A small but mighty region in Northern Italy, Alto Adige has only recently received the recognition it deserves from wine drinkers. Many well-known international grapes grow and thrive there, from Pinot Noir (called Nero), to Chardonnay and Piot Grigio (a grape with Italian origin). But the trend of curious consumers opening their glasses up to native grapes, means more chances of finding Schiava and Lagrein on your retail shelf. So, if you come across bottles, here’s what makes them worth drinking.
Schiava. Want to drink what the Italians drink? Schiava, a light-bodied red has long been the locals’ wine of choice. Also known as Vernatsch, Schiava comprises a large percentage of Alto Adige’s vineyard plantings. Most of it gets consumed within regional borders but the best producers have taken to exporting their wines. In body, hue, and flavor, Schiava is comparable to Pinto Noir or Gamay from Beaujolais, France. It’s a great food wine, offering juicy, candied-berry fruit flavors like strawberry and cherry with notes of rose petal on a dry palate. With lower alcohols, often hovering around 12-13%, Schiava is a perfect daytime wine, especially with a slight chill for a summer picnic.
Lagrein. Occasionally found in New World vineyards from America to Australia, Lagrein has its origins in Alto Adige. The greatest examples have proven themselves on the world stage, with top scores from critics and increased media attention. What to expect? It’s an attractive wine with a medium- to full-body and velvety but structured tannins, akin to Syrah. Dark berry fruit flavors, layered with mineral notes, violets, cacao, and baking spice, create complexity. Because Schiava and Lagrein have opposing qualities, they make good blending partners. Lagrein brings body and structure, while Schiava delivers fresh red fruits.
If you find a bottle of Schiava or Lagrein at your wine shop, grab it.