I’ve been to quite a few wine regions, and while many of them are very beautiful, none are quite as pretty as the Alto Adige in northern Italy.
Think Austrian fairytale and you’ve got it in one.
We were here as an extension of our trip to Bisol, the previous day. The journey here from Valdobbiadene was nothing short of spectacular, winding through the feet of the snow-capped Dolomites, crossing glacial, azure rivers, and finally ending up on the sun-baked ‘WeinStrasse’.
This entire region, in fact, is considered more of an extension of Austria, even though it’s technically part of Italy. The first language of over about 70% of the population is German, and rather than Alto Adige they refer to it as ‘Südtirol’.
We were here to visit Alois Lageder, a third generation wine producer. First stop was the ‘Löwengang’ winery, and although it shows its history from the outside, inside is a completely different story within. Through the heavy oak doors a super cool gravitiy-flow vinification tower is revealed.
One of the first of its kind in Italy (built in 1995), the grapes come in at the top level and are fed down the floors until they end up in the cellar in the basement. Here the entire rock face that they’ve have carved into, is exposed, and as Paolo, our host, explains, it’s their ‘natural air-conditioning’.
Alois Lageder are renowned for their biodynamic certification and philosophy. Although, this may seem like a recent phenomenon within the wine world, this way of farming the grapes is actually going right back to the roots of agriculture; when people had the time to farm the land in the way nature requires.
It turns out the locals of Lageder believe in the biodynamic principles to such an extent that they even get their haircut dependent on when the biodynamic calendar dictates. Our guide for the day, Paolo, told us that the hair salons had such huge queues on these days that they started having to open for 24 hours!
As a result of their natural viticulture, their vineyards are amongst the healthiest I’ve seen, and full of cover crops between the vines.
Somehow, this combined with their great climate means that the wines they produce are refined, and elegant. Even international grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, are completely unrecognisable when at the hands of Lageder. And I definitely mean that in a good way.
While I expected mountains, and great wine when I came to Alto Adige, one thing I certainly didn’t expect was how hot northern Italy can get. In fact, Bolzano the capital of the region is situated in a basin, meaning that the heat covers the land like a blanket. Whilst we were there (early June) it was 35°C.
This heat means that it’s possible to ripen lots black grapes here, including Cabernet Sauvignon, alongside more unusual indigenous red grapes such as Lagrein and Schiava
For me it’s their white wines which shine though. They are elegant, savoury and very Italian. The perfect foil to a light lunch on a scorching hot day.