Alto Adige: Part I
Earlier this month I intersected a caravan of German speaking Italians visiting from their extreme Northern Italian wine producing region, Alto Adige (Ahhl-toe Ahh-deejay). I caught up with them in the midst of a three city US tour showcasing wines from their hometowns in Südtirol (the region is also known as South Tyrol since it was part of Austria until 1920). Call it Alto Adige or refer to it as Südtirol, it’s no matter since monikers are superfluous when they mark a winemaking region as enigmatic and awesomely beautiful as this Alpine vinous wonder. Sitting in front of eight empty glasses and a panel of Italian looking, but German speaking, men it took me only a few minutes to figure out why we were invited to taste at the extreme heights of the 50th floor of Boston’s Prudential Towers. Because the vineyards these men tend to look like this:
And as I flipped through the photos in the promotional, but impressively high production value, brochure/book I wondered whether the region’s beauty acted as consolation prize to less impressive wines. Could any place on earth be graced by such intense beauty and meaningful wines? I mean here we were, 50 floors skyward looking out large windows on a beautiful Boston afternoon, and before even a drop of wine made it into a glass I was transported by the photos of Italy’s northern dead end geography, which is only escaped to the north with border crossings into either Switzerland or Austria, with the Alps and Dolomites standing as brave guardians to any frigid air that might threaten full growing seasons. Near the Veneto and Lombardy wine making regions, Alto Aldige accepts the Mediterranean influences from the south, helping create a generally grape friendly climate for vineyards planted and farmed on the hillsides of this rugged terrain.
The vineyards are planted at 600 feet all the way up to 3,000 feet. It is baffling trying to imagine the spectrum of microclimates swirling around these terraced hillside vineyards that have mountains protecting intense cold from the north, valleys that invite Mediterranean warmth, and Lake Garda’s blowing cool winds as insurance against the severity of the summer heat that seems almost unnatural at these altitudes. The range of grapes grown in this spread of 13,000 planted acres is impressive with roughly twenty different varieties under vine with a little more than half of them white.
In Alto Adige Wines Part 2, I will share the results of our white wine tasting of older Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer. They are very, very special wines; completely distinctive and telling of the region’s terroir and mystical twists on these varietals. Gewurztraminer and Pinot Grigio take on nobler places in the wine universe growing up in this Alpine setting. It felt appropriate to save the wines for a next post, saving them from being overshadowed by the natural beauty of these Alto Adige photos and physical descriptions.
I posted a link to to the Moscato Rosa I tasted at this event, explaining that it came from Bolzano. The region is really popular with the Germans and Austrians, and my two friends from Munich that I have spent so many self indulgent weekends with in the Austrian Alps, immediately jumped forward and added to the little frenzy that is building inside, urging me to touch and smell, up close, the Alto Adige I fell in love with 50 stories above Boston. I can smell German food crackling over wood flames, the musty stink inside the wine cooperatives we will visit, hillside flowers, and sweet Alpine air that makes it all seem like a completely healthy endeavor. Stay tuned for more on the wines of Alto Adige in the next WineZag post.