Falling in Love With Alto Adige
By Antonio Galloni
Despite boasting breathtaking
scenery, great wines of all kinds, equally world-class restaurants and hotels,
and some of the best skiing on the planet, Alto Adige remains largely unknown to
Americans, which is a shame. Wine and food lovers who want to see another side
of Italy beyond the usual stops should seriously consider a visit to Alto
Adige, one of the most pristine collection of small villages and pastoral
settings anywhere in the world.
I first became attracted to Alto
Adige and its wines through Burton Anderson’s A Wine Atlas of Italy, a book that remains a seminal contribution
to Italian wine. My first visit to Alto Adige was in early 2001. I was an expat
living in Milan. My employer at the time, a large financial services company,
had a number of clients in Trentino and Alto Adige. We started our day with
meetings in Trento, a jewel of a city in its own right. Beautiful. But Trento
still feels like Italy. A few miles to the north, Bolzano is another world. Here
the default language is German, or Ladino, the local dialect. Italian is
spoken, but it is a bit like English in Miami. You get the idea. We had dinner
at Vögele, a simple trattoria, and stayed at the Laurin, a stately,
old-fashioned hotel in the center of town. It snowed overnight, and when I
opened the window in the morning what I saw looked like a fairy tale. I was
hooked. Let’s just say that after that first trip I found every reason I could
to visit my clients in and around Bolzano and Merano! Since then, I have gone
back many times, and always discovered something new.
Most of the whites I tasted for
this report are 2011s. It is a difficult vintage for whites, as the warm
weather and precocious harvest resulted in wines that lack varietal definition
and that are on the heavy side. My suggestion is to drink the 2011s upon
release. Although it is too soon to taste most of the reds, warm vintages are
much more favorable in Alto Adige than in many other regions around the world.
The first 2011 reds I have tasted are exuberant and powerful, in the best sense
of those descriptors.
I have added a few wines from
Trento, which is a separate region from Alto Adige, in this report for ease of
reference. Lastly, for various reasons this report is appearing much later than
I would have liked. Readers can expect that timely coverage of Alto Adige will resume later this year.