Trentino Alto Adige - Food and Wines - Wines
Italy's northernmost region with alpine borders on Austria and Switzerland is split into two distinct provinces. Trentino, around the city of Trento to the south, is historically Italian in language and culture. Aldo Adige, around the city of Bolzano or Bozen tothe north, is better known as Sdtirol to the prominent German-speaking population. The South Tyrol, historically part of Austria, is officially bilingual.
Trentino-Alto Adige is walled in by the Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomites, so only about 15 percent of the land is cultivable. Much of that produces fruit and wine grapes. The difficulty of training vines over wooden pergolas on hillside terraces compels growers to emphasise quality. More than 60% of production is DOC and some 35% of the wine is exported (both Italy's highest rates). Yet, though experts agree that the alpine climate favours grapes for perfumed white wines, the focus remains on reds, which account for more than two-thirds of the region's production.
The dominant variety is Schiava or Vernatsch, source of lightweight reds that flow north prodigiously to German-speaking countries. The most highly regarded of these is St. Magdalener or Santa Maddalena, grown on the picturesque slopes overlooking Bolzano. The best known is Caldaro or Kalterersee, produced from vines around the pretty lake of that name at the rate of more than 20 million litres a year, to rate high among Italy's DOCs in volume. But the ranks of roseate ruby wines from Schiava extend through the South Tyrol along the Adige river into Trentino and the Veneto under the Valdadige appellation.
Other reds can show greater class. Also Adige's native Lagrein and Trentino's Teroldego stand with northern Italy's most distinguished vines, making wines of singular personality. Marzemino makes a fresh, lively red for casual sipping. Considerable space is devoted to Cabernet and Merlot, which occasionally reach impressive heights both alone and in blends. The region also produces some of Italy's finest rose', perhaps the most impressive being Lagrein Kretzer. The sweet Moscato Rosa with its gracefully flowerly aroma is a rare and prized dessert wine.
The growing demand for white wine has influenced growers to plant more of the international premium varieties. The heights are favourable for aromatic whites: Gewrztraminer, Sylvaner, Mller Thurgau and white Moscato. But the quality of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Grigio, Sauvignon and Riesling Renano from certain cellars can also stand with Italy's finest. Trentino's native Nosiola makes fine dry white and is also the base of Vino Santo, a rich dessert wine from the Valle dei Laghi.
Production of the numerous varietal wines is centred in two large DOC zones: Trentino in the south and Alto Adige or Sdtiroler in the north. Valdadige applies to red and white wines of popular commercial standards produced between Merano and Verona.
Several small DOC zones are noted for class. Valle d'Isarco and Terlano produce some exquisite whites in Alto Adige, and Santa Maddalena has a long-standing reputation for its refined light red. Teroldego, grown on the Rotaliano plain north of Trento, is an unusually attractive red when young, with capacity to a- ge splendidly from good vintages.
Although the region's white wines are often considered light by international standards, some have an unexpected propensity to age. Pinot Bianco, Gewrztraminer, Riesling and Mller Thurgau have been known to remain fresh and vital for a decade or two. But the emphasis is on popularly priced Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco which can offer outstanding values.
Ultimately, producers in both provinces have been making whies of greater weight and complexity - in particular from Chardonnay, Sauvignon and the Pinots and also from Sylvaner, Riesling, Mller Thurgau and Gewrztraminer, whose name derives from the South Tyrolean village of Tramin. A few are also working with new techniques on red wines, notably in combinations of Cabernet and Merlot, but also with Pinot Nero and the underrated Lagrein. They are gradually enhancing the status of a region whose sterling record with DOC doesn't fully express its extraordinary quality potential.
Trentino, which boasts Italy's largest production of Chardonnay, is a leader with sparkling wines by the classical method, spumante that may qualify under the trademark of Trento Classico. Alto Adige has also stepped up sparkling wine production. Despite the traditional flow north, Trentino - Alto Adige's wines - whites especially - have been making steady progress in Italy and, just recently, on more distant markets, such as the United States and United Kingdom.