Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost region, is walled in by the Rhaetian Alps and the Dolomites. The difficulty of growing vines on hillsides compels growers to emphasize quality. About three-quarters of production is DOC and a major share of the wine is exported. Trentino-Alto Adige is split into two distinct provinces. Trentino, around the city of Trento (or Trent) to the south. Alto Adige, around the city of Bolzano (or Bozen) to the north, is known as South Tyrol.
The Alto Adige DOC takes in wines from distinct zones noted for class: Colli di Bolzano/Bozner Leiten, Meranese di Collina/Meraner, Santa Maddalena/St Magdalener, Terlano/Terlan, Valle d’Isarco/Eisacktal, and Val Venosta/Vinschgau. Although experts agree that the Alpine climate favors grapes for perfumed white wines, the historical emphasis has been on reds, which account for nearly two-thirds of the region’s production. The dominant vine variety of Alto Adige is Schiava or Vernatsch, source of light, bright reds. The most highly regarded of these is St Magdalener or Santa Maddalena. The best known wine is Caldaro or Kalterersee, produced from vines around the pretty lake of that name.
The ranks of roseate ruby wines from Schiava extend through the South Tyrol along the Adige river into Trentino and Veneto under the Valdadige or Etschtaler appellation. Other reds show greater class. Alto Adige’s native Lagrein and Trentino’s Teroldego stand with northern Italy’s most distinguished vines. Santa Maddalena has a long-standing reputation as a refined light red. Teroldego, grown on the Rotaliano plain north of Trento, is an unusually attractive red when young, with capacity to age splendidly from good vintages.
Trentino’s Marzemino makes a fresh, lively red for casual sipping. In both provinces, increasing space has been devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region also produces some of Italy’s finest rosés, the most impressive being Lagrein Kretzer. The sweet Moscato Rosa, with its gracefully flowery aroma, is a rare and prized dessert wine. The growing demand for white wines has influenced growers to plant more of the international premium varieties. The heights are favorable to aromatic whites: Sylvaner, Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Müller Thurgau and white Moscato. But the quality of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Grigio and Sauvignon from certain cellars can also stand with Italy’s finest.
Trentino’s native Nosiola makes a a tasty dry white and is also the base of Vino Santo, an opulent dessert wine from the Valle dei Laghi north of Lake Garda. Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Sylvaner and Müller Thurgau have been known to remain fresh and vital for a decade or more. But the emphasis remains on the popular Pinot Grigio and, increasingly, on Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer. Trentino is a leader with sparkling wines by the classical method, many of which qualify under the prestigious Trento DOC. Alto Adige has also stepped up sparkling wine production.
Red wines have also taken on greater dimensions, notably in Lagrein and Teroldego and combinations of Cabernet and Merlot, but also with Pinot Nero. Despite the traditional flow north to German-speaking countries, the wines of Trentino-Alto Adige, whites in particular, have been making steady progress in Italy and, recently, on distant markets.