I was fortunate to be able to attend the Alto Adige Grand Tasting this afternoon. While there were winemakers in attendence, many of them seemed disinterested in speaking with the guests. For the most part it was salespeople/marketing professionals doing the pouring. A shame as the winemakers who were in fact there and pouring were personable, approachable & quite charming. I enjoyed the conversations I had with them.
In all there were probably over 150 wines and I somehow managed to taste about 110 of them. A new record high for me. And amazingly my palate felt relatively fresh throughout. I did try to re-calibrate my palate a few times with water & bread, but overall I made it through more wines than I ever have before. I guess I’m making progress.
Of the 110 (or so) wines, I started with the whites and ended up tasting about 66 of them (if my count was accurate). I then tasted about 44 reds and 3 sparkling wines. I am NOT going to even attempt to review all the wines, but there were some standouts which I would like to mention.
Of the whites, it felt like I tasted 100 Pinot Grigio’s. Of course the number was not that high, but few were of distinction and I eventually passed on Pinot Grigios. I also tasted Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Biancos, Gewurtztraminers, Sylvaners, Muller Thurgaus, and a few whites which were blends of some of the aforementioned varietals.
Of the whites there were 4-5 standouts. Not necessarily the “best” (a term I do not believe exists with wine), but those that possessed interesting & unique characteristics.
The Andriano Cantina “Tor di Lupo” Sauvignon Blanc 2006, a wine the pourer called a CRU wine, was quite interesting. While it was nicely crisp & fresh with a citrusy palate like a good Sauvignon Blanc should be, it was the nose that really stood out for me. Yes, it had that nice grassy smell, but interestingly this was more of a brown grass or even hay smell. Probably not for everyone, as many might prefer the fresh cut GREEN grass, but I enjoyed it for its uniqueness.
Another Sauvignon Blanc, the 2006 “Palladium” by K. Martini & Sohn was similarly unique. Again, the crisp acidity and freshness was there, but this may be the first time I think I really smelled the apparently desirable cat’s pee. To me it was more reminiscent of the kitty litter in my parents house growing up, but the unique aromas were interesting and as such made it a wine I gave more though to.
The Muri-Gries Estate & Monastery Wine Cellar (how would you like to be the person to answer the phone at that place?) 2007 Muller Thurgau was another interesting wine. Like some of the others it had a sweet smell to it, reminiscent of honey & melon. But there was more there & as I kept swirling and smelling a new scent came out. SWEET BUBBLE GUM. WOW. I typically don’t go for that artificial sweet smell/flavor, but it really suited this wine. On the palate it was nice & round and well balanced. I definitely recommend seeking this one out. BUT, do it SOON! I had the 2006 version of this wine and it was nothing like its younger sister. It could have been vintage variation, but it could also be that this wine MUST be drunk young!!
Finally, a wine from a winery whose wines I really enjoyed (several standouts from this winery). On the white side, the 2006 “Amistar” Gewurztraminer from the Peter Solva & Sohne winery was very interesting. The truth is that it was one of the few wines that I thought was a tad flabby and could have used a bit more acidity. But the nose….WOW. There was some nice melon and pear, but what got to me was the smell of BATHROOM AIR FRESHNER.
On the red side of things there were Some Cabernet’s, some Merlot, a few Cab Francs & some Pinot Neros (AKA Pinot Noir), but there were also a lot of “Lagrein” and some “Schiava” , both of which I knew nothing about before the tasting but are apparently native varieties (the Schiava is said to account for 30% of total vineyard area in Alto Adige). And then of course there were some blends. I was impressed by a lot of the wines, and would like to mention a few standouts.
I’d like to start with an unusual red. A red dessert wine. I’m not typically a fan of sweet reds as they generally remind me of a poorly made port. So when I approached a table and was offered a “Moscato Rosa” I was hesitant. I ended up trying two of them by different producers, but the Abbazia Di Novacella “Praepositus” Moscato Rosa 2006 was a wonderful surprise. I would guess that this Red Moscato is a relative to the White Moscato (or Muscat) grape, which is known as a white grape that when fermented actually smells like grape (while most grape wines smell of fruit other than grape). Back to the Praepositus, it had a nice almost port like smell, but what impressed me most was that it was not overpoweringly sweet on the palate. It had a nice smooth, round subtle elegance to it. Certainly something I will keep a more open mind to in the future.
The Laimburg Winery “Selyet” Pinot Nero Riserva 2004 was a standout at a table of reserve Pinots. I was only fortunate enough to taste 4 of the 8 Pinot’s at this table, but to me this was the one. It had a very lite red almost pink orange color and had a very soft earthy & minerally smell. No fruit – and that TO ME is a good thing with this varietal. I have not been enamored by the fruit forward style done with Pinot Noir as it comes off as artificial to me. Some people love it, and to them I say CHEERS! Just not my bag baby! Anyway, the “Selyet” was real elegant possessing a nice range of foresty flavors and aroma’s such as earth, mud & pine. It did have a touch of heat at the end, but it had enough acidity that I am sure it will age gracefully and some (if not all) of that heat will dissipate.
The other red reserve table was a table of Lagreins (the native varietal referred to earlier). I tasted 8 of the 11 Lagreins at the table and they were all very nice. All had nice fruit, good minerality and a rich color and body. The K Martini & Sohn “Maturum” Lagrein Reserva 2005 stood out to me as it seemed to have the most distinct nose and was more fruit driven on the palate than the other Lagreins. Much like the Pinot I enjoyed, this Lagrein possessed earthy, foresty & piney aroma’s. Interestingly enough on the palate it was nice and round and very fruit driven, but not overpoweringly so. And this stood out to me as most of the other Lagreins seemed to be more minerally & acidic.
The Laimburg Province Winery made a few wines I really enjoyed. One in particular was a blend – their “Col de Rey” IGT 2003. This blend of 20% Tannat (a grape originally from SW France), 30% Petit Verdot (a Bordeaux varietal) and 50% Lagrein was very nice. A variety of dried & jammy fruit on the nose led to a rich and silky wine with very well integrated tannins (that can still use some softening) and a nice long finish.
I stayed to the bitter end (no pun intended) of this event and I am glad I did. My first go around there were too many people at the Peter Solva & Sohne table and so I skipped it. Right around 6PM, as many of the tables were being broken down I noticed that the gentleman pouring wines for Solva was still there so I went over and told him of the earlier crowds that scared me away. He was warm and offered to walk me through his wines. WHAT A TREAT. I have already mentioned their Gewertztraminer which had that interesting bathroom air freshener smell to it. I then tried the Schiava which was light and didn’t really do anything for me. But from there I tasted 4 more of their wines and enjoyed each one more than the next. After the Schiava I tried their “DeSilva” Lagrein 2006. It was a light Lagrein but what stood out was more than the earthy or minerally nose that many of the others possessed. This one had depth and as I was smelling it I was struck – cow manure! OK, a weird descriptor and one that read by most would not seem appealing but I must admit that it stood out and made the wine more interesting to me.
I then was offered their “Amistar” Cabernet Franc 2005. Most Cabernet Francs that I have had, or even wines that have just a touch of Cab Franc in them, don’t suit my taste. Again, there are many people who think I am nuts, but Cab Franc generally has a distinct green bell pepper aroma & flavor to it that some people absolutely flip for. Not me. Hey, some guys like blonds, me not as much. But the “Amistar” Cab Franc… BAM! Possibly my favorite 100% Cab Franc EVER. NO GREEN PEPPER. Now I detect Cab Franc in Bordeaux wines that only have 5-10% Cab Franc. And I detect it because of how little I like the green herbaceousness it omits. There was truly none of that in this wine. It was late and I did not take such great notes, but I do vividly remember being blown away by the fact that I found a Cab Franc with no green pepper that i really enjoyed. If any of you have the same feeling about green bell pepper in Cab Franc I STRONGLY recommend you find this wine and try it out.
The last wine I want to mention from this tasting (finally, he’ll shut up!) was also from Peter Solva & Sohne – the Amistar Rosso. There was a 2004 Rossa and a 2003 “Edizione” Rossa that i took to be a reserve as it had the same unique blend as the regular Rosso but was given some new oak while the Rossa I think had mostly (if not all) used oak. The other difference I was told was that the Edizione Rossa had a higher percentage of fruit which was late harvested. i thought this was quite interesting. They harvest their fruit at different times and consequently get different attributes & flavors from the fruit. The 5 varietals used in this blend were Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Merlot (30%), Lagrein (30%), Petit Verdot (5%) and Cab Franc (5%). I guess the Alto Adige version of Bordeaux as they used 4 of the 5 Bordeaux varietals and replaced the 5th (Malbec) with the local Lagrein. This wine had HUGE tannins! It was a very BIG wine. But is was also quite silky and although I had to be dragged out of the building at this point I did note 2 stars (more than the 1 I usually note for wines of interest) and managed to write “Wow” & “interesting” in my notes for the wine.
In all this was a very nice tasting. It was a nice crowd, but not too crowded. They had some food tables with cheese, bread, crackers & some dips to either re-awaken or completely mess up the tasters palates. There was sufficient time to taste through most of the wines. The pourers were all quite knowledgeable – and when they couldn’t answer a question there was a winemaker not too far away. And the wines, many of which I did not think were of great distinction, were all quite enjoyable. Yet I just spent all this time writing this blog post as clearly there were enough wines that did in fact stand out in my mind.
So the next time you are considering broadening your wine horizons think about the Alto Adige region of Italy and try a Lagrein or one of the other wines made here. I’m sure you will be happy you did!
Happy Italian wine tasting!