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  ABC Wine Issue 41, May 2006   
Trentino Alto AdigeTrentino Alto Adige  Contents 
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Trentino Alto Adige

The charming Italian region, at the feet of Alps and made of two distinct geographical areas, is protagonist of magnificent white wines, as well as red and classic method sparkling wines

 There is a region in Italy which is getting more and more popular for the production of white wines - and not only for them - with an impeccable elegance and class, characterized by an explosion of aromas and flavors of fruits and flowers: Trentino Alto Adige. According to an administrative point of view, the region is divided in two provinces, the northern one, at the feet of Alps with strong cultural and traditional German influence, Alto Adige or Sudtirolo (Südtirol in the local language), and the southern one, with culture and tradition similar to the Italian ones, Trentino. Both areas however have in common an excellent wine production, also thanks to the favorable geographical position and local climate conditions, allowing the reaching of good results, in particular with the classic grapes which like cool climate areas, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Despite in Trentino Alto Adige are cultivated many “international” varieties, in the region the presence of autochthonous grapes is interesting as well.

 History tells us the cultivation of the vine and the production of wine in this land began in 700 b.C., when the area belonged to Raetia, renowned in ancient times for the quality of its wines which competed with the legendary Falerno. The wine of Raetia has illustrious supporters of the past, Pliny the Elder, Columella and Cassiodore. Despite the viticulture in this region was strongly promoted and developed by ancient Romans, the practice of cultivating the vine is however older and dates back to the times of Etruscans. On this regard, it is interesting mentioning a finding in Val di Cembra of a situla - a small wine bucket - of the Reto-Etruscan era. A finding which is not casual, as in Val di Cembra, at those times, it was practiced the cult of Sileno, the preceptor of Bacchus. When ancient Romans arrived in these lands, they found the vine trained in structures made of wood, a system which is considered the ancestor of modern pergola.


Trentino Alto Adige
Trentino Alto Adige

 Moreover, it seems in this region ancient Romans got to know about the use of wood cask for the keeping and transportation of wine: at those times they still had the custom of using earthenware vases and amphorae. Viticulture and wine production become important in this region - just like in other parts of Europe - at the times of Charlemagne as episcopates and abbeys in southern Germany were used to buy the wines produced in these areas. With the arrive of Barbarians and their devastations, most of viticulture was destroyed - sharing the same fate with other lands - therefore determining a strong decline in the production of wine even in future centuries. In the eighth century Frankish and Bavarian monasteries began cultivating vineyards in order to make the wine needed for the liturgy.

 The work of monks - in particular Benedictines - for the keeping and development of viticulture and wine production fundamental, just like in other regions of Europe. Monks saved most of the grape varieties of the region and it is believed since those times in Trentino Alto Adige were already cultivated Lagrein, Schiava and Gewürztraminer grapes - varieties which are still renowned in the area - as well as other autochthonous varieties which have extinguished today. Viticulture was practiced by monks inside the walls of their monasteries and this allowed a further development of viticulture and its safeguarding. Wine production drastically changed in the following centuries when it was subjected to changes and alternates fates in trading, until the sixteenth century when - in occasion of the Council of Trento - the Ecclesiastes who met there for the occasion had the chance to appreciate the wines of the region, therefore contributing to their spreading and notoriety all over Europe.


 

 The substantial contribution of monks for the viticulture of Trentino Alto Adige saw its decline in 1803, in occasion of Napoleonic wars, when Austria lost the dominion in these lands. Abbeys and monasteries were secularized and their properties - including vineyards - were given to private people. Beginning from 1867, thanks to the inauguration of Brennero railway connection, the production of wine in Trentino Alto Adige had a new commercial boost, therefore allowing the wines of this region to be known outside the borders of Italy, as well as determining the beginning of wine cooperatives. This period of commercial splendor and notoriety for Trentino Alto Adige's wine was strongly slowed down, not with the arrive of phylloxera - as it could be easily supposed - but in particular with the beginning of World War One. Phylloxera arrived in these lands in the beginning of 1900's and, despite it severely damaged vineyards, it did not cause the strong decline which was common in other European regions instead.

 After having been the main provider of wines for the imperial courts of Austria, at the end of World War One, when both Trentino and Alto Adige were annexed to Italy, the production and trading of wine had a strong decline. Only at the end of World War Two it will be seen the first signs of recovery for the enology of Trentino Alto Adige. Here, just like in other Italian regions, the recovery was characterized by a production mainly focused on quantity instead of quality. A strong recovery for the enology of Trentino Alto Adige - and of all Italy - began in the 1980's, after having understood the success of wine - not only commercial - required the adoption of strict quality criteria while abandoning the speculative politics of quantity. The change was strong and the result can be seen today as a prove of the tenacious efforts of local producers for quality, and now Trentino Alto Adige is considered one of the best wine areas in Italy, both for the production of white and red wines, as well as for the production of classic method sparkling wines.

 

Classification of Trentino Alto Adige

 The wines of Trentino Alto Adige are regulated by the quality system in force in Italy which provides for the categories Vini da Tavola (table wines), Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT, Typical Geographic Indication), Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (DOC, Denomination of Controlled Origin) and Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin). Despite the quality of Trentino Alto Adige's wines has strongly increased in the course of the last twenty years, in the region are not defined any DOCG areas. Trentino Alto Adige is a region with a strong and historical tradition in the production of red wines, however the region is mainly known for its excellent white wines, which take advantage of the cool climate giving a pleasing and lively acid hint. According to an enological point of view, Trentino and Alto Adige are seen as two distinct areas, most of the times the denominations of the two areas are preceded by the mention of the respective provinces. The denominations currently defined in Trentino are: Caldaro or Lago di Caldaro, Casteller, Teroldego Rotaliano, Trentino which includes the sub areas Sorni, Isera and Ziresi, Trento and Valdadige. The denominations of Alto Adige are: Alto Adige or Südtiroler which includes the sub areas Colli di Bolzano, Meranese di Collina, Santa Maddalena, Terlano, Valle d'Isarco and Val Venosta, Caldaro or Lago di Caldaro and Valdadige.

 

Trentino

 Trentino, the southern province of the region, is mainly known for the production of red wines, in particular with the grapes Teroldego, absolute protagonist of this area, and Marzemino, famous for having being mentioned by Lorenzo Da Ponte in the libretto of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, who in the second act made the protagonist say «Versa il vino! Eccellente Marzemino!» (Pour the Wine! Excellent Marzemino!). The citation seems to be a homage to the famous composer from Salisburg who seemed to like Marzemino wine. In Trentino, more precisely in the denomination Trento DOC, there is an interesting production of classic method sparkling wines. For the production of these wines are allowed Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, alone or in different percentages. The minimum period of refermentation and aging on yeast in the bottle must be at least 15 months, in case the period is of at least 24 months, in the label can be mentioned vintage. Sparkling wines aging for at least 36 months in bottle are classified as riserva (reserve), a category which is allowed for white sparkling wines only, whereas for the other categories it is also allowed the production of rose wines.

 In the northern part of Trentino, in the plain of Campo Rotaliano, the absolute protagonist of wines is Teroldego, a red berried grape among the most interesting of the region. Teroldego Rotaliano - this is the complete name of the DOC - is produced in different styles, from light bodied wines to full bodied and well structured wines which can certainly surprise tasters. Among the white berried grapes, must be mentioned the most famous and interesting variety of Trentino, from which are being produced white and sweet wines: Nosiola. Used fresh soon after harvesting, Nosiola gives interesting and pleasing dry wines, however its most charming aspect is offered by the sweet wine Vino Santo - in particular in the area of Valle dei Laghi - characterized by hints of walnut. Nosiola grape is allowed to dry until few days before Easter, therefore allowing the berries to be affected by Botrytis Cinerea which will give its typical aromas and flavors. The must it is then slowly fermented in small wood barrels, where it will be aged for four years, giving, as a result, a sweet and full bodied wine, rich and pleasing.

 

Alto Adige

 Alto Adige, the northern province of the region, offers an extremely interesting and rich production of wines, mainly focused on the production of excellent white and red wines. Here are being cultivated many “international” varieties, however the importance of autochthonous grapes is important and representative as well. Thanks to the particular cool climate, environmental and geological conditions, the production of white wines in Alto Adige reaches high levels of excellence, certainly among the best of Italy, characterized by the typical and pleasing acidity enriched by the exuberant aromatic freshness of fruit and flowers. The production of red wines is also interesting and excellent, in particular the ones produced with Lagrein - the famous autochthonous grape of Alto Adige - and Pinot Noir, which is this area is capable of giving wines of absolute class and elegance. Gewürztraminer - or Traminer Aromatico - is another grape to be mentioned, as well as the many wines produced with the grape Schiava, in its varieties grossa, grigia and gentile, here known as Vernatsch.

 The variety of white grapes cultivated in Alto Adige are many, some of them are pretty particular, such as Grüner Veltliner and Kerner. In this region are also cultivated Silvaner (or Sylvaner), Pinot Gris (called Rülander), Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder), Chardonnay, Riesling Renano (Rheinriesling), Sauvignon Blanc and Moscato Giallo (Goldenmuskateller). With these grapes in Alto Adige are produced amazing and pleasing white wines, in particular with the grapes which like cool climate areas, such as Sauvignon Blanc. Thanks to the cool climate of these lands, white wines are rarely aged or fermented in wood casks, here it is preferred to emphasize in a wine the fresh character of fruits and flowers, a characteristic which distinguishes wines from Alto Adige. However, even in case the producer decides to use the cask or barrique for his white wines, the result is however characterized by a pleasing and refreshing crispness.

 As for red wines, Lagrein certainly is the celebrity of this region, capable of offering pleasing rose wines - known as Lagrein Kretzer - as well as full bodied wines with remarkable longevity, better known as Lagrein Dunkel or Lagrein Scuro. Lagrein is generally used alone - with remarkable results - however it is also present in the wines belonging to the denominations Santa Maddalena, Casteller and Lago di Caldaro, as well as used with other international varieties, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Among the red berried grapes cultivated in Alto Adige of interest, it is mentioned Pinot Noir which, thanks to the cool climate of these areas, allows the production of excellent wines, among the best ones produced with this variety in Italy. Another important red berried grape of Alto Adige is Schiava, here known as Vernatsch, mainly used for the wines of the denominations Santa Maddalena. As for the production of sweet wines, are mentioned the ones made with the grapes Moscato Giallo (Goldenmuskateller) and - in particular - the remarkable Moscato Rosa (Rosenmuskateller), rare and elegant with its unmistakable aromas of strawberry and rose.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 41, May 2006   
Trentino Alto AdigeTrentino Alto Adige  Contents 
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