Located in northern Italy, nestled between Austria and Switzerland, Alto Adige [known also by its German name Südtirol ] is one of the most beautiful wine regions in Europe. The magic of the Alto Adige region is experienced even before arrival. Daytime flights into the capital city of Bolzano offer sweeping vistas of the colossal snow-peaked Dolomites and the Alps, along with views of green farmland below, and the glistening River Isarco, snaking through the valley. Dotted with castles, Alto Adige is reminiscent of a fairytale wine region.
Alto Adige is also one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe; archeological evidence points as far back as the fifth century B.C. Fast-forward in history, Alto Adige was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until it was annexed by Italy after World War I; hence both Italian and German are spoken here. The signs for local towns and villages bear names in both languages, and wine labels are often bi-lingual.
About a third of the size of Napa Valley, Alto Adige is a small winegrowing region that accounts for just 1% of Italy’s total production. The area gets more than 300 days of sunshine, has an Alpine-Continental climate with warm days and cool nights – perfect for grape cultivation. The wines from Alto Adige are best described as “mountain wines” – vineyard sites range from 600 feet to a dizzying 3,300 feet above sea level. The soils span volcanic porphyry, quartz, mica, limestone and sandy marl.
98% of wines produced in Alto Adige are DOC [Denominazione di Origine Controllata, meaning “controlled designation of origin”] status wines. The DOC regulates both quality and authenticity for both food and wine in Italy. A plethora of grapes are grown here, including Pinot Bianco [Pinot Blanc], Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer, and Lagrein, Pinot Nero [Pinot Noir] and Schiava, to name but a few. The white wines are bright, mineral and crisp, while the reds can be complex with supple tannins.
Alto Adige also happens to be the largest apple-producing region in Europe, while another gastronomic local specialty is speck, a succulent smoky cured ham that tastes especially delicious with an aromatic glass of Alto Adige wine.