This month #ItalianFWT is traveling to Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy to explore the great food, wine, culture and activities in this beautiful region. As you can see from the WineCountry.it map, Trentino-Alto Adige is located in the northeast corner of Italy; boarded by Switzerland and Austria to its north with Veneto and Lombardy to its south east and south west respectively. Trentino-Alto Adige was annexed into Italy in 1919; furthermore, due to the heavy influence of Austria and Switzerland in this region many of those who live here speak German as well as Italian. Here you will find a beautiful amalgamation of Slavic and Italian cultures, as well illustrated in the food of the region.
The Slavic influence on the Trentino-Alto Adige cuisine is evident through their high consumption of potatoes, apples, cabbage, mushrooms, dumplings, cheese, pork and fresh water fish; as well as traditional Italian fare such as tomatoes, pasta and olive oils. Additionally, beer is frequently consumed as the beverage of choice in this region. A prominent food of this region is Speck, a dry-cured, lightly smoked ham. Speck is very specifically made and protected by the EU. I found to look like Prosciutto but it has a much smokier flavor and taste. In addition to a delicious variety of food and beer, Trentino-Alto Adige produces excellent wine. In researching this article I came across an excellent article called “Deep Within the Dolomites” by Monica Larner for Wine Spectator. If you would like to learn more about Trentino-Alto Adige I recommend you read the article.
Trentino-Alto Adige is broken into two regions: Trentino is the southernmost region, capital city Trento and Alto Adige is the northern part of the region with the highest elevations, capital city Bolzano. (As a church historian I would be amiss if I failed to highlight Trentino as one of two host cities (Bologna being the other) of the Council of Trent, an ecumenical council held between 1545-1563 by the Roman Catholic Church to address the Protestant Reformations as well as craft its own counter-reformation.) Last December in my article, “The Holidays Sparkle with #WinePW,” I shared with you the best sparkling wine I had all last year: Ferrari Perle 2007 Blanc de Blanc DOC. Ferrari is one of Italy’s premier producer of luxury Metodo Classico sparkling wine and they are located in Trentino. This wine was so fantastic I even contacted the Gregory White PR seeking assistance to find this wine in Dallas. Thanks to Giulio Ferrari, Trentino is the largest vineyard zone for Chardonnay in Italy.
Another large wine producer in Trentino is Mezzacorona. I reviewed the Mezzacorona Dolomite 2012 Pinot Grigio in one of the first articles I wrote for this blog titled, “Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio California Living Style.” It was a crisp, refreshing wine grown in the Dolomites offering a basket of fresh orchard fruit with great acidity. Mezzacorona, like Ferrari, is a well know wine making name, synonymous with quality. Their wines are well distributed globally.
Because I had enjoyed these two outstanding wines from the Trentino region I sought to find wine that was from the Alto-Adige region for this article. When seeking lesser distributed Italian wines I always head to my favorite local Italian grocery store and market: Jimmy’s Food Store. Jimmy’s merchandises their Italian wines by regions so it makes easy to explore the wine regions of Italy.
In researching this article I was introduced to two unfamiliar grapes: Shiava and Lagrein. Shiava (Vernatsch in German) produces a light wine that is low in tannins, moderate in alcohol content, comparable to a Zinfandel without the earthiness. Winefolly calls it a “great gateway drug to old world wines.” Lagrein is an ancient vine (early 1500’s) that is older than Cabernet Sauvignon and is one of the leading red varieties of Alto Adige. This low production, hard to find wine carries some weight and ages as well as Barbara. It’s known for its rich, velvety texture and low acidity with notes of red fruit and violets. Here is what I thought of these two wines:
Kaltern Caldaro Campaner Schiava DOC 2013: This wine poured a delicate ruby red into the glass and opened with inviting aromas of floral notes, soft red berries and watermelon with a hint of spice. On the palate this light and lively wine delivered flavors of ripe strawberries, raspberries and a touch of watermelon, with roses and violets, ending with soft notes of baking spices. It was delicate and soft yet full of flavor. Though the acidity was light it was not sweet so the structure held up well and it provided a full mouth feel. It offered a slightly dry, lingering finish. It was easy drinking and super pleasing. I am thrilled to find another beautiful grape to enjoy. 12.5% alcohol. SRP $18-20.
Kaltern Caldaron Lagrein DOC 2012: This wine poured a deep maroon into the glass and opened with rich aromas of dark berries, earthiness and spice. On the palate this brooding wine delivered flavors of blackberries, black raspberries, cranberries and black plums; with pepper, tobacco, charred cedar spice box, nutmeg, espresso and tobacco. It offered a full mouth feel, full body, silky texture and a dry lingering finish. The acidity was high yet well balanced with the tannins for a truly pleasing wine. This wine was much more like the full body Italian reds I frequently enjoy. Another new varietal winner for me! Please note I allowed this wine to breathe two hours before I sipped it. SRP $13. SRP $20-23.
Look a the difference in color of these two lovely wines:
I chose to pair these wines with a dish reflecting the cross-cultural influences of Trentino-Alto Adige. Since dumplings are prominent in this region I chose to make a gnocchi dish. Furthermore, dairy is very prominent and Asiago is one of the cheeses of this region I could find I hoped to top the gnocchi with an Asiago cream sauce. However, the sauce was way too salty I scraped it and chose a lighter option: Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Veneto region, with shaved Asiago cheese, chopped fried (like bacon) Speck and fresh oregano. It was simple yet delicious. The soft dough pillows were the perfect bed for the salty cheese, delicate EVOO, peppery saltiness of the Speck and zest of the oregano. The Shiava was a perfect pairing for the light, flavorful meal. The multitude of flavors blended beautifully with the Shiava and due to its delicateness it did not overpower the meal. The Lagrein was a bit bold for the delicate dish but paired beautifully with the crisp, peppery, smoky Speck! The Lagrein needs to be paired with a bold dish for balance.
Kaltern Caldaro is a producer co-operative of small wine producers in the Alto Adige region. This co-operative was developed in 1906 to protect and provide economic stability to the 1,000+ small wine growers (most possessing less than one hectare) around Lake Kaltern. For many of these winemakers it was impossible for them to produce and market their own wines; thus making the co-op an economic necessity. I visited one of the co-ops in Valpolicella as well. They were producing high quality wines while protecting the wine makers and providing them access to new technologies, winemaking techniques and wider marketability for the wines. It is a win/win.
The Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy looks beautiful and quite diverse. It is the perfect spot for skiers in the winter and touring castles in the summer. The terrain is gorgeous and the culture so eclectic. I hope to travel to Trentino-Alto Adige someday to explore the local culture, food and wine. Have you been to Trentino Alto-Adige?
Please be sure and read my fellow #ItalianFWT writers have to share this month on Trentino-Alto Adige.
Vino Travels – Canederli & Muller Thurgau of Trento
FoodWineClick – Trentino-Alto Adige is Different: Goulash and Teroldego
Orna O’Reilly – The Italian Dolomites: A Foodie’s Paradise
Enofylz Wine Blog – A Taste of Alto Adige – Cantina Terlano Classico
Cooking Chat – Italian wine with Indian Curry
The Palladian Traveler – Under Doctor’s Orders in the Trentino
Please join us live on Twitter today and throughout the weekend at #ItalianFWT to chat about the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Furthermore, please check #ItalianFWT throughout the month as well for additional blogs on Italian food, wine and travel. Please join us next for next month’s #ItalianFWT on April 4 featuring Sicily.
My Song Selection: These two wines were nothing alike, so selecting a song to represent them both was tricky. If you will allow me a little leeway (as all my song selections are subjective anyway), the song I have chosen to pair with these two lovely wines is Lovesong of the Buzzard by Iron and Wine. I chose this song because it has a pleasantly soft rhythm and melody, yet Samuel Beam’s sultry raspy voice brings a richer element to the song. Similarly, the Kaltern Shiava was light and refreshing and the Kaltern Lagrein was dark, more sultry and smoldering. I feel this song brings these two wines together in harmony. Works for me; what do you think?
Hope you enjoy this Trentino-Alto Adige wining and dining adventure. Doesn’t it look like a lovely place to visit? Get your own Trentino-Alto Adige adventure and Kaltern wines and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!