From €18.90, $34.99, 265 Norwegian kroner, £25.50, AU$57, MEX$855, 3,522 roubles
The Alto Adige is the most extraordinary region, as sketched in yesterday’s Throwback Thursday article written after I visited this Austro-Italian mash-up of a place back in 2007. One of the finest producers is Franz Haas, who has long followed biodynamic disciplines, and has always had especially stylish labels. The Schweizer in the name denotes the well-connected Italian artist and architect from whom Haas’s wife Maria Luisa Manna bought many of their finest paintings and is given to the wines of which Haas is particularly proud.
His Pinot Noir Schweizer is one of Italy’s finest examples of this demanding variety (although I have to say that I have often sought just a little more freshness and precision in it). This Manna dry white is one of the best renditions of a wine style that is a particular speciality of Italy’s two major white-wine regions Friuli and Alto Adige: multi-varietal blends.
In the case of Manna, named after Haas’s wife, it’s a blend made up of mainly Riesling and Chardonnay, slightly unlikely bedfellows, with smaller amounts of late-picked Traminer Aromatico (Gewürztraminer) and Sauvignon Blanc. They are all grown in different examples of Alto Adige’s dramatically scenic vineyards, each particularly suited to the relevant variety, at elevations that vary from 350 to as high as 850 m. (Although in many European regions the highest of these vineyards might be considered far too cool to ripen grapes, summers in Alto Adige can be extremely hot and dry, even though at altitude nights cool down reliably.) Soils in these south-west-facing terraces hewn out of the spectacular Dolomites also vary considerably, and include sand, marl and porphyry. The four varieties are then vinified separately, the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in oak, and are then blended before being aged together on the lees for about 10 months before bottling. Yields are around 50 hl/ha and average production about 50,000 bottles.
This is a wine expressly designed for matching with a wide range of foods – from sashimi to relatively rich composed dishes. I enjoyed it with an intricate but beautifully sauced cannelloni of chicken and morels, and it went brilliantly with a lobster sauce I nabbed from Nick’s plate. For this reason it can be easier to find Manna in restaurants than in wine shops, but nevertheless it is currently to be found in an impressive range of countries according to wine-searcher.com: Italy, Holland, Norway, UK, US (where it is particularly widely distributed), Mexico, Russia and Australia. Many retailers have already moved on to the 2012 and some importers are already offering the 2013, but the 2011 has not a trace of tiredness about it.
At 13% alcohol and with a fine spine of acidity (thanks to the mountain-air influence, presumably), it is still tense but also rich with its many layers of well-integrated flavour. Riesling is (just) the dominant impression but this wine is nothing like a varietal Riesling, being so much denser and more nuanced thanks to the contributions of oaked Chardonnay, oaked Sauvignon and the super-ripe Gewürztraminer. I would defy anyone to pick out any one component, so skillfully have they been blended. The result is not bone dry, there are about 5 g/l residual sugar, but it is all but unnoticeable – especially with such invigorating acidity.
This is a sophisticated wine that would make a welcome change from more conventional fine white wine choices.