From €7.90, 13.80 Swiss francs, 139 Danish krone, £13
If you are looking for good value but are a bit sceptical about the quality potential of Pinot Bianco (known as Pinot Blanc in France and as Weissburgunder in Germany), try this wine from Alto Adige in northern Italy.
It is very simply made, unoaked but aged on the lees for four months, so it is safe to conclude that the depth, freshness and surprisingly wide range of aromas and flavours – apple, citrus, blossom, as well as a stony character and spice on the finish – are the result of top-quality grapes, with the time spent on the lees adding some weight and creamy texture.
Cantina Kurtatsch’s export manager Harald Cronst explains that although their vineyards are in the warm but steeply sloping sites towards the southern end of the Adige Valley, where daytime summer temperatures can reach 40 ºC (104 ºF), the Pinot Bianco comes from equally steep but higher vineyards under the Mendel Massif at 450-650 m (1,475-2,135 ft) that have much cooler night-time temperatures thanks to the katabatic winds. This diurnal temperature variation combined with the limestone soils (streaked with clay) explain both the depth of flavour and the fresh acidity they achieve in this wine and in their whites more generally.
I have tasted other Cantina Kurtatsch wines (Purple Pagers can find my notes in our tasting notes database) and was impressed by the quality across the range. Founded in 1900, Cantina Kurtatsch is one of the oldest and smallest co-operatives in Alto Adige – a region where co-operatives dominate wine production – but the team seem to enjoy the dynamism of youth, led by 33-year-old president Andreas Kofler, who also teaches viticulture at the renowned local agricultural research centre of Laimburg. (Incidentally, in this part of Italy where both German and Italian are spoken, the company is called both Cantina Kurtatsch and Kellerei Kurtatsch.)
The town of Kurtatsch (Cortaccia in Italian) is in the south of Alto Adige (Südtirol in German), about 25 km south of Bozen/Bolzano, and the 190 members of the co-op cultivate on average just 1 hectare each, under the guidance of the cantina's technical team and winemaker Othmar Doná. As well as a range of varietal wines, like this Pinot Bianco, they make a number of single-vineyard wines. Their Hofstatt Pinot Bianco 2015 Alto Adige is also very good and well priced (eg £16.50 from Haynes, Hanson & Clark in the UK), with a little more intensity and complexity, though I think it is the straight Pinot Bianco that is the real bargain of the two.
Since the 2016 vintage of the straight Pinot Bianco will soon be available on some markets, including the US, Cantina Kurtatsch kindly also sent me a sample of this most recent vintage, which is not yet available in the UK. At this early stage it seems just as good as the 2015. At the moment it tastes crisper and a little less creamy in texture but I think that may change with another six months in the bottle.
You can see the entire range of wines on the Cantina Kurtatsch website. Coincidentally, Walter Speller is planning an article on Alto Adige's indigenous red grape variety Schiava in the near future.
In the UK, the Pinot Bianco is available from Haynes, Hanson & Clark (along with several other Cantina Kurtatsch wines). In the US: for NJ and NY, Wineries of Italy Consortium are both importer and distributor; in Washington, MacArthur Beverages Washington (currently on the 2014 and soon moving on to the 2016 vintage); Cronst says they are working on the US market at the moment and there should be much greater availability in the near future. It is widely available in Italy and Germany (see the Wine-Searcher results via the Find this wine link below) and also sold in the Netherlands (IC Wines, Nieuwegein), Austria (Ammersin, Vienna), Switzerland (Von Salis Wein, Landquart; Valentin Wine, Pontresina; Vino San Rocco, Erschwil), the Czech Republic (Magnum Wines, Brno), Japan (Bond & Co), and the Caribbean (John Hopkin, Grenada).