Exploring Trentino Alto-Adige and the Veneto
Located in the Veneto region, the 37-acre Brigaldara estate commands a hill near San Floriano, overlooking the Marano Valley. The vineyards are planted on terraces between 150 and 250 meters above sea level and feature the traditional grape varieties of Valpolicella Classico with a distinct emphasis for the high-quality varieties Corvine and Corvinone over Rondinella and Molinara. The Cesari family has owned the winery since 1928, and presently, Stefano Cesari directs the business. The estate’s Amarone wines are regular recipients of the highest Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award from the prestigious Italian wine rating journal “Gambero Rosso.”
H. Lun is one of the oldest and most famous wineries in Balzano, located in the Alto-Adige region, which is commonly referred to as Sudtriol by its mostly German speaking population. Established in 1840, the winery was owned by the Bracchetti family between 1976 and 1998. They sold to the Hirlan cooperative of winegrowers, which decided to operate the winery as an independent enterprise. The 30 hectares surrounding the vineyards were put at the winery’s disposal. The winery has developed three different labels, H. Lun, Sanbichler, and Albertus and makes white Gewurztraminer, Moscato Giallo, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco, Reisling, and Chardonnay. Its reds include Pinot Nero, Cabernet Sauvignon, and native Lagrein.
Georg Ramoser is the third generation to operate his tiny Santa Maddalena estate in Alto Adige with just two and a half hectares and several more that he leases. A serious, passionate producer, Ramoser is best known for his Lagrein but is enthusiastically experimenting with the international varieties Merlot and Chardonnay.
The Prá family had been cultivating vines for several generations before making its first wines in the 1980s. In 2001, brothers Graziano and Sergio built a new winery, and Sergio’s son Flavio Pra` then replaced his father in the company. The winery’s reputation is built on Soave with the Soave Monte Grande winning Gambero Rosso’s Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award five times in six years and the Soave 2006 Straforte winning for the first time. The family has converted all vineyards to organic practices.
Italian Wines of the Month
Brigaldara – 2007 Valpolicella
Valpolicella is a traditional blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Corvina, and Molinara, the same grapes that make up the noble Amarone. The difference between the two wines is that Valpolicella is a lighter, fruity wine, fermented after harvest in the fall, whereas Amarone is made in the following spring after the grapes dehydrate in airy barns during the winter, the result being a dense, intense wine. Valpolicella Ripasso is somewhere in between, because the wine is refermented on the lees of Amarone, so that it gains more intensity than normal Valpolicella but clearly not as much as Amarone. This Brigaldara Valpolicella is a beautifully balanced example of the wine. Serve at cool room temperature.
Prá – 2008 Soave Classico
This Pra` Soave Classico is 100% Garganega, made by a master of the grape varietal. The wine is rich in floral and mineral scents with good balance and a long finish, a truly delicious white wine. Serve as an aperitif with appetizers, with dinner salads, and with fish and poultry main courses.
H. Lun – 2006 Sandbichler Pinot Noir Riserva
The grapes for this elegant Pinot Nero were grown on the sunny, west-facing slopes of the Alto Adige Lowland or Bassa Atesina. Aged in traditional wooden casks, the wine has a rich bouquet of dark berries and a powerful, velvety body. Serve at cool room temperature.
H. Lun – 2005 Lagrein
This delicious wine, whose grapes are indigenous to the Alto Adige, is 100 % Lagrein, which is recognizable by its intense violet color, its aromas of forest fruits and flowers, and its full, velvety body. Serve this multi-dimensional wine with grilled and roasted meats and pasta sauces with tomatoes, garlic, and dried mushrooms.
Brigaldara – 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella
One of the finest Amarone producers, Brigaldara routinely receives Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) awards from the “Gambero Rosso” wine-rating board. The 2001 Amarone is an immense, dense wine that overcomes the palate with bold, delicious fruit, and tobacco, chocolate, and nutty spice flavors. The nose is filled with grape and raisin aromas, plums, pomegranate, and lush cherry scents. Decant the wine before serving to fully release its more subtle flavors and aromas.
Untermoserhof – 2003 Lagrein Sscuro Riserva
This Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award winner is 100% Lagrein with dense ruby color and a nose of coffee, pencil box, and fresh black berry and cherry fruit. Beautifully structured, the wine is finely balanced and the texture smooth. Decant about a half hour before serving.
Italian Regions of the Month
Venezia, a city built into the sea, is like no other, haunted by the princes and poets of its noble past and by centuries of tourists. The cities of Padova, Vicenza, and Verona, originally frontier posts on the Roman trade route between Venezia and Genova, grew into Renaissance splendor and are marvels in their own right. In the 16th Century, the region’s great architect Andrea Palladio worked throughout the area and his buildings are everywhere, in the cities and in the countryside. Nature exhibits its own marvels in the region, the spectacular Dolomite Mountains in the north, the rolling Euganean hills in the south, vast Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, on the eastern border, and to the west, the Adriatic with its beaches and ports.
Today, Veneto is a thriving agricultural center, a lush land of vines, ranking third after Apulia and Sicily in wine volume but the first with classified DOC wines. There are three general areas of premium production: the western province of Verona in the hills between Lake Garda and the town of Soave, the central hills in the provinces of Vincenza, Padova, and Treviso, and the eastern plains of the Piave and Tagliamento river basins along the Adriatic coast northeast of Venezia.
Verona is the leader in classified DOC wines and the site of Vinitaly, the largest wine trade fair in the world. A major part of the DOC wines in the region are Soave, Bardolino, and Valpolicella, a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. When young, Valpolicella is a full, fruity red, but when the grapes are partly dried, they are made into Amarone, one of Italy’s most noble wines. Bardolino is made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but is a lighter version. Similar to Soave, Bianco di Custoza is another DOC white as is Lessini Durello, a steely dry wine, usually sparkling.
The central hills produce whites similar to Soave as well as Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot, and Cabernet. Prosecco, a dry to lightly sweet white, is produced in the area as is the renowned Venegazzu, both usually sparkling.
The eastern plains have been dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc for decades, but the local red Raboso and white Verduzzo still have admirers. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are also gaining ground.
Trentino Alto-Adige, Italy’s northern most region, borders Austria and Switzerland and then splits into two distinct provinces. Alto Adige in the north is better known as Sudtirol to its bi-lingual German-Italian speaking population around Bolzano. And Trentino, around the city of Trento to the south, is historically Italian. The Adige, Italy’s second longest river flows from north to south through the center of the region on its way to the Adriatic.
Dominated by the Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomite Mountains, only about 15 percent of the region is suitable for cultivation. In the south, vineyards climb the sides of sweeping river valleys up to the foothills of high mountains. The snows fall heavily in the winter, and the breezes off the lakes and rivers cool the valleys in the summer.
The Etruscans were probably the first people to practice viticulture in the area and may have been responsible for training vines on wooden frames, a practice which the Romans found when they first arrived and which farmers still employ in the region. At the time, farmers in other parts of Italy more commonly trained their vines on trees. Here in the Trentino Alto-Adige, the Romans first used wooden barrels for ageing and transporting wine.
Today, Alto Adige’s native Lagrein and Trentino’s Teroldego are among Italy’s most distinguished red wines, and Cabernet and Merlot, which have grown in the region for 150 years, have reached impressive heights. The region also produces some of Italy’s finest Rose`. Among the white wines, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Grigio, Sauvignon, and Riesling Renano can also stand with Italy’s finest. Trentino’s native Nosiola which is a fine dry white is also the base of Vino Santo, a rich, golden dessert wine. Trentino, which has Italy’s largest production of Chardonnay is a leader with sparkling wines. The region also produces the aromatic Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, and Muller Thurgau.