Wine tasting: Germany meets Italy in a refreshing wine
The wine region Alto Adige (known as Sudtirol in German) is located in northeastern Italy. Wines have been produced in the region since Roman times. Despite its Alpine climate, the region has proved to be perfect for viticulture. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, and average temperatures of 19 degrees Celsius, grapes are able to reach optimum ripeness. Wine production in Alto Adige represents only 0.7 per cent of Italy's total output, but it is making its presence felt on the local wine scene.
The region borders Switzerland and Austria in the north. The people are bilingual, and German is as commonplace as Italian. These Germanic roots mean that the food differs from other regional Italian cuisines; you will find dishes such as tirolese canederli (bread dumpling soup), speck (local smoked pork), rindsgulasch (beef goulash), polenta and apple strudel on menus. Cooler climate conditions mean that wines tend to have higher acidity, and they are a perfect foil to counter the richness of the local foods. Wine writer Jancis Robinson says: "On the cooler, higher slopes, Alto Adige vines are well capable of delivering wines that are precise, expressive and are obviously mountain wines, with all the elegance and refreshment that implies."
The main white grape varieties are pinot grigio, pinot bianco and chardonnay. Sauvignon blanc, gewürztraminer and riesling are also increasing in significance. For red wines the dominant red variety is the indigenous grape schiava. International varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and pinot noir are becoming more popular. Local variety lagrein, known for its easy drinkability, is becoming a big hit in the US market.
Elena Walch is a highly respected family winery in Alto Adige. The wines are characterised by their purity and refreshing qualities. They speak of its origin, and have no new oak to mask the primary fruit flavours.
Elena Walch Riesling 2012
Green apples with some mineral notes. A lean structure, with crisp acidity and a clean finish. HK$218
Elena Walch Pinot Grigio, Castel Ringberg 2012
The grapes are from the steep slopes of Castel Ringberg, 400 metres above sea level. The castle was built by the Hapsburg monarchy in 1620.
Aromatics of citrus, melon apple. Medium body, with good fruit intensity. Perfect for drinking now and works well with most Cantonese dishes. HK$218
Elena Walch Lagrein Alto Adige 2010
Fresh dark berry fruit, hints of chocolate. Medium bodied, with crisp acidity some drying tannins. Refreshing and easy to drink wine. HK$178
Wines are available from castellodelvino.com.hk