North and West of the famous Veneto, you find a region with a long name. Perhaps not as flashy as the Veneto, which has the stunning cities of Venice, Padua, and Verona, and without those well-known wines like Soave or Amarone. But this region is stunning. Beginning in the Northern reaches of the Lake Garda Region and traveling North along the Adige River to the Border with Austria, this is the Northernmost region in Italy.
The region is hyphenated. Trentino is the southern part of the region, and Alto Adige is the northern portion, often known as Süditrol (South Tyrol). German is the primary language in Alto Adige, which used to be part of Austria.
This month, the writers at #ItalianFWT (Italian Food Wine and Travel) are visiting Northeast Italy, taking in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige led by Cindy Lowe Rynning of Grape Experiences.
You will find links to my colleagues’ articles at the end of this post!
As you head North from the Veneto, on the Autostrada, the cliffs of the Dolomites rise to either side of you. The pale Dolomite Rockfaces soar upwards as you follow the Adige River North.
We spent part of a day in the region, which is decidedly not long enough! Driving North from Mantua in the southern part of Lombardia, we watched the terrain change from flat farmland to rolling hills and finally into the dramatic valley between these stunning cliffs.
Bolzano (In the Alto Adige part of Trentino-Alto Adige)
We headed to Bolzano first in the Alto Adige region. This city is the capital of Alto Adige. I mentioned that German is the primary language in this part of the region, but it’s more than that. This part of the region feels more alpine, and the culture is more Austrian. The region’s wines follow this same leaning, most labeled here by variety rather than region.
Finding our way into the city of Bolzano, we found a parking garage and strolled into the city to find lunch in a café with a view of the Duomo di Bolzano (Dom Maria Himmelfahrt). Built on the site of an early Christian basilica in the 13th century and a Romanesque church in the 14th century, the current building is a Gothic Cathedral built of sandstone in red and yellow tones. It is the first Gothic church built with a long central nave.
The church tower stands 65 meters (213 feet) and was built between 1501 and 1519.
Piazza Walther and the Hotel Greif
We strolled down to the Piazza Walther, across from the Cathedral. Built in 1808. The spot was originally a vineyard owned by the Royal Family of Bavaria. It was sold to the Balzano town council by King Maximilian for 3,000 florins, the condition being that it must be made into a square.
Hotels dot the square, which catered to tourists from the court of Vienna. You see the Hotel Grief on the square. The “Black Gryphon Inn was first recorded in 1514. It was purchased by the Staffler family in 1816 and, since then, has gone through multiple changes. Most recently, the 500-year-old building was renovated in 1993 with Franz Staffler at the helm. Parts of the building are historical monuments, and parts are uniquely modern, although the new and old often become one in an eclectic style!
Today, a statue of Walther von der Vogelweide (1168-1228) stands in the center of this square. Erected in 1889, it commemorates this poet and bard.
After a stroll, we bid Bolzano arrivederci/Verabschiedung, as well as the Autostrada, finding a more minor, more relaxed road to take us most of the way to Trento, where we would stay in an agriturismo for the night.
We drove to Trento and passed it to the south to our Agriturismo – Agritur Casteller. Sitting south of the city of Trento on the East side of the Autostrada, Agritur Casteller overlooks a bowl-shaped vineyard.
They grow 4 varieties here: Chardonnay, Traminer, Merlot, and Cabernet trained to pergola Trentina. They produce 2 wines, just for their guests, the Cabernet Sauvignon Gloriet and the Traminer, under the label “Giuseppe Vazzoler.” I left with a bottle of the Traminer, which was named for their grandfather, who loved wine and fossils (the bottle label has stylized fossils on it)
The Vazzoler family has owned this land on Casteller Hill since 1908. Vines were planted, and the family has maintained the vineyard for 4 generations. In 2008, they opened the Agriturismo. Marco, who is the 4th generation and current generation of the family, owns the Agriturismo, and his mother, Patrizia, welcomes the guests and prepares breakfast for them daily. She was warm and welcoming when we arrived.
We had spoiled ourselves with the Suite Casteller. This suite on the upper floor has a private terrace overlooking the vineyards. The room is cleanly furnished and spacious, and the bathroom… is enormous and made me feel glamorous! The large slate tiled shower with a waterfall shower head…Yep, I was in heaven!
Trento (in the “Trentino” part of Trentino-Alto Adige)
After resting, it was time to visit Trento to explore and have dinner.
We made our way to the Viale Verona to get us to the central part of the city. The drive was beautiful, with quaint neighborhoods I would move to in a heartbeat.
We parked near Piazza di Fiera and entered the city on foot, entering the walled city. Strolling the street, I found a shop to purchase some snacks for our trip the next day, finding Süditrol Schüttelbrot (a cracker bread) and a selection of cured meats, including Kamfmurrzen, Salame Campagnolo, and Speck. I also found a bottle of wine from Foradori. I laid eyes on it and saw the price, and it was as if it glowed on the shelf and the angels sang! Yes, I left with that wine after having a lovely discussion with the young clerk about how wonderful she and her wines were.
We continued to the Piazza Duomo, where a stage was set up for an event.
We found a cafe and ordered Aperitivo. With the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) and the Duomo before us I enjoyed my first Aperol Spritz of the trip!
I was not prepared for the frescos. Yes, I have seen frescoes in buildings, but outside on the faces of the buildings on the square? It was captivating.
The city is known for its abundance of frescoes and is called “the painted city.”
The frescoes in this photo were attributed to Marcello Fogolino. He had been accused of murder in Friuli and came to Trento as a fugitive. He worked on many frescoes in Trento. These pictures include scenes from Greek mythology.
The house on the left is Casa Cazuffi, and the house on the right is Casa Rella.
You will find Geryon, Damocles, the allegories of Fortune, Occasion, Nemesis, and Dionysius within these frescoes. The themes of Virtue, Time, the Triumphs of Love, Apollo, and Abundance.
After enjoying our dinner and another glass of sparkling TrentoDOC from nearby Ferrari-Trento, we snagged a gelato (again, the first of our trip) at Gatto Gordo Gelateria before strolling back to our car and heading back to Agritur Casteller.
Sunrise on the vineyards in Trentino-Alto Adige
In the morning, we woke to take in the sunrise over the vineyard before enjoying breakfast made by Patrizia and heading off to Valdobbiadene. Here’s a plug to make the trip between these two incredible spots because the drive is spectacular through the mountains.
The Wines of Trentino-Alto Adige
The region has 9 DOCs
Alto Adige DOC
- 98% of the wine in this region is DOC quality!
- This DOC is regional and covers a very wide variety of grapes and wine styles: white, rosato, red, sparkling, and sweet.
Lago di Caldaro DOC
- This DOC is located at the southern end of the Alto Adige part of the region.
- The DOC is focused on Schiava.
- This DOC extends into the Veneto, with a wide list of varieties allowed for white, rosato, and red still wines.
- This is a small DOC in the Northern part of the Trentino region.
- This DOC is only for red wines that are 50% Merlot blended with Enantio, Lagrein, Schiava, and/or Teroldego.
Delle Venezie DOC
- This large DOC covers not only Trentino-Alto Adige but also includes Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the Veneto.
- The DOC is principally focused on Pinot Grigio but allows other white grape varieties, including Chardonnay, Friulano, Garganega, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, and Verduzzo. For Rosè Pinot Grigio is also allowed. Wines here may be white, rosato, or Sparkling.
Teroldego Rotaliano DOC
- This tiny DOC in the Northern part of Trentino is focused, as the name indicates, on Teroldego, and wines must be 100% Teroldego.
- I mentioned that the Valdadige DOC has a wide list of varieties. Well, it is nothing compared to the allowed list for the Trentino DOC.
- You’ll find white, rosato, red, and dessert wines in this DOC, with several subzones allowed on the label.
- Trento DOC is all about bubbles.
- Focusing on Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Nero, wines here fall into Spumate, Rosato Spumante, Millesimato, and Riserva categories, and all must be made in the Metodo Classico.
Valdadige Terradeiforti DOC
- This tiny DOC sits at the southern edge of Trentino, with around 25 hectares planted.
- Pinot Grigio is the principal white grape.
- Casetta and Lambrusco are principal reds.
Wines from Trentino-Alto Adige to look for!
Albino Armani has vineyards in the Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino-Alto Adige. Many of their wines are widely distributed and affordable. I recently recommended their Pinot Grigio for a friend’s wedding (Yes, Em, that’s you!)
Sustainability is vital for them, and they are working to bring back varieties that have become less planted.
Their vineyards in Trentino sit on the southern border in Vallagarina and Monte Baldo. From these regions, they make Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Marzemino, and Pinot Nero, as well as a rose and a couple of sparkling wines.
They make many Pinot Grigios from the different areas they farm, and they have a special one from Valdadige Terradeiforti DOC in the Trentino region.
This is from a particular vineyard called Colle Ara. You can read about it in the link below.
Azienda Agricola Cesconi
I discovered Cesconi when I was looking for the rare grape Nosiolo. They are organic and use biodynamic principles in the hills of Pressano just north of Lake Garda.
Azienda Agricola Cesconi is a small family-owned winery has a winemaker tradition going back to 1751. Bernardino Cesconi transported the region’s Nosiola grapes to Innsbruck via wagons pulled by oxen. Later his son Rinaldo and grandson Paolo made wines for the taverns of Trento. Paulo and his sons, Alessandro, Franco, Roberto, and Lorenzo, expanded the winemaking and brought it into the modern age.
Read about them and Nosiolo at the link below.
Azienda Agricola Foradori
If you are unfamiliar with Elisabetta Foradori and her wines, let me help remedy that. Her father’s unexpected and early death put her at the helm of the family estate. She became known as the “Queen of Teraldego” in the 1990s. They used massal selection, organic and biodynamic practices, and (where I learned her name) began making wine in Amphorae.
*This inspired Rudy Marchesi of Montinore as well as Andrew Beckham of Beckham Estates) Add links to the articles and add photos.
Kevin Day of Opening a Bottle has an exceptional article about his visit with her in 2019. Go visit his site
to read it. While you are there, you might also subscribe to his Wine reviews!
Beyond that, Austin Beeman visited to speak with Elisabetta’s son Emilio Zierock and has a fantastically candid and entertaining series of videos with him.
So yes, I have a bottle of their Teraldego. Did I open it for this article? Nope. That is a bottle I am saving, but you can be sure I will share all the details when I open it.
These are those sparkling wines of Trento DOC!
We met Marcello Lunelli of Ferrari Trento at the wine media conference, where he was on a panel speaking about Innovations in Sustainability with Michele Manelli of Salcheto and Alberto Tasca of Tasca d’Almerita.
The Lunelli vineyards have been organic since 2017. They nurture biodiversity with beehives and birdboxes and expand their culture of sustainability to the 600 growers who supply them grapes for their wines.
Of course, there are also the Giuseppe Vazzoler wines, but you need to go stay at Agritur Casteller to get those, which I highly recommend.
I recommend the Suite Casteller for amazing views. (Really, check out the sunrise view below.) While we did not have time for hike, just across from the parking is the hill with the Gloriet, an old hunting hut, just a few steps from our holiday farm. I’m betting their are some amazing views of the valley from there.
More from the writers of #ItalianFWT on Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige
Here are some of the explorations of my colleagues at Italian Food Wine and Travel.
- Cam of Culinary Cam shares A Small Sample from the Alto Adige: Whitefish Saltimbocca, strangolapreti and a Couple of Schiava
- Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Italian Marinated Steaks with Angoris Schioppettino
- Mike of Life at Table shares Finding Friulano: an International Journey
- Andrea of The Quirky Cork shares Elena Walch Schiava with the Flavors of Thailand
- Jennifer of Vino Travels shares An Exploration of Collio: Part 1
- Katarina of Grapevine Adventures shares Pinot Grigio and Refosco Show Their True Colors in Friuli
- And our host, Cindy of Grape Experiences, shares Taste the Vibrancy of Alto Adige in Fallwind 2021 Sauvignon
Resources and References
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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