Summer has arrived! A seasonal shift from red to white wine often heralds the warmer weather. Located in Northern Italy, the region of Trentino-Alto Adige produces some exemplary white wines (and reds!), but before we jump right into these enticing beverages: a fun history lesson...
The region of Alto Adige had been the Southern-most part of Austria’s Tyrol state since the Middle Ages while the region of Trentino had been more of an “occupied territory” only officially annexed to the Tyrol state in the 1880’s. Both regions were under Austrian rule until the end of WWI when they were both annexed to Italy in 1919. With this history, it is no wonder that the region seems quite Germanic to outsiders with their Deutsch street signs and Austrian inspired architecture. Similarly, their wine culture has a distinctly Austro-Germanic feel with signature white wines that are crisp, clean, and aromatic – a far cry from the rich, heavy reds of Southern Italy. The most notable white grapes of the region are Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau (both Alto Adige) and Nosiola (Trentino).
Gewürztraminer is a very unique grape. It produces a white wine that is often spicy and boasts a pungent aroma and flavour. White wines made from Gewürztraminer pair very well with heavier dishes such as gnocchi or smoked sausage. The use of cinnamon in the cuisine of the Alto Adige region lends itself perfectly to these whites which also have notes of cinnamon, as well as rose petals, lychee nuts, and ripened peaches.
Müller-Thurgau, one of the most widely planted grapes in Germany, produces wines that are balanced and bright with exotic aromas such as apricots, white flowers, and wild herbs. Unlike Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau is not particularly heavy, best paired with hors d’oeuvres, seafood, and white meat.
Generally tart and light, the Nosiola grape has a refreshing lemon-apple flavour. This is not a popular grape in North America, as we have a tendency to lean towards fuller, wood-aged whites. Nosiola is made in smaller quantities, making it difficult to find in North America. So if you have the opportunity, it is well worth your while to try it.
Surprisingly, there are more red wines produced in Trentino-Alto Adige than white wines. This is great news if you’re a red all year ‘round kind of individual like myself. While the mass produced Schiava and Lambrusco are the most planted red varietals in the region, Trentino-Alto Adige vintners have begun moving away from their focus on quantity to focus more on high quality grapes such as Pinot Noir and Teroldego.
Teroldego is native to the Trentino region, boasting a deep red colour with a beautiful tar and crushed berry flavour. Its unique acidic composition makes it a very versatile wine, and pairs well with roasted red meats and hard, strong cheeses. Recently Teroldego has attracted a lot of attention because of its rarity, although it’s been quite famous in the Trentino region since the 15th Century.
The warm months are all too fleeting so go out and enjoy the sunshine. And remember patios are 98.6% better with wine (again, this is not an “official” statistic...but accurate)!
By Meaghan Munholland