When summer arrives, people daydream of the beach. But it’s the mountains, notably those of Northern Italy, that produce the wines you want to drink. Why? Because the high altitude, pure air, cool nights, and dazzling daytime sunshine create the perfect terroir for vibrant, fresh wines you want to sip near the water.
Known for their Alpine climate, the vineyards of Alto Adige have been turning out pretty whites and reds for centuries. But Americans have only recently caught on to their inimitable character. Why has it taken so long to discover the region? Because it’s one of Italy’s smallest and producers grow a lot of different grapes. Don’t let production numbers fool you, however. Though tiny, quality is high – 98 percent of all Alto Adige wines meet DOC criteria.
The main whites are Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Moscato Giallo, Riesling, and Grüner Veltliner are all found in Alto Adige, too. Pinot Grigio grabs the most attention, in part due to global popularity. But from Alto Adige, it takes on a unique personality that’s full of zesty citrus and juicy acidity – perfect chilled with summer foods like ceviche and salads. Aromatic Gewürztraminer, not typically considered refreshing, shows off in Alto Adige. Full of rose petals and lychee aromas, its exotic spiciness and dry, balanced style works with a range of dishes, though peaches off the grill with fresh ricotta and honey, comes to mind. Kerner and Sylvaner, higher elevation grapes known for minerality and acid, make for easy patio sipping.
Though generally considered white wine country, Alto Adige’s reds should not be overlooked. Schiava, Pinot Nero (Noir) and Lagrein are full of flavor and bright, food-friendly acidity. They also taste great with a slight chill, perfect for humid days when you want to drink red. Sip with BBQ meats, burgers, homemade pizza on the grill.
So, pack a picnic, head to the park and pour a glass of Alto Adige this summer.