Alto Adige

The Italian wine region Alto Adige looks like an amphitheater carved into the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. Despite its northern locale, it is one of the country’s warmest growing regions. In Alto Adige, the sun shines an average of three hundred days a year, the curved landscape traps warm Mediterranean breezes, and the towering Dolomites form a barrier protecting the region from chilling northerly alpine winds.

The main reason Alto Adige isn’t better known outside Italy is that so many grape varieties thrive in its many microclimates, making the region one of country’s best kept secrets. Its whites are bright and aromatic. At every price point, Alto Adige’s pinot grigio, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and pinot bianco (pinot blanc) are among Italy’s best. It also produces expressive red wines, particularly pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and the local variety lagrein.

Situated where the borders of Italy, Switzerland and Austria converge, the local culture is a blend of German and Italian. A perfect example of this is Törggelen, the harvest season tradition of hiking into hills for a picnic of local delicacies such as speck, chestnuts, apples and cheese washed down with wine from the new vintage. Törggelen comes from the Italian torchio meaning winepress, but the traditional meal has unmistakably German roots.

Recommended wineries include Cantina Terlano for age-worthy white wines; Elena Walch for gewürztraminer; Alois Lageder for superb biodynamic offerings especially pinot grigio; Hofstatter for gewürztraminer and lagrein; and Colterenzio, a pioneering cooperative.