What’s the most representative grape variety from Alto Adige?
It’s a very hard choice.
We have already seen that Alto Adige is very fragmented. There are different microclimate conditions, allowing for the cultivation of many grape varieties.
Pinot Noir is one of the most famous. It’s the second most grown black variety in Alto Adige. The first is Schiava (Vernatsch).
Pinot Noir from Alto Adige can result in fine and elegant wines.
You know very well how the altitude influences the style of the wines made with this black grape variety. Now, we are going more in-depth about the characteristics of Pinot Noir from Alto Adige. Thus you can also recognise it during a blind tasting.
Are you ready?
Pinot Noir is known among winemakers as “black beast” because it’s not easy to grow.
It’s an early budding variety so spring frost can be a problem. The grape also ripens early, therefore Pinot Noir is not suitable in regions that are too warm. It has a thin skin, which makes it prone to diseases such as grey rot, powdery and downy mildew.
Its bunches are small, tight and in a pine cone-shape.
There are many clones of Pinot Noir with different characteristics. This fact allows for the production of wines from Pinot Noir in a great range of styles. You can find both sparkling and still wines, passing through light and fruity wines or with a fuller body.
Usually, it’s not blended with other grape varieties.
Pinot Noir is grown worldwide. The countries with the most cultivation of Pinot Noir are France, USA, Germany, Moldova and Italy.
Where you can find Pinot Noir in Alto Adige
The first Pinot Noir vineyards were planted in Alto Adige between 1863 and 1864 at Castel Rametz.
Nowadays, this black grape variety covers 494 hectares, representing 8.9% of the entire wine production area.
Pinot Noir is grown on sites with a cool or moderate climate. They’re preferably on medium-elevation slopes with calcareous gravel soils. These areas usually start from 400 m above sea level. A Pinot Noir wine produced from these initial conditions can also be amazingly close to its models in Burgundy.
You can find Pinot Noir mainly in Bassa Atesina, Merano, and Val Venosta.
Other synonyms are Pinot Nero, Blauburgunder, or Spätburgunder.
The most suitable areas
Bassa Atesina is the most famous winegrowing region in Alto Adige for Pinot Noir. The best quality grapes are grown in Mazzon (Egna) and Gleno (Montagna).
This area is protected from the cold north-east winds thanks to the mountains. It benefits from the influence of Ora del Garda (a mild wind from Lake Garda). It’s also characterised by high diurnal range.
Mazzon is the site with the longest sunlight exposure and where the temperature drops very fast. The vineyards are in the range of 350-450 m above sea level.
Gleno, instead, receives the highest sunlight exposure, having vineyards between 450 m and 650 m above sea level.
The soil is a mix of clay and limestone for both sites.
From theory to practice
Pinot Noir from Alto Adige looks a pale ruby colour in the glass. Some distinctive aromas are dark berries, spice (especially cloves), and violets with a rich intensity. The taste is characterised by high acidity and very soft tannins.
About the most suitable areas, Pinot Noir wines from Mazzon are deeper in colour and fuller body, while those from Gleno are more fine and elegant.
You can see below the colour difference. On the left, there is a wine from Mazzon.
Pinot Noir wine has excellent ageing potential, but it can be very pleasant when young.
Pay attention to the serving temperature. This wine is recommended to be tasted at 14-16°C.
If you want to enhance your tasting experience, use the right glass such as Riedel Pinot Noir. The shape makes a difference.
It has a quite big bowl to intensify the bouquet of the wine. But the most important thing is the rim: smaller diameter with a lip. The smaller opening can concentrate the wine flow outgoing from the glass like a filament. The particular lip directs the thin wine flow on to the tip of the tongue, where we have the most perception of sweetness. In doing so, it softens the acidity perception, balancing it with the low levels of tannins.
I know it can be a bit complex, but try the same wine with both a standard glass and Pinot Noir glass. You’ll be surprised!
Kellerei Bozen Thalman Pinot Nero Riserva 2017
Pinot Noir for Thalman comes from the coolest sites of the Bolzano area. The vineyards are located between 500 m and 750 m above sea level in Renon and Leitach. Fermentation takes place in wooden vessels, then one year of ageing in barrique.
It has a pale ruby colour. On the nose, you can recognise the aromas of cloves, violet, blackberry, coffee, and plums. The acidity of the wine is medium+, soft tannins are medium-, the alcohol is medium, the body is medium+, and the finish is medium+.
Malojer Gummerhof Blauburgunder Riserva 2017
Bolzano is the area in which the vineyards are found. Its vinification happens in stainless steel tanks while the ageing takes place in French oak barrels for 15 months.
Its colour is a pale ruby. Cherry, wild strawberry, chocolate, raspberry, and violet are the main aromas that you can detect. The taste has medium+ acidity, medium and soft tannins, medium body, medium alcohol, and a medium+ finish.
Nals Margreid Jura Pinot Noir Riserva 2017
In this case, the grapes are grown at Appiano, Oltradige (warm days, cool nights). The ageing takes place over one year in barrique and tonneaux.
The wine has a pale ruby colour, slightly darker than the previous wines. The nose detects the aromas of rose, violet, black cherry, blackberry, and cloves. Medium+ acidity, medium+ and smooth tannins, high alcohol, medium body, and a medium+ finish complete the taste.
The best pairing
Now, Pinot Noir from Alto Adige holds no more secrets for you.
Whatever you choose, the quality of this wine is good to outstanding.
You can decide to open a bottle of Pinot Noir for the aperitif or for the entire meal. The most suggested pairings are game, wildfowl, spring lamb, rabbit, or aged cheeses. If you are a seafood lover, you can match it with the finest expressions of Pinot Noir.
Have you ever tried some different pairings?
Pinot Noir can also be perfect without any food because of its finesse, elegance, and silky tannins.
What’s your favourite Pinot Noir from Alto Adige?
You are now ready to challenge your friends in a blind tasting with Pinot Noir from Alto Adige. Do you have any idea about which wine you will uncork?
Finally, I have two suggestions for you. Both will be perfect when it becomes possible to travel after the pandemic.
The first is an appointment for next year – Blauburgunder Tage. Three days of Pinot Noir tastings will take place from 15 to 17 May 2021. You will experience the best Pinot Noir from both Alto Adige and around the world.
The other is to discover the Pinot Noir trail when you visit Alto Adige. In this case, it’s not related to particular dates – it’s simply an enjoyable experience.
Just one more thing! If you can’t get by without Pinot Noir until your next trip to Alto Adige, I invite you to check the website of the Consortium of Alto Adige Wines. You will find all the wineries with their shops. Put the wine variety filter on Blauburgunder for easier research.