Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Alto Adige Wine: Pinot Grigio Leaps Over The Low Bar

A recent online tasting session featuring wines of Italy’s Alto Adige region was staged by Alto Adige Wines and Bottlenotes and hosted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and acting editor-in-chief of the daily email blast, The Daily Sip. Participants tasted the eight wines and chatted in virtual fashion about their swirling, smelling and sipping experiences.

You may know of Alto Adige - located in the far northern reaches of Italy, just below Austria - by their aromatic white wines with wonderful minerality and acidity. Only sixty percent of the area’s wines are from white grapes, however. Pinot Grigio is the leading white grape, and they are probably a far sight better than the Pinot Grigio you may find in the grocery or on restaurant wine lists. Schiava is the most popular red grape, with Lagrein and Pinot Noir also showing well.

Here are the Alto Adige wines featured during the virtual tasting event:

Castel Sallegg Pulvernai Pinot Grigio 2014
Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013
Cantina Terlano Vorberg Pinot Bianco 2012
Colterenzio Prail Sauvignon 2013
Cantina Andrian Gewürztraminer 2014
Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro Pfarrhof Kalterersee Auslese 2013
Erste + Neue Mezzan Pinot Nero 2013
Abbazia di Novacella Praepositus Lagrein 2010

Alois Lageder Porer Pinot Grigio 2013 (Alto Adige, Italy)

The land of Alois Lageder Winery is located on the scree of Magrè, and I'd be lying if I said that doesn't sound like a cool address. The winery has been there since 1823, and Alois Lageder is the fifth generation of his family to run the business. There is a lot of limestone in the estate's rocky, sandy soil, and the temperature swings wildly between day and night.

This Pinot Grigio is made with grapes that are certified organic and Demeter biodynamic. Twenty percent of the wine ferments spontaneously in wooden casks, while 80% does its thing in stainless steel tanks. Aging occurs over five months on the lees - in contact with the spent yeast cells - for added depth and body.

Winemaker and participant in the social media event, @alisoncrowewine, tweeted a nice tidbit: “Did you know Pinot Grigio skins are actually purple? That's what makes it so tough to make - the wine can turn pink!" But would that be such a bad thing?

This 13% abv Porer Pinot Grigio exceeds expectations. My expectations of the PG grape are not very high to start, so that by itself is not a great compliment. Despite the simple fruit, sweet nose and flabby acidity that usually marks the Pinot Grigio experience, this Alto Adige example really rocks. It retails for $26. If that's a little higher than the PG you get from your grocer's shelf, just know it's worth it.

The golden tint is lovely and the nose is a beautiful scent of apricot and Meyer lemon. Minerality is rampant in the aromas and a whiff of smoke lingers. The acidity is brilliant, the mouthfeel is full and the peach and apple flavors are pure. This is a Pinot Grigio for people who don't like Pinot Grigio.

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