Wine Tradition of Italy’s Alto Adige

The Alto Adige located in the northeast corner of Italy, on the border of Austria and Switzerland, produces wine unlike any other region in Italy. Because of its unique terrain, it is one of the few wine regions to enjoy a combination of cooler temperatures and direct sunlight.

The New Italian Wine Region

In recent years Italian wines produced in Trentino-Alto Adige have gained popularity. The region is home to a diverse array of microclimates and terroir, allowing it to produce a fantastic variety of quality wines. Today, Alto Adige is producing a name for itself in Italy’s world-renowned wine industry and gaining international attention for its high-quality wines.[0]

Specific factors make the Alto Adige different from other Italian regions. First and foremost is its location. Alto Adige is located near the border of Austria.

Consequently, this exclusive border country position has caused Alto Adige to be different from day one—and it is part of what makes these wines so unique today. Alto Adige, translated as High Alps was a part of Austria until 1918, when it became part of Italy. It became one of Italy’s five autonomous regions in 1998, meaning it has greater control over its local laws and tax revenue than other regions.

With over 200 wines awarded DOCG (the highest classification) or DOC (the second-highest classification), there is no question that Alto Adige is a top wine destination in Italy.

Wines produced in Alto Adige are known to mix Northern European logic with Southern European zing. Therefore, rich, Tuscan-style red wines, as well as delicate, Germanic white wines, are graciously available to wine enthusiasts.

This contrast may be witnessed everywhere in the region, with road signs in two dialects (Italian and German). Furthermore, Alto Adige is known for its startling and aromatic dry white wines, such as Gewürztraminer and Pinot Grigio. Likewise, the red wines will also wow you. Many local red varieties are used including Schiava and Lagrein.

Did You Know: Almost two-thirds of Alto Aldige’s wine is white. The most common white varieties include Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. The most common red varietals are Schiava, Pinot Noir, and Lagrein.

Italian Wine Region

Alto Adige has grown grapes and made wine for over 2,500 years in incredibly picturesque environments. With its legendary background of cloisters, luxury, and political border shifts, Alto Adige’s mix of experiences will astound you. According to old grape seeds, the Rhaetian public—which is a collection of Alpine clans said to be related to the Etruscans—established plants on the Alto Adige slope some 2,500 years ago.

The Rhaetians’ Viticultural tradition was sustained and enhanced when Alto Adige became an integral part of the Roman Empire in 15 BC. It is said that the wine industry in Alto Adige began to grow as a consequence of the interests of the German aristocracy and clerics. The Kloster Neustift was founded in 1140 and is still in operation [2]today – making it one of the most experienced grape vineyards in the world.

Later, Alto Adige became a separate entity from the Roman Empire during the era of Charlemagne and remained so until the Empire’s demise in 1806. The wines from this region were widely distributed across Europe, ensuring their appeal in a variety of famous courts.

In 1814, Alto Adige, recently known as Südtirol, joined the Habsburg Empire, which the Austro-Hungarian Empire followed in 1867. Many varieties like Pinot Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay were brought to Alto Adige by Archduke Johann, who was a Habsburg, as well as a German king.

Terroir and Wine

Terroir (pronounced as “tear-wah”) is a French phrase that refers to a land’s ability to produce any agricultural products. Surprisingly, the type and taste of wine are greatly influenced by where and how it is produced.

Many factors go into an area’s terroir, but some of the most important are:

  • Soil Type
  • Climate
  • Topography
  • Altitude

All the characteristics of terroir combine together to produce a unique wine that can only be made in a specific place.

Climate and Soil

The Alps cast a massive shadow over the Alto Adige region, resulting in almost 300 sunny days each year. It is roughly equivalent to 1,950 hours of daylight. As a result, the average temperature in Alto Adige during the developing season is 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), making it a relatively warm wine-growing region.

Such extensive daylight helps ripen the grapes and can create wines with higher alcohol levels, usually from about 12.5% to 15%, contingent upon the wine. While the Alps safeguard Alto Adige from northern tempests, the locale, in any case, obtains sufficient downpour (32 inches/815 mm each year) to help grape development. Because of the heat in the late spring, producers utilize a trickle water system to help their plants.

The sizeable diurnal stretch in Alto Adige leads to wines with solid corrosiveness and delicate, fanciful aromas. In July, for example, the average daily temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). Around sunset, the temperature drops to about 61° F (16 degrees Celsius). Hence, the shift is more pronounced in grapes at higher elevations.

Different grape varieties require certain soils in specific situations in order to provide excellent results. However, things are not that straightforward in this case. At Alto Adige, the structural plates of Europe and Africa collide, resulting in over 150 distinct soil types.

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On This Day

1867: Wine began to be transported in more significant quantities throughout Europe.

1893: The first cooperative winery in the region was established.

1918: Alto Adige became an Italian province.

Want to read more? Try these books!
Italy's Alto Adige, The Wine Tradition of Italy’s Alto AdigeItaly's Alto Adige, The Wine Tradition of Italy’s Alto Adige

References:

  1. https://altoadige.guides.winefolly.com/history
  2.  https://www.jjbuckley.com/wine-knowledge/blog/what-everyone-should-know-about-alto-adige-sudtirol/1059
  3. https://italyexplained.com/italy-cities-regions/trentino-alto-adige/
  4. https://www.winescholarguild.org/italian-wine-course-demo/history-of-suedtirol-alto-adige#:~:text=Alto%20Adige%2FS%C3%BCdtirol%20is%20one,Roman%20Empire%20in%2015%20BC.

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