The scenery here is jaw-dropping with the Alps and Dolomites as the backdrop to mountain lakes, waterfalls, valleys and forests. And then to top it all off, there’s some unforgettable wines happening here, with eight controlled designations for identifying the region’s wines.
Alto-Adige is situated right below Austria. It lies in a glacial valley and historically, it was a gateway passage between Italy and the rest of Europe. Conquerors through the ages conquered their way through it, so several cultures have influenced it. It became part of Italy right after World War I, yet it’s still also known as South Tyrol.
This is pure mountain cuisine country. If you visit, plan on feasting on alpine cheeses, fresh trout, game, cured meats and foraged mushrooms. Polenta, spaetzli and dumplings with cream sauces are on every menu. Trust me. About 60% of Alto-Adige’s wines are made with white grape varieties and it’s here you’ll find some of the world’s best Pinot Grigio.
Pinot Grigio is considered one of the most noble of Italian white wines. Depending on what zone within northern Italy it’s grown, the wine can range from a fuller-bodied, floral example to a fresh, crisp wine with minerality. The slight honey and almond undertones pair perfectly with the alpine cuisine. Alto-Adige’s Pinot Grigio can rival some of their best German Riesling counterparts.
A perfect pairing...
An artisan cheese board of Fontina Fontal, Goat cheese with Fig Spread, Castica di Bufala, Locatelli Romano, Fresh Pears and Marcona Almonds.
Pinot grigio is a sure bet when seafood is on the menu, you just can't go wrong paring a glass crisp Pinot Grigio and your favorite fish. If fish isn't your thing try sauteed mushrooms or get creative and whip up a charcuterie board with your favorite cured meats and artisan cheeses.
How to Read
Italian Wine Labels
To protect the international reputation of its wine, the Italian government uses a classification system of four categories. Once you know it, those labels you’re reading will make more sense.
- DOCG wines represent a select group of Italy’s best wines. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita on the label implies strict production rules and guaranteed quality. Every DOCG wine must pass official tasting procedures and to prevent counterfeiting, the bottles have a numbered government seal across the neck.
- DOC is next. These wines are more common than DOCG, good yet less distinguished than DOCG, and usually more affordable. When the phrase Denominazione di Origine Controllata is on a wine label, you know it’s met the laws that make it characteristic of its place of origin, and that it’s higher quality than simple table wine.
- The IGT category recognizes wines that don’t fit into a DOC slot but are better than table wine. Indicazione di Geografica Tipica wines may be created with grape varieties or in combinations prohibited by DOC/DOCG rules, but that doesn’t mean they are inferior. In some cases, they can be downright exceptional.
- Vino da Tavola or VdT refers to a simple table wine. There aren’t too many regulations to meet here other than the wine be made Italy. These are usually made for local consumption.