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Wine Review: Alto Adige of Italy worthy of mention in wine world

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Sauerbraten, bratwurst, spaetzle, kartoffelpuffer and sachlich all are great examples of fine Italian cooking. No, I have not gone mad. These and many more Germanic foods are the usual fare of the Italian population of northeastern Italy’s Alto Adige.

Once part of Austria, the area was ceded to Italy as reparations after World War I, but, like the French Alsace-Lorraine, the language and customs remained German along with the food and wine.

A problem did arise that, in the past, Alto Adige was noted for its fine white wines, but their reds were no competition to the incredible red wines of central Italy. How, they wondered, could they enjoy their heavy German dishes with a white wine?

The region’s vintners began to experiment with as many red grapes as they could find that grew well at the foothills of the Alps. Some of the grape varieties they found were right there in their backyard, but no one had made wine from them in decades. It took a while, but slowly and steadily their red wines came up to their expectations and then even surpassed them.

Today, their red wines are climbing in popularity and reintroducing varieties that were little known outside their northern Italian enclave. I would like to introduce some of these interesting red wines of Alto Adige to you.

Burgum Novum 2016 Pinot Nero Reserva ($58)
Pinot nero is the Italian name for the pinot noir, and this wine is the darkest pinot noir that I have yet to encounter. Besides the color, this wine could be considered a pinot noir on steroids as it displays its varietal attributes loudly and clearly. The aroma is laced with plum, dark summer berries, raisin, cranberry, tobacco, licorice and a smoky oak aroma. The flavor follows the aroma and then continues on to the finish, which is full flavored and long lasting. There can be no question: This is a wine to remember.

Tiefenbrunner 2018 Lagrien ($32)
Lagrien is an ancient red grape variety long forgotten by the wine world but still growing at the foothills of the Alps. This wine, too, is a dark ruby and presents the aroma of cherries, cranberries, plum and violets. The flavor reflects dark summer fruits of every description, as does the extra fruity, long finish. This wine offers the wine lover the taste of an ancient grape variety and a chance to expand your wine vista.

Alois Lageder 2018 Schiava ($16)
This is another ancient and almost forgotten variety from one of the top wineries of Alto Adige. This wine, too, is dark in color, which seems to be a characteristic of all the red wines of the district. The Alois Lageder 2018 Schiava, however, takes off in a totally different flavor and aroma direction. The aroma of this wine is a berry basket full of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and probably a few berry varieties we have never heard of. The flavor mirrors the aroma, as does the finish.

Tiefenbrunner 2019 Pinot Grigio ($16)
One cannot leave any discussion of Alto Adige wines without mentioning the incredible pinot grigio wines that come from the region. It seems that the alpine location also blesses the grapes with extraordinary flavor and aroma. It is hard to believe the depth of the flavors and aroma in the Tiefenbrunner 2019 Pinot Grigio. This is a soft, straw-colored wine with a rich fruity bouquet and a lively flavor. While the wine is dry, the flavor and aroma of the grape variety is presented right up front, giving the impression of sweetness. The aroma of summer fruits, most specifically apricots and pears, is presented in huge amounts. The flavor is crisp and has a raisin-like quality coupled with the acid bite of limes, all of which carry over to the finish, which is long, clean and fresh. This is a wine that should not be overlooked.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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