The wines of Trentino

The wines of Trentino

by Marco Rossi 13 May 2016

Marco Rossi heads to the mountains of north Italy to learn more about the winemakers of Trentino, who tend to vineyards planted on sloping hillsides and alongside vast lakes.

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Based across Italy, London and Copenhagen, Marco is a globetrotting sommelier and wine marketeer with a particular passion for Italian wine, particularly those from Tuscany.

Based across Italy, London and Copenhagen, Marco is a globetrotting sommelier and wine marketeer with a particular passion for wine, particularly Tuscan and acidic varieties. He spends his time blogging, lecturing and spreading the word about Italian wines around the world.

Put your best coat on, as we are heading to the Dolomites for a trip around some of the highest and most elegant vineyards of Italy. You might have already heard about the small skiing region in the north of the country called Trentino-Alto Adige, but whenever we talk about this area you should be aware that we are talking about two distinct territories that once were politically separated and only during recent times became a single unit.

I will focus on Trentino-Alto Adige as if it was still divided, respecting the identities and traditions regarding folklore and language but most of all the winemaking and food of both areas. One thing that’s common to both areas is the importance of the Adige river and the lakes that create spectacular microclimates, as well as the natural landscape and healthy lifestyle of the locals.

Once you reach the top of one of the mountains that make up Trentino's landscape, you will be enraptured by the pure sunlight that covers everything – a sunlight that moves around the panorama hand-in-hand with the amazing silence, interrupted only by the sound of the ‘Peler’ wind in the morning and the ‘Ora’ wind during the afternoon.

You might not know that Trentino is home to what many call Italian Champagne, as some of the bottles coming from this region are made following the metodo classico and considered among the best in the world. Just rush to your favourite wine bar and get yourself a bottle of Giulio Ferrari or Riserva del Fondatore – now you can start dreaming of Trentino while reading about its mountains, vineyards, colourful forests and fresh rivers.

You would think that the wine production of such an enchanting and complex region would need to be protected with an adequate number of denominations, but surprisingly there are no DOCG wines at all. However, the eight DOC appellations cover around two-thirds of the total wine production. Some of the DOCs like Trento, Teroldego, Rotaliano and Casteller are quite well known while others like Terradeiforti don't have a huge appeal on international markets because it can be hard to find bottles outside of the local area.

Most important DOCs

Trento (most of the area close to Trento)

Let's start right away with the Italian Champagne! The chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinto Blanc metodo classico coming from Trento DOC are something really special, amazingly elegant and fresh. In 1850 some local producers started a ‘soft’ production of metodo classico in the area, but it is Giulio Ferrari and his vineyard San Michele Appiano (founded in 1874) who we need to thank for Trentino’s unique and crisp sparkling wines.

In 1902, after one of his several trips to France, Giulio came back with the intuition that the Champagne terroir was not so different from that of Trento's hills and mountains. At the time it seemed like a crazy idea, but in 1993 the first metodo classico Italian DOC became a reality and achieved international fame.

  • Visual: light yellow colour with numerous amazingly small and fine bubbles
  • Bouquet: yeasty clear notes, as expected from a great metodo classico, with quite mature fruit flavours ranging from golden apple to the exotic and a great elegant impact thanks to the rising of the carbon dioxide trapped in the glass
  • Taste: Fresh and dynamic thanks to the foam created by the bubbles; quite soft and round so at the end it is really well balanced and has a great aromatic persistence
  • Pairing: it is so elegant that it works well with any shellfish, delicate white meat and some of Trentino’s fresh cheeses

Must try:

Traditional: Ferrari – Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Trento DOC

New Wave: Moser – 51, 151 Brut Trento DOC

Teroldego Rotaliano (the Campo Rotaliano area, including the municipality of Mezzolombardo, Mezzacorona and a portion of San Michele all'Adige)

This area is the exact opposite of what we have been describing so far – it is neither on a mountain or on a hill, produced on flat land with a totally different and unique terroir instead. Compared to Trento DOC, this area is more for the reds as the soil provides more structure and body to the wines leaving behind a bit of elegance but conquering palates with the interesting characteristics of the only grape variety allowed: Teroldego. This area is really famous thanks to one of the most important figures of the natural wine scene, the queen of Dolomites, Elisabetta Foradori (although her wines are now focusing on IGTs).

  • Visual: garnet red, especially when aged in wood barrels
  • Bouquet: amazingly fine and elegant with notes of red fruit jam and violet and mineral aromas
  • Taste: quite fresh at the beginning until the softness of Teroldego rears its head and reveals the quite high alcohol content. The tannins are never too aggressive and the wine is quite persistent with a slightly bitter finish
  • Pairing: wild game, red meat and aged cheese

Must try:

Traditional: Foradori – Granato (1999) Teroldego Rotaliano DOC

New Wave: Villa Corniole – Petra Montis Teroldego Rotaliano DOC

The city of Trento is surrounded by vineyards dedicated to making sparkling wine
Pink and grey grapes
Many of the grapes grown in Trentino are pink and grey rather than red and white

Trentino (province of Trentino)

This is one of the oldest regional DOCs and has been around since 1971. It is quite focused on blending international varieties with local ones in order to achieve high standards of quality. The appellation forces producers to make wine using only two varieties and at least twenty-five percent of one of the two. On the other hand, the winemakers can access a wide range of varieties to select from.

  • Red: Lagrein Dunkel
  • Visual: intense thick and dark red
  • Bouquet: quite fruity with small red fruit aromas leading to a slight minerality and dark cherry jam when aged
  • Taste: soft and round with a nice structure and rich tannins
  • Pairing: Pasta with mushrooms, white meat and roasted veal
  • White: Nosiola
  • Visual: pale light yellow and vibrant
  • Bouquet: pleasant floral aroma and yellow fruit, quite delicate and not too intense
  • Taste: quite fresh on the palate without being too persistent, finishing with a slight hazelnut aftertaste just like the name indicates (Nosiola means hazelnut)
  • Pairing: fish, oysters, crudités, vegetables, Grana Padano, trout.

Must try:

Traditional: Maso Poli – Nosiola Trentino DOC

New Wave: Bellaveder – Mansur Lagrein Dunkel Riserva Trentino DOC

Trentino vineyard
Some of Trentino's vineyards can be found 600 metres above sea level
DOC wines
There are no DOCG wines in the region – but eight DOCs cover two-thirds of all wine production

Most important IGTs

Just like in Veneto, to make Trentino even more appealing we have three interregional IGTs. Among these there is almost an infinite number of varieties that can be used. As I’ve already mentioned, some important producers like Elisabetta Foradori are shifting from DOC to IGT, so it goes without saying that we will be hearing more and more about these appellations in the future.

Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Bianco

  • Visual: pale yellow with a great light reflection
  • Bouquet: white and yellow mature fruits along with dry fruit aromas
  • Taste: quite a surprise as the acidity leads to a really high minerality
  • Pairing: vegetables and fish, but goes best with an asparagus risotto

Must try:

Traditional: Vignaiolo Fanti – Isidor Incrocio Manzoni Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Bianco

New Wave: Filanda de Boron – Solaris Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Bianco

Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Rosso

  • Visual: ruby red with a shade of purple coming from the blend with Lagrein grapes
  • Bouquet: quite intense with red berry aromas, a hint of violet and a rising note of spice
  • Taste: quite dry and fresh with soft tannins but quite persistent thanks to the structure and ‘power’ of Lagrein grapes
  • Pairing: carne salada and local charcuterie

Must try:

Traditional: Poser e Sandri – Faye Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Rosso

New Wave: Cembrani – 708 Km Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT Rosso