The white Kerner grape has been around since 1929, when a German grape breeder created a cross between Riesling and Schiava (see below). Its name honors Justinus Kerner, a medical doctor and poet whose work featured prominent wine references. Today, Kerner grows in Germany and Austria but truly thrives in Alto Adige’s northernmost subregion, a narrow Alpine valley known as the Valle Isarco. Nössing’s rendition is pure as a breath of brisk mountain air, with a crystalline stoniness recalling one thousand jagged Dolomite peaks.
Having traded hands multiple times between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Alto Adige has more than a little bit of Germanic heritage. Maybe it’s the northern blood, or perhaps it’s the perpetual need to stay warm at stratospheric Alpine elevations, but the Sudtirolese, as they are known, are notable guzzlers, be it crisp local beer, aromatic mountain whites, or reds from the Schiava grape. This variety produces wines intended for slight chilling and major quaffing, and few have mastered it quite like the father-daughter team of Ferruccio and Michela Carlotto. If schnitzel is not to your taste, gulp down this bright, delicate rosso with a simple cheese plate, artisanal co-op pizza of the day, or Korean bibimbap.
If you read much wine journalism nowadays, you will be bombarded with so-called experts telling you what’s hot, what’s up-and-coming, what’s no longer cool, which producers are has-beens, and which novel grapes are absolutely worthy of your paycheck. While such professional advice certainly has its merits and may lead you to new discoveries, the wine hipness-o-meter has its flaws, too: all it takes is a flashback to the eighties to see that some trends do more harm than good (anybody not named MC Hammer should lay off the Hammer pants). All this noise can overcomplicate your drinking decisions, and you could miss out on gems like this unusual Bordeaux blend from a precipitous, high-altitude limestone site in the heart of the Dolomites. Its tender, rich, dark fruit is perfectly framed by Germanic restraint and chewy Napa Mountain–style tannins. Where that puts it on the coolness scale I can’t say, but it is hard to go wrong with this combination of stunning terroir, noble grapes, and masterful vinification.