Tasting Report: Alto Adige Wines

Alto Adige? You’re not alone if you’ve never heard of this region, one of the smallest in Italy, a remote area just south of Austria nestled against the Alps.

The mountain vineyards up here produce all manner of grapes, including traditional Italian fruit like pinot bianco and pinot grigio, and a whole lot of stuff you’ve probably never tried: kerner and, what you can’t escape in Alto Adige, lagrein (pronounced la-grine) — described as a combination of cabernet franc and merlot. I found it often has a distinct licorice character.

Of the 30 wines I tasted at a recent gathering of Alto Adige producers, quality was mixed. Enjoyed Abbazia di Novacella’s Kerner quite a bit, and found Colterenzio’s (pricey) lineup probably the best overall in the tasting. Are consumers going to spend $60 on sauvignon blanc from an area they’ve never heard of? You be the judge.

Be advised that many of these wines aren’t available in the U.S. and, if they are, in very limited quantities.

Complete notes follow.

Alto Adige Tasting Report

2008 Abbazia di Novacella Valle Isarco Pinot Grigio DOC / $24 / B / odd nose, biscuity

2008 Abbazia di Novacella Valle Isarco Kerner DOC / $24 / A / racy, good acidity

2007 Terlano Suauvignon Blanc Quarz / $55 / B+ / big peach character, but an off finish

2005 Terlano Nova Domus Terlaner Riserva / $55 / B

2008 Cantina Bolzano Pinot Grigio DOC / $18 / A-

2008 Cantina Bolzano Lagrein Perl DOC / $24 / B- / thinner

2007 Cantina Bolzano Lagrein Riserva Prestige / $44 / B

2008 Colterenzio Sauvignon Lafoa / $62 / A- / rocky and tart

2007 Colterenzio Chardonnay Formigar / $58 / A- / light oak, buttery

2008 Colterenzio Lagrein Classic / $18 / B- / licorice is huge

2003 Colterenzio Cornelius / $59 / A- / fresh, new style winemaking

2009 Cortaccia Lagrein Rose DOC / $15 / B+ / enjoyable and easy

2005 Cortaccia Lagrein Freienfeld DOC / $33 / B- / smoky nose, thin body

2006 Alois Lageder Pinot Noir Krafuss / $45 / B+

2007 H. Lun Moscato Giallo Passito Sandbichier / $75 / A / amazing wine

2006 Manincor Chardonnay Sophie / $40 / A- / buttery, nice

2007 Manincor Pinot Noir Mason / $60 / A- / rich and porty

2005 Manincor Merlot Castel Campan / $75 / C- / barnyard overload

2005 Muri-Greis Lagrein Riserva Abtei Muri DOC / $33 / B+ / inky, chocolate

2008 Castel Sallegg Moscato Giallo DOC / $23 / B / traditional

2007 Castel Sallegg Lagrein Riserva DOC / $30 / A- / herbal, nice balance

2008 Tiefenbrunner Sauvignon Kirchleiten / $30 / B+ / Gewurz like

2006 Tiefenbrunner Lagrein Riserva Linticlarus / $30 / A- / herbal

2008 Tramin Pinot Grigio Unterebner DOC / $31 / A- / more Gewurz character

2008 Tramin Gewurztraminer Nussbaumer DOC / $40 / B-

2008 Cantina Valle Isarco Valle Isarco Veitliner Aristos / $25 / A-

2008 Cantina Valle Isarco Valle Isarco Kerner Aristos / $28 / B+

2008 Cantina Valle Isarco Pinot Nero / $22 / C+

2008 Elena Walch Pinot Grigio Selezione DOC / $18 / A- / very tart

2008 Elena Walch Gewurztraminer Selezione DOC / $28 / B

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