Don Chigazola is back on California Wine Country today, with a selection of white wines from the Alto Adige region of Italy. He joins Harry Duke and Dan Berger in the studio. Steve Jaxon is away today. These three wines come from the Alto Adige region of Italy. It’s in the northeast, bordering on Austria and Switzerland. It has unique terroir and a cold climate with steep mountainside vineyards.
Don’s company, Chigazola Merchants, imports wines from small family-owned producers from different regions of Italy. He met this producer at an annual wine convention called VinItaly. He also travels the back roads of the Italian provinces and locates fine local producers which would otherwise be impossible to find, for his customers in the US. They will be in Italy next month for this year’s VinItaly and to visit wineries.
Don has been on CWC several times before, showing different wines that he has found on his travels throughout Italy. The last time was this episode of June 22, 2022, where he brought white wines from Piemonte (the western part of northern Italy).
The Alto Adige is a cool mountainous region with a large German-speaking population. Most families there speak German and Italian. These wines all have German varietal names. Don has brought three white wines, Kerner, Riesling and Sylvaner, each from the Taschlerhof winery.
The first tasting is the 2021 Riesling, which is very dry and would pair well with a wide variety of foods. Dan Berger suggests rich ripe cheeses. It has a wild floral character with its dry aftertaste. Riesling has many different personalities depending on where it is made. It changes as it ages and can take eight years in the cellar.
Alto Adige Terroir
The Alto Adige soil is called schist, comprised of compressed layers of pebbles and stones. It is quite thick and the roots have to run deep for the vines to find water and nourishment. They are at a high altitude, 1500-2100 feet of altitude. Dan Berger mentions that over 1800 feet, the climate gets colder. They get about 300 days a year of direct sunlight. They have very warm days and very cold nights. The diurnal temperature swings can be 50-55 degrees F per day.
The next wine is a Sylvaner which is rarely found in the US. It has a steely, stony component but also floral and dry spice flavors. It is even drier, and more subtle, than the Riesling and might go well with a mild white fish. Growers are more willing to plant other varietals since Sylvaner isn’t very lucrative, interesting as it is.
Finally they taste the Kerner, which is rare outside of Alto Adige but is well known there. It is the heaviest and most aromatic of these three wines. It has some richness in the mid-palette from the tannins.
Don enjoys having discovered so many great white wines in Italy. There are over 100 Italian white varietals. The world is not just Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc!