The same northeastern area of Italy but a study of contrasts
If you look at a map of Northeastern Italy, the Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige, and Friuli Venezia-Gulia form a geographical unit. But in Europe, where the definition of unity has shifted over a long history, borders are pliable. Now though, Venezia and Trentino Alto-Adige share a border. The Veneto is a huge wine producing region and Friuli Alto-Adige a much smaller one. The difference in the wines could not be more pronounced. You’ll see the contrast in this shipment. Amarone from the Veneto is one of the richest and densest wines in Italy, whereas the wines of Trentino Alto-Adige are spare and perfumed, the best vineyards rooted in the Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomite Mountains. The difference is fascinating. Enjoy the journey.
Brothers Armando, Tiziano, Massimo, and Paolo Castagnedi grew up in their father’s vineyards in the Valpolicella region. Their father, Antonio Castagnedi, founded the cooperative Colognola ai Colli Cantina and sent his grapes, as did neighboring growers, to the communal winery. In 1989, the brothers bought 30 hectares around Mezzane, adding to the 20 original ones belonging to their father and increasing Tenuta Sant’Antonio vineyards to a total of fifty hectares, which begin at an elevation of 120 meters and climb the hills to an elevation of 320 meters. In 1995, they built their own winery on a hill near San Briccio among their vineyards and began making their own wine rather than selling grapes to other wineries. Today, Tenuta Sant’Antonio produces Soave, Valpolicella, Amarone, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Valpolicella Superiore, La Bandina, and their Amarone Campo dei Gigli have both been honored multiple times with Gambero Rosso’s coveted Tre Bicchierri (Three Glasses) award.
Highly respected throughout Italy and locally in Alto Adige for his absolute commitment to the most pristine and natural farming, Alois Lageder was born in 1950 and educated in economics. He was named for his great grandfather, who founded a winery in Bolzano in 1855. In 1934, the family acquired the Lowengang estate in Magre`, now planted with 77 acres of grapes, and subsequently acquired other vineyards in prime locations in Alto Adige, including the Cason` Hirschprunn estate in 1991 planted with 79 acres. Vineyards grow on steep and stony slopes from 750 to 3,250 foot elevations above the Adige Valley. All have been organically farmed, and the Lowengang estate is now farmed biodynamically, an even more rigorous and sustainable farming method than organic. Rather than unnatural single crop planting, Lageder cultivates multiple varieties in any given vineyard together with other plants, uses compost instead of artificial fertilizers, and fights parasites with natural predators. Lageder’s goal is to imitate the balance in nature and increase the health and vitality of the vines so that they are resistant to parasites and disease.
Completed in 1996, the winery at the Tor Lowengang estate is a marvel of new technology that has entirely eliminated the consumption of non-renewable fossil fuels. The winery employs solar energy, geo-thermal heating, and natural convection currents. The building leans into a cliff that cools and warms fresh air for ventilation. A photoelectric system makes use of solar energy, delivering most of the winery’s electrical needs. And solar collectors heat water. The 50 feet tall vinification tower harnesses the force of gravity and pumps n such a way that other mechanical means for moving the grapes and must are unnecessary. The grapes and must flow down from one vinification phase to the next and end in fermentation vats that are arranged in a circle around this central axis. After fermentation, the wines rest in vaulted cellars.
Alois Lageder makes over 30 wines, 70% of which are white. The wines are allocated to three groups, Classic Wines, 80 percent of the production, which includes those from traditionally grown grapes of Alto Adige, Single Vineyard Selections, 12 percent, which demonstrate the characteristics of a particular vineyard, and Estate Wines, eight percent, from Tor Lowengang.
Italian Wines of the Month
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2012 Scaia Corvina
Made from100% Corvina that was harvested from vineyards at Colognola ai Colli and Mezzane di Sotto, the wine has deep color and flowery, fruity aromas of cherry and wild berries. The Scaia Corvina was aged in stainless steel tanks to preserve fresh fruit flavors balanced with acid. Serve with lighter main courses of sausage and grilled poultry. You’ll notice that the stopper is glass, the latest and best non-cork cork. Reuse the bottle especially for bulk extra virgin olive oil, which can be easily poured and protected by the dark glass.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2013 Scaia Garganega-Chardonnay
This very pleasing white blend is 50% Garganega, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Trebbiano Soave, harvested at the Sant’Antonio vineyard at Colognola ai Colli. Aromas of acacia, jasmine, and citrus dominate the nose and transfer to the palate, which is medium-bodied with sustained acidity. Serve chilled with appetizers, various pasta salads, and fish. The bottle has a classy glass stopper under the foil, so it’s easy to open and reuse.
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2011 Valpolicella Superiore Monti Garbi
The fruit was harvested from the Monti Garbi vineyard at an altitude of 300 meters and is a blend of 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Croatina and Oseleta, the classic recipe for Valpolicella Superiore. The wine is made with the Repasso method to enhance flavors by passing it over the Amarone pomace in October following fermentation. Aged for 16 months in large oak casks, the wine is ruby red in color with a bouquet of red fruit and cherry. On the palate, the wine is soft yet powerful with a spicy finish. Serve at cool room temperatures with grilled meats and sautéed dark leafy green vegetables.
Alois Lageder 2011 Pinot Nero
Harvested from sandy vineyards at 980 to 1,500 feet elevations in the Mazzon area above the village of Egna, the fruit for this wine is 100% Pinot Nero. Its color has medium saturation, typical of Pinot Nero, and aromas are pronounced as they are in all Lageder wines. Earthy aromas of red fruit, cherries, and spice on the finish are apparent. Aged for 15 months in large oak casks, the wine has an elegant medium body with fruity and spicy Pinot Nero flavor. Serve at cool room temperature with white and red meats, poultry, duck, venison, and cheeses.
Alois Lageder 2011 Pinot Bianco Haberle
This deliciously elegant white is made entirely from Pinot Bianco grapes, cultivated in stony and sandy soils at the Haberlehof estate vineyard above Salorno at an altitude of 1500 to 1710 feet. The wine is a brilliant straw-yellow color with dramatically fruity aromas of apples and peaches, uplifted by varietal aroma and combined with very well integrated oak spice on the nose. The Haberle Pinot Bianco is clean, elegant, and medium-bodied with a round and fresh mouth-watering fin
Tenuta Sant’Antonio 2010 Selezione Antonio Castagnedi
Made from traditional Amarone varietals that were harvested from the Monti Garbi vineyard, this Sant’Antonio Amarone is 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta. After ageing for two years in 500-liter French oak barrels, the Amarone Antonio Castagnedi is ruby red in color with aromas of ripe red fruit and spicy notes of liquorish, black pepper, and hints of chocolate. On the palate, the wine is soft, elegant, and well structured with acid and round, sweet tannins. Despite 15% alcohol, the wine complements flavorful foods such as grilled or roasted red meats. Serve at cool room temperatures in large glasses that will hold the wine’s pronounced spicy aromas. This Amarone and the Lageder Pinot Nero Krafuss below present a study in contrasts, the Castagnedi dense with color and flavor and the Krafuss ethereal and delicate in every respect. .
Alois Lageder 2009 Pinot Nero Krafuss
This delicious Pinot Nero was made from grapes grown at the Krafuss estate near the village of Appiano-Montagna at an altitude of 1,500 feet. Since 2013, the vineyard has been cultivated with biodynamic methods. This cool-climate vineyard, especially suited to Pinot Nero, was planted in 1991 with selected Pinot Nero clones at high density on a wire trellis system. Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, only a third of which were new, the wine has medium color saturation, typical of Pinot Nero, with aromas of red berry fruit, cherries, white pepper, and cinnamon, which transfer onto the palate. The wine is elegantly balanced with fruit flavors, smooth tannins, and fresh acid. Serve at room temperature in large glasses that capture the aromas and pair with white and red meats, poultry, duck, venison, and cheeses.
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.