Trentino-Alto Adige

The two neighbouring wine regions of Trentino (the lower, more southerly part of the Adige valley around the town of Trento) and the upper Adige valley produce Italy's most alpine wines in a region dominated by exceptionally competent co-operatives or cantine. Those of Bolzano, Caldaro, Colterenzio, Cortaccia, San Michele Appiano, Terlano and Termeno are notably quality-minded.

Trentino is the catch-all DOC for a wide range of varietal wines, from smudgy light, sweetish red Schiava (Vernatsch in German) to some fine high-altitude barrel-fermented Chardonnays. Trento DOC is the appellation for metodo classico sparkling wine. Local variety and varietal Marzemino is one of the few wines to be mentioned specifically in any opera, in this case Don Giovanni, and is often made as a sweet, slightly fizzy pale red. Teroldego, or Teroldego Rotaliano, is a more commonly planted local red named after the Rotaliano plain in the north of Trentino (one of the very few flat stretches of land in the whole Adige valley) that can be, if not overcropped, intensely fruity and deep-coloured. The most serious examples are made by Elisabetta Foradori (as IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti) but there is no shortage of bitter, cheaper examples. The full range of international varietals is produced, generally in rather pale versions. The likes of Pojer & Sandri (who make one of the world's few sought-after Müller-Thurgaus), the aristocratic San Leonardo estate with its Bordeaux blends, and the research institute at San Michele all'Adige prove just what can be achieved in this lower zone due north of the commercial battleground of Verona, whose potential for top-quality sparkling wines has long been demonstrated by Ferrari and Cavit.

Alto Adige, however, is a more distinctive environment - not just because it is known as the South Tyrol, or Südtirol (German is the first language of many inhabitants here and most towns have both a German and an Italian name) but also because of the contrast between the warm summers and cold winters of vineyards grafted on to the Dolomite foothills. With its generally cool nights even in the height of summer, Alto Adige is able to produce some very focused flavours and a degree of finesse. The region undoubtedly has enormous potential and offers serious competition to Friuli's dominance of Italy's white wine scene for pure, varietal, more internationally familiar flavours from producers such as Castel Schwanburg, Franz Haas, Hofstätter, Kuenhof, Alois Lageder, Tiefenbrunner and Elena Walch. Particularly good examples of Gewürztraminer are to be found around Tramin, also known as Termeno, where it originated.

For red wines Schiava was quantitatively important but is increasingly being replaced by the other local red speciality Lagrein, which has come to be recognised as potentially rather an exciting grape so long as its bitterness is softened by careful winemaking, often barrique ageing. The dark red version is known as Lagrein Scuro (Dunkel in German) while the pink one is Lagrein Rosato, or Kretzer. Gries just west of the town of Bolzano is a particularly good zone for Lagrein. 

In a nutshell

Alpine vineyards producing fragrant varietal wines.