried violets, and a hint of damp soil and a hint of spice. On the palate it is dry, fairly soft on entry with medium tannins, medium+ acidity, it is medium bodied with a moderate length finish. This wine sells for $30.00 at Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto, California. 


  1. The notes on the post for the DOCs and Adige DOC subzones were expanded and updated on Saturday 27, 2004

  2. I added another wine, a 2011 Foradori Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, on October 2, 2014.