Falling in Love With Alto Adige

By Antonio Galloni

Despite boasting breathtaking scenery, great wines of all kinds, equally world-class restaurants and hotels, and some of the best skiing on the planet, Alto Adige remains largely unknown to Americans, which is a shame. Wine and food lovers who want to see another side of Italy beyond the usual stops should seriously consider a visit to Alto Adige, one of the most pristine collection of small villages and pastoral settings anywhere in the world.

I first became attracted to Alto Adige and its wines through Burton Anderson’s A Wine Atlas of Italy, a book that remains a seminal contribution to Italian wine. My first visit to Alto Adige was in early 2001. I was an expat living in Milan. My employer at the time, a large financial services company, had a number of clients in Trentino and Alto Adige. We started our day with meetings in Trento, a jewel of a city in its own right. Beautiful. But Trento still feels like Italy. A few miles to the north, Bolzano is another world. Here the default language is German, or Ladino, the local dialect. Italian is spoken, but it is a bit like English in Miami. You get the idea. We had dinner at Vögele, a simple trattoria, and stayed at the Laurin, a stately, old-fashioned hotel in the center of town. It snowed overnight, and when I opened the window in the morning what I saw looked like a fairy tale. I was hooked. Let’s just say that after that first trip I found every reason I could to visit my clients in and around Bolzano and Merano! Since then, I have gone back many times, and always discovered something new.

Most of the whites I tasted for this report are 2011s. It is a difficult vintage for whites, as the warm weather and precocious harvest resulted in wines that lack varietal definition and that are on the heavy side. My suggestion is to drink the 2011s upon release. Although it is too soon to taste most of the reds, warm vintages are much more favorable in Alto Adige than in many other regions around the world. The first 2011 reds I have tasted are exuberant and powerful, in the best sense of those descriptors.

I have added a few wines from Trento, which is a separate region from Alto Adige, in this report for ease of reference. Lastly, for various reasons this report is appearing much later than I would have liked. Readers can expect that timely coverage of Alto Adige will resume later this year.