Guest post by Peter Weltman
I approach the table in the dining room, knowing their order in my head: crispy sweetbread cristillons, beef tar-tar with tomato vinaigrette and horseradish cream to start, then poached lobster with basil and sauce minestrone, as well as Peking duck breast with roasted peaches and fennel for entrées. Smirking, the guest puts forth the challenge: select one bottle of wine to accommodate the entire order. This scenario plays out on a nightly basis in the dining room of The NoMad Restaurant, where I am currently a sommelier. Offbeat wines, so as long as they have integrity and are true to their place of origin, often times yield the most satisfying results for recipients and are as fun to recommend. Confidently, I keep turning back to a page that most never even consider and zero in on pinot neros from Alto Adige.
One producer that I fell for while working at Eleven Madison Park was Cantina Terlano. It is located at the foot of Mount Tschöggel near the town of Bolzano, at altitudes of up to 900 meters. Terlano’s 2009 Pinot Nero Montigl Riserva possess the same characteristics that I love in most Südtirol wines—fantastic acidity, full of minerals, and beautiful with food. I see guests light up after inhaling the first intense aroma of fresh fruit, wet stones, and earth. With such a robust and aromatic announcement, the wine’s acidity makes the flavor zip across the palate—carrying the abundance of flavor in its wake. Guests immediately understand the wine’s versatility, as the wine has enough brightness to be lively with lighter first courses, and enough intensity to pair with food later in the meal. At $65 on our list, the wine is value oriented and yet incredibly tasty.
Further south in the Bassa Atesina district is Tenuta Manincor, which also makes a fantastic pinot nero in their Mason bottling from 2009. This spontaneously fermented cuvée has a modest oak regiment, which adds more body, texture, and spice. Even in this warmer subsection of Alto Adige, the wine still maintains a brightness that begs for food. This wine’s weight can start to take on heavier meat dishes like the now infamous roast chicken for two at NoMad, which has foie gras and black truffles under the ever so crispy skin.
These two wines are but a small sampling of the quality pinot neros from Alto Adige. These finds broadened my own biases on a region that I generally associated to white wines. Now I have options with all the same sensibility and freshness as Alpine vini bianchi, while also appeasing my red wine desires. When I sit down for dinner, this is the style of wine that I often reach for. So, if you haven’t yet, go and seek out pinot neros from northeastern Italy and explore a fantastic wine growing region.
Peter Weltman is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York who is presently a sommelier at The NoMad Restaurant in Manhattan. In his pursuit of all things food, he travels around the world to better understand it in a global sense. Aside from being a sommelier, Peter is a freelance writer and helped work on a cookbook with Daniel Humm and Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park about New York cuisine (due out in Spring 2013).