Trentino wine: A salute to the men in the cliffs.
Italy makes more wine than any other nation. People grow grapes in every corner, around the country’s twenty regions. Styles vary differ too, the structured reds of Tuscany might not taste like the hearty, age-worthy wines of Piedmont; and the crisp, bubbly Prosecco might be nothing like the white wines enjoyed in Rome, but Italian wine has something in common, passionate people behind it.
Some wines might seem lesser Italian, and it’s because some places are more like their neighbouring countries than Italy itself. The Trentino wine from Alto-Adige region, deep north, tucked into the Alps, has more of an Austrian feel, a profound Germanic Influence that you can taste in the wines.
Trentino wine from Alto-Adige is a harsh place, made up of valley’s that curl their way deep into the Alps, this place has cold winters, but summers might be severe; few clouds and a warm breeze that climbs up the slopes makes the region warmer than you’d expect. There’s a little place to plant vines, so winegrowers work the foothills which are sometimes quite steep.
The Adige River runs north to south, dissecting the region. Fed by its tributaries, the river flows from the high peaks of the Alps to the Lake Garda below. The vines thrive along that road to make a myriad of wine styles, all world-class examples of good winemaking and exceptional terroir.
Native red grapes like Lagrein, Marzemino or Schiava have given the world a refreshing take on red wine, and they’re usually high quality. Other international varieties like Merlot and Pinot Noir can be found too.
Today, its white grapes dominating Alto Adige’s vineyards from which Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are the most popular. High altitudes and low average year temperatures are more suited to ripen white grapes, and the demand for alpine, fresh, mineral whites is historically high.
The Azienda Agricola Pelz is a notable winery in the region, it’s Pinot Nero is sold in the most important markets, but talent abounds. Many other producers, mostly winegrower cooperatives, like Cantina Terlano, and family-owned operations like the Fratelli Lunelli Ferrari winery or the perfectionist Alois Lageder produce incredible wine every season.
Growing grapes in the mountains are not for the faint-hearted; heroic viticulture it’s called, especially to the practice of tending the vines in slopes with angles higher than 30%. Vines planted on lofty terraces or embankments are hard to prune, train, and harvest.
Newer generations are not keen on such hard work, notably in today’s competitive wine market. These conditions endanger the precipitous sites, source of some of the best wines in the country, making them a must-visit when in the province.
Trentino Alto Adige will live on. There are generations of passionate grape growers and winemakers ready for the task, and they don’t seem to slow down. Let’s hope the pure wines of Trentino Alto-Adige live long, even if that means paying a premium for the heroic work of the people in the mountains.