The Journey North: Trentino Alto-Adige & Veneto
La Montecchia dei Conti Emo Capodilista
The historic estate of La Montecchia lies in the Euganean hills of the Veneto region, 15 kilometers south of Padua. The Capodilista family can be traced back to Charlemagne when that king of the Franks invaded Italy in the late 8th Century. The Transalgardo brothers belonged to his retinue and one of them, Carlotto, became the head of a company, the so-called capo di lista and was allowed to keep this name. The Capodilista family settled near Padua, holding positions as civil and military leaders or princes of the Church, among them the blessed Giordano Forzate, founder of the abbey of San Benedetto in Padua. In 1783, Beatrice, the last Capodilista, married the Venetian patrician Leonardo Emo. Since that time, the family has used the double name of Emo Capodilista. Today, like the influential Venetian families from the 16th Century, the Emo Capoilistas are primarily involved with agriculture and viticulture. The present owner, Umberto Emo Capodilista renovated the vineyards and winery in the 1990s. His son Giordano is responsible for the management of the estate, assisted by enologist Andrea Boaretti and agronomist Patrizio Gasparinetti. They cultivate 45 hectares of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, and Raboso. Merlot and Cabernet have been grown in La Montecchia since the 19th Century and are considered local wines in the Colli Euganei zone. The family also cultivates the whites Pinot Grigio and Muscat. The estate’s first wine to receive Gambero Rosso’s prestigious Tre Bicchierri award is the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Ireneo.
Pojer e Sandri
The partnership between Mario Pojer and Fiorentino Sandri dates back to 1975, when Fiorentino Sandri inherited a vineyard in the alpine village of Faedo and went into business with his winemaker friend Mario Pojer. Located in Trentino-Alto Adige in an untested area, the vineyard inspired the two friends, who felt that the area was capable of producing world-class wines. Their first release of an exquisitely scented Muller-Thurgau proved them correct and made their reputation. The Muller-Thurgau was followed by other notable whites, and when they expanded into new vineyards, they planted the red varieties of the area, including Lagrein but also Cabernet and Merlot. Wine guide “Gambero Rosso” honored their blended red “Rosso Faye” numerous times with its highest Tre Bicchierri award. They also produce sparkling wine from classic Chardonnay and Pinot Nero and a range of remarkable spirits, such as grappa, acquavita, and brandy.
The vineyards around the tiny hamlet of Colterenzio near Girlan in Trentino Alto-Adige are among Europe’s oldest. The first Roman settlers in the area founded the Cornelianum estate, marking the beginning of a wine culture, which would develop and become the subject of songs and poems by medieval troubadours. Over the years Cornelius became Girlan, as the village is now known. In 1960 a group of 28 winegrowers and estate owners in the Beretsch area, from Schreckbichl, Girlan, and Frangart, pooled their resources to create the Schreckbichl Winegrower’s Co-operative under the motto “United we are strong”. Today nearly 300 members cultivate approximately 300 hectares of vineyards. The consortium produces mostly the whites Pino Bianco, Sauvignon, Muscat Gewurztraminer, and Chardonnay that are typical of the area but also the reds Lagrein, Pinot Nero, Cabernet, and Merlot. Wolfgang Reifer manages the company, following his father Luis, and Martin Lemayr is the winemaker.
Italian Wines of the Month
La Montecchia – 2009 Godimondo
Made from 100% Cabernet Franc, Godimondo, or in English “enjoys life”, was the legendary nickname of Sigismondo Capodilista, the archetypal Renaissance Lord who lived life to the full and resided at Villa Capodilista. The 2009 La Montecchia Godimondo has a bright ruby red color and a refined, lingering, and fruity bouquet with hints of mulberry, bilberry and spice. Medium-bodied, and affable, the Godimondo is a typical Veneto red, perfect for any course. When served just a bit chilled, it makes a fine accompaniment to fish, but meat courses bring out its finest qualities (12% alcohol).
Pojer e Sandri – 2009 Traminer Aromatico
The vineyards, from which this 100% Gewurztraminer is made, are located on a hill in Coveli at elevation of 980 feet above sea level and are nicely ventilated by the “Ora” breezes from famous Lake Garda. The wine is bright yellow, and the bouquet is aromatic with apple, banana, peach, and apricot notes along with pronounced spice like cinnamon and cloves. Bright acidity contributes to its fine balance. Avoid a prolonged chill, because if the wine is overly cold, its delicate fragrance and flavors will be obscured. This totally dry Traminer pairs with delicate fish, such as trout, and shell fish, and is excellent as aperitif.
Schreckbichl Colterenzio – 2009 Lagrein
Lagrein is one of Alto Adige’s native varieties. With dark color, the wine shows pronounced aromas, mainly of black woodland berry fruits and spice that follow on the palate. This 2009 Lagrein is very smooth on the palate with medium body. It was aged in large oak casks so doesn’t show any oak influence on the palate. A versatile wine, you can pair it with a range of foods from cured meats and cheeses to pasta with tomato sauce, roasted chicken with braised red and green bell peppers. Serve at cool room temperature (13% alcohol).
La Montecchia – 2007 Villa Capodilista
A blend of 60% Merlot, 33% Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Raboso, Villa Capodilista is the heart of La Montecchia. A vineyard steeped in tradition, it gives its name to both the surrounding area and the business. The cru sits on a hillside facing south, and the area’s trachyte rock and volcanic origins afford the wine its unique flavor. It is characterized by a full, ruby red color and a strong, lingering aroma with spices and red fruit. On the palate it is complex and refined, warm and full-bodied. This wine is an excellent complement to roasts and braised meat, game and mature cheese.
Pojer e Sandri – 2006 Faye Rosso
The 2006 Faye Rosso is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Lagrein, according to the vintage. The vineyard grows at an elevation of 850 feet above sea level and is well-ventilated by the “Ora” breezes from Lake Garda. The wine displays a deep garnet red color, and the bouquet is clean and complex with recalling wild berries, black currants, raspberries, blackberries and ripe, red fruits, such as cherries and plums. On the palate, it is elegant, dry, rich and balanced. A sweetness reminiscent of licorice is offset by a mild level of tannin. Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, Rosso Faye pairs well with roasted veal shanks with polenta, a grilled steak, or rack of lamb. It also partners handsomely with Trentino cheeses such as Trentingrana and aged Vezzena.
Schreckbichl Colterenzio – 2006 Lagrein Sigis Mundus
Writing for Wine Spectator, Antonio Galloni describes the 2006 Lagrein Sigis Mundus as “a dark, powerful wine imbued with blackberries, cassis, grilled herbs and scorched earth.” The Sigis Mundus Lagrein is named after Archduke Sigismund and is grown in the classic Lagrein area in nearby Gries, a suburb in the Bolzano Valley basin. Lagrein, one of Alto Adige’s most ancient reds, has attained the status of a royal classic. Aged in French oak barrels for 16 months, the color is impressively deep, and the nose is concentrated with aromas of violets, blackberries and black cherries, all nicely meshed with savory flavors, coffee and dark chocolate. The Sigis Mundus is a powerful and supple wine with assertive tannins and superb length. Serve at cool room temperature with pan-seared rib eye steak, roast beef, game, balsamic roast pork, and mature cheeses.
Italian Region of the Month
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.
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.
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.