Records show proof of Pinot Noir being grown in Alto Adige as far back as the mid-nineteenth century. In 1866, one thirsty scholar commented,
“The grape Clevner (Blauer Burgunder) introduced to Middle Tyrol (Alto Adige) generally yields an excellent product, a wine that can stand next to any French Burgundy. . . . Blauer Burgunder, also called Clevner, is a variety that merits much attention and which should be disseminated as much as possible.”
The subzone of Mazzon, south of Bolzano, proved an especially propitious site, with its mix of Alpine and Mediterranean climates, gentle west-facing slope, and soils of limestone and marl. Today, Michela Carlotto is one of Mazzon’s foremost proponents. Uncork this delicate Alpine red tonight to see that grand cru Pinot Noir doesn’t have to come from France.
Feruccio Carlotto and his daughter Michela farm a tiny estate of several hectares in the Alto-Adige town of Ora, south of Bolzano. The special of this village is Lagrein, a red grape that is native to the region. They chose to produce only one Lagrein Riserva that is aged in large oak casks. They also make a small amount of Pinot Nero that is made in a very fine, elegant style, with a feathery touch. We were pleasantly surprised when we were able to talk the Carlottos into selling us a pallet for the United States. Unfortunately there are not much of these finely crafted beauties to go around but if you can get your hands on a few cases, you will be experiencing some of the best of what Alto Adige has to offer the wine world.
In the heart of the Dolomites, Alto Adige is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Having changed hands multiples times in its history between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (it shares a border with Austria), it boasts strong Germanic influence on its culture, language, cuisine, as well as its wines.
The mountainous geography is the principal determinant of local winemaking styles, with the high-altitude vineyards and cool Alpine climate favoring primarily crisp, racy, aromatic whites from varieties like Kerner, Sauvignon, Müller Thurgau, and Grüner Veltliner. A Mediterranean influence on climate is channeled north up the valley until Bolzano, permitting the cultivation of certain reds as well, among which Schiava, Lagrein, Pinot Nero, and Merlot fare best.
Small growers who once sold fruit to the area’s multiple co-ops are now increasingly bottling their own wines. The arrival of many quality-oriented artisans on the scene caught our eye years ago, and we now count three estates from Südtirol, as it is also known, in our portfolio. These high-acid mountain wines make for a beautifully invigorating aperitivo with thinly sliced speck, a local specialty.
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